The Washington Nationals suspended reliever Jonathan Papelbon for four games Monday, a day after he attacked teammate Bryce Harper during a dugout altercation.
"The behavior exhibited by Papelbon yesterday is not acceptable," Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said in a statement. "That is not at all in line with the way our players are expected to conduct themselves and the Nationals organization will not tolerate it in any way."
In addition to the team's suspension, Papelbon has chosen not to appeal a three-game suspension for hitting Baltimore Orioles third baseman Manny Machado on purpose in a game last Wednesday. The combined suspensions will keep him off the field for the remainder of the season.
Papelbon, 34, had a verbal altercation that turned physical with Harper after the MVP favorite did not run out a pop-out in the eighth inning. The Nationals reliever grabbed Harper by the neck and put him up against the dugout wall before the two were separated by teammates. Both players attempted to downplay the scuffle after the game, during which Papelbon allowed the game-winning runs.
"I grew up with brothers, he grew up with brothers, I view him as a brother," Papelbon said, per ESPN.com. "And sometimes in this game, there's a lot of testosterone and things spill over."
"He apologized, so whatever," Harper said. "I really don't care. ... It's like brothers fighting. That's what happens."
According to Dan Kolko of MASN, Harper will not be in the lineup Monday for his part in the altercation, which drew an understandably perplexed response from Robby Kalland of CBS Sports:
It will be interesting to see if Sunday was the last time we'll see Papelbon in a Nationals uniform. Acquired in a midseason trade with the Philadelphia Phillies, he has posted a 3.04 ERA and 1.10 WHIP since joining the club. He has seven saves against two blown chances, failing to help Washington stay in the playoff race.
At issue here is the $11 million Papelbon is owed for 2016. Even if he's not at his peak, he is an effective pitcher who was having an excellent season in Philadelphia before the trade. In today's MLB, $11 million for a pitcher of his caliber isn't a massive overpay. It's really a question of how irreparable the relationship is between Harper and Papelbon—and the Nationals as a whole.
If the situation is really two "brothers" getting into an argument, there's no reason to expect Papelbon to be sent packing. If it runs deeper, though, Washington would be better off cutting bait—even if it means eating most of his salary.
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