The Washington Nationals' disappointing season has officially reached a new low.
A day after the team was eliminated from playoff contention, tempers boiled over in the dugout Sunday in a clash between the face of the franchise and a trade-deadline acquisition.
Outfielder (and NL MVP favorite) Bryce Harper and closer Jonathan Papelbon got into it during the bottom of the eighth inning against the Philadelphia Phillies.
The incident started after Harper flied out to left field. When Harper made his way back to the dugout, Papelbon started chirping at his star teammate. That confrontation got more heated as the two got closer to each other, and ultimately Papelbon went after Harper.
Update from Monday, Sept. 28
Papelbon will not pitch again this season, as the Nationals have suspended him for four games for the dugout altercation:
The suspension handed down by the team will follow the three-game punishment the league issued for the reliever's throwing at Manny Machado last week.
In addition, Papelbon's jersey has been removed from the team store:
Washington Nationals @Nationals
The Washington Nationals have suspended RHP Jonathan Papelbon: http://t.co/KYKHvllsaw9/28/2015, 5:34:58 PM
--End of Update--
Papelbon is facing a three-game suspension for intentionally hitting Baltimore Orioles third baseman Manny Machado on Wednesday. After that game, Harper seemingly called out Papelbon for hitting Machado, per Chris Johnson of MASNsports.com:
Jennifer Shiffman @jtshiffman
So I doubt I'm the first to do this but the one on the left was just now (4 pm) on the right was 1:15 pm. #Nats http://t.co/n0sKwHImGB9/28/2015, 8:04:42 PM
That may have helped set the stage for what happened Sunday.
Papelbon has a reputation for having a temper and being a bad teammate, per CSNPhilly.com's Jim Salisbury. The Nationals knew all that when they traded for him in July, but they figured his performance on the field would be worth the negatives he brought to the clubhouse. Since the acquisition, however, the team has not lived up to expectations.
While Harper was removed from the game in the top of the ninth, Papelbon was sent back out to the mound in the 4-4 game. When asked about the decision to keep the closer in after the dugout fight, Nationals manager Matt Williams kept it simple:
Chris Johnson @espn980cj
Bryce Harper: "Manny freakin hit a homer, walked it off and somebody drilled him. It’s pretty tired...I’ll probably get drilled tomorrow"9/24/2015, 2:48:02 AM
Papelbon—who took the loss in the 12-5 defeat—accepted responsibility for the brawl after the game, via Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post:
Chris Lingebach @ChrisLingebach
Matt Williams on sending Jonathan Papelbon back to the mound after lunging at Bryce Harper in the dugout: "He's our closer."9/27/2015, 8:58:31 PM
Williams did not elaborate on the incident:
Chelsea Janes @chelsea_janes
Papelbon: "I'm in the wrong there." Wouldn't specify what exactly took issue with, but said its important to "play the game the right way."9/27/2015, 9:07:35 PM
Here's what Harper had to say, via John Ourand of SportsBusiness Journal:
There's still one more week in the Nationals' season.