Sep 28, 2015, 4:49 PM EDT
Nationals superstar Bryce Harper, the likely NL MVP when the 2015 season is over, took the brunt of an ugly altercation between he and closer Jonathan Papelbon, one in which Harper was grabbed by the throat and forced into the backwall of the team’s dugout on live television.
He was physically assaulted, essentially, for all the world to see, and it was done by a teammate. Harper was the victim in the situation, that there is no doubt.
And after all of that was established, Harper was punished by the team for his involvement. Papelbon got the worst of it, a four-game suspension without pay from the Nats, but Harper also got hit. He was out of Monday’s lineup against the Reds for playing a role in the fight.
Manager Matt Williams explained exactly why that decision was made in his pregame press conference.
“Well, I can tell you from my view of the incident, he said something to Jonathan. And he played a part in the incident. So that being said, we reflect that within the punishment to Jonathan and his aggression. And we also reflect that with Bryce being out of the lineup today,” Williams said.
Harper was expected to be given a day off for one of the Nationals’ remaining seven games. Which game he would take off had not been determined before Sunday’s incident, Williams said.
“We had planned a day off in the next couple of days and we decided that today would be the day that he would be out of the lineup.”
Williams, in fact, wanted to take Harper out of Sunday’s game so the fans could acknowledge his historic season for a final time. That did not go as planned, obviously.
“Our original plan was to give him the same opportunity we gave [Ian Desmond] yesterday. But it happened and he wasn’t going to go out for the ninth inning, anyway. My hope was for him to get a basehit and we could do the same thing,” Williams said.
“It’s disappointing in that regard, but he’s provided everybody great moments this year. We’re very proud of Bryce and the fact he’s had such a great year.”
Harper, really, is fortunate he didn’t get seriously hurt in the fight. He was slammed into the dugout’s wooden bench and wall. He was wearing a batting helmet, as he had just finished his fourth at-bat of the afternoon. If he wasn’t wearing a helmet, who knows what could have happened to him, what type of injury he could have suffered.
Williams and the Nationals understand that, but felt it was important to implicate Harper as part of the confrontation that escalated to a point that no one ultimately intended it to.
“I don’t know what he could have done differently, but he was involved in it,” Williams said.
Harper spoke after Sunday’s game about the fight, but declined to comment further when asked on Monday morning.
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As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2015 schedule (subject to change)...
MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.
*All times Eastern. You can also listen to the station on 94.3 FM, 92.7 FM and online at ESPN980.com. Click here for past audio clips.
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