Papelbon-Harper, two wrongs, one mess

By Bob Elliott

BALTIMORE _ So run this by me again ... which Alex Anthopoulos decision did you like the best?

Acquiring Troy Tulowitzki and LaTroy Hawkins from the Colorado Rockies.

Adding David Price from the Detroit Tigers.

Picking up Ben Revere at the deadline from the Philadelphia Phillies and reliever Mark Lowe from the Seattle Mariners.

Have your answer?

How about the Jays general manager doing nothing when people were demanding and clamoring for him to deal for Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon.

The Washington Nationals added Papelbon for Nick Pivetta, a double-A right-hander from Victoria, B.C. on July 28 when the Nats, everyone’s choice as pre-season faves, sat seven games above .500 at 52-45. They won a make-up game over the Cincinnati Reds Monday afternoon to move to 80-76 ... so they are 26-31 with Papelbon.

The Jays were a .500 club on July 28 and are 25 games over .500 heading into Monday night’s game at Camden Yards, since Tulowitzki and Hawkins, the first newcomers to arrive in the pre-deadline Anthopoulos airlift, walked into the Jays clubhouse.   

Toronto was in need of a proven closer and Papelbon was openly available so his name kept coming up.
Papelbon now wears suspenders for the Nationals final seven games, including Monday’s win, for grabbing teammate Bryce Harper by the throat in the eighth inning in Sunday’s loss.

He was suspended four games by the Nationals and three more since he dropped his appeal for throwing at Manny Machado’s head last week.

What if Anthopoulos had acquired the closer and Papelbon decided to A) chew out Edwin Encarnacion for not running to first base; B) or had a dispute with MVP candidate Josh Donaldson and pushed him against the dugout wall?

That’s what happened Sunday when Harper flew out and jogged to first. Papelbon chirped Harper before the MVP candidate reached the dugout and the shouting match escalated.

“It would never have happened to me -- I always run out fly balls,” said former Phillie Ben Revere. “Jon was a good teammate. He had my back. I had his. But ... two wrongs do not make a right.”

Harper was wrong for not running out balls -- Sunday was not his first offence -- and Paplebon was worse than wrong for provoking the dugout confrontation.

“It should have been handled inside the clubhouse or down in the tunnel,” said R.A. Dickey. “I’ve been on teams where a guy would say something to another but in no way am I sanctioning what Papelbon did.

“Position players don’t respond well to criticism from pitchers and vice versa. Usually pitchers police pitchers, position players police position players.”

But if a position player wasn’t going to tell Harper ...

Manager Matt Williams sent Papelbon out with the score tied in the ninth, he gave up five runs and took the loss.

Former major leaguer CJ Nitkowski polled 12 current and former major leaguers for a piece on Just a Bit Outside. None supported Harper the most telling response: “(Harper) quit on his team after the fight, just like he does on pop ups.”

Five years ago Nationals manager Davey Johnson lifted Harper from a spring game and sent him to a back field to spend the rest of the game running to first base. 

A lack of hustle has been an issue with Harper before along with blowing kisses to pitchers after a tape-measure homer. 

“It all goes back to the other day,” said one scout, “Papelbon hit Machado and Harper basically called out Papelbon for hitting someone. The bottom line is when you don’t hustle ... bad things happen.”

We wonder how many times Papelbon grabbed Manny Ramirez or David Ortiz by the throat for not running out balls during his days with the Boston Red Sox? 

The Nationals suspended Papelbon for conduct unbecoming. It’s OK not to run our fly balls? 

Two wrongs.

One giant mess in D.C.

 

Other under cards: The Paplebon-Harper screaming match/throat grab was not the only incident in a big-league dugout.

New York Mets Darryl Strawberry and Keith Hernandez threw punches during spring training in 1989 on photo day no less; Los Angeles Dodgers Don Sutton and Steve Garvey, battled at Shea Stadium in 1978; Chicago Cubs’ Carlos Zambrano and Michael Barrett battled at Wrigley in 2007 and San Francisco Giants teammates Barry Bonds and Jeff Kent had a shoving math in San Diego in 2002.

 

Memories of Baltimore: Waking up the morning of Game 1 of the 1979 World Series and looking out the window of our Reisterstown, Md. hotel to see snow six inches up the window. (We didn’t notice there was a five-foot hedge in front of the window, Game 1 was snowed out) ... P.A. man Rex (“Give that fan a contract”) Barney, who pitched for Jackie Robinson’s 1947 Brooklyn Dodgers ... George Bell winning games in 1987 on his own: three hits including two homers with six RBIs in an 8-6 win against John Habyan; a ninth-inning, game-winning single off Mike Boddicker in a 2-1 win, singling in the tie-breaking run in a five-run eighth against  Mark Williamson and a two-run homer in the sixth off Habyan in a 6-1 win. In all, Bell hit .364 (14-for-48) with a double, six homers, 17 RBIs and a 1.051 OPS against the Birds his MVP year ... Brooks Robinson. Jim Palmer.