WASHINGTON — Yes, it did go from bad to worse for the Nationals. A day after their playoff dream ended, the Nationals endured the nightmare of a fight in their dugout.
Reliever Jonathan Papelbon was supposed to be the closer to help the Nationals close the deal on the National League East. Now, there is little doubt Nats fans are saying “What’s the deal?” after Papelbon decided to take on Bryce Harper.
Not that it is a good idea to take on any teammate, but Papelbon used his hands against the face of the franchise. Papelbon is already facing a Major League Baseball suspension for throwing at the Orioles’ Manny Machado last week. Against that backdrop, Papelbon suddenly became judge and jury on Harper.
In the bottom of the eighth inning of Sunday’s game against the Phillies, Papelbon yelled at Harper for not running out a fly out as he returned to the dugout. The angry words escalated, with Papelbon grabbing for Harper’s neck and throwing him against the dugout wall.
Harper headed for the clubhouse. Papelbon, who entered the game in the top of the eighth inning, was back on the mound in the top of the ninth, in which he surrendered five runs as the Nationals lost, 12-5.
Forget the worries about manager Matt Williams losing the clubhouse — he has lost the dugout.
Williams is a good baseball man and a meticulous planner, but what about when plans change and things take a sudden a dramatic turn, like they did Sunday and like they did this season?
In both cases, Williams struggled to seize control and it will cost him his job.