The Washington Nationals has just announced the suspension of Jonathan Papelbon for four games, effectively barring him from playing for the rest of the season.
The Nationals relief pitcher's suspension without pay was due to his role in a dugout altercation with right fielder Bryce Harper on Sunday. The incident happened shortly after the team's loss against the Philadelphia Phillies.
During the eighth inning, the two players have reportedly exchanged harsh words. Papelbon fought with Harper in the dugout with cameras catching the former placing his hands around latter's neck. Papelbon then shoved Harper toward the bench with both arms. Their teammates responded and pulled the pair apart.
Washington Nationals General Manager and President of Baseball Operations Mike Rizzo said that, "The behavior exhibited by Papelbon yesterday is not acceptable. 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."
The event on Sunday somehow reflects the team's collapse for this season. A day before this Papelbon incident, the Nationals were eliminated from postseason contention. This ends what many baseball observers initially believed to be an outstanding year for Washington. After controlling the National League East for a short time, the team slowly loses its grip on the division to the rising New York Mets.
Furthermore, the organization also disclosed that Papelbon dropped his appeal on an earlier three-game suspension he got due to an unrelated issue. It was caused by his confrontation involving Baltimore Orioles' Manny Machado last week. The suspension will take effect on Monday, which means that Papelbon will not be pitching again for the remainder of the season.
The Nationals acquired Papelbon from the Philadelphia Phillies back in July despite a history of inconsistent behavior. How Papelbon, who is owed $11 million for the next season, and Harper, the team's cornerstone player, will co-exist in future games remains to be seen.
Later on, the 34-year-old pitcher admitted his mistakes to the press. "I'm in the wrong there. For me, I can't allow that to happen in the middle of a game. You can handle that after the games or allow the manager to handle that. So in that light of it, I'm wrong. Sometimes, emotions spill over and that's what happened today. It's happened for hundreds of years in this game, and I think it will continue to happen," Papelbon explained.
Meanwhile, Bryce Harper dismissed the dugout scuffle and said that, "He apologized, so whatever. I really don't care... It's like brothers fighting. That's what happens."