If there was any doubt that the Washington Nationals will be listing a job opening for manager after this dumpster-fire of a season concludes, yesterday's dugout brawl between Jonathan Papelbon and Bryce Harper should have sealed Matt Williams's fate. The Nationals responded to Papelbon's chokehold on Harper by suspending the boorish closer for four games, which combined with his acceptance of a three-game suspension from Major League Baseball for plunking Baltimore Orioles third-baseman Manny Machado last week means Papelbon's is done for the year.
But at a press conference Monday afternoon, Williams said he is also punishing Harper for "his part in the altercation" by benching the MVP candidate for the day. More knowledgable baseball sages have already written that Sunday's scrape should be the end of Williams's mismanagement of a team that was supposed to contend for the World Series, especially with Williams's decision to let Papelbon pitch the inning following his brazen attack against Harper.
"But if you saw the expression on Papelbon’s face as he entered Williams’s office after the game and you saw the look on Williams, too, this was probably the one day you really would like to have 'The Big Marine,' with the put-somebody-in-a-locker reputation, as your manager," the Washington Post's Thomas Boswell wrote.
In case anyone was not convinced the Washington Nationals' 2015 season was a gaping pit of chaos, the team used its second-to-last home game to issue a reminder. After Bryce Harper popped out in eight inning with the game against the Philadelphia Phillies tied 4-4, the Most Valuable Player candidate walked back to the first-base dugout to a string of jeers from his teammate, closer Jonathan Papelbon.
Papelbon was reportedly chastising Harper for not running at full speed during the play. Harper, already frustrated with Papelbon's churlish behavior, did not take kindly to being admonished so harshly by one of his teammates, and barked back at Papelbon as he returned to the dugout. In response to Harper's argument, Papelbon, a 34-year-old man whom the Nationals are scheduled to pay $11 million next year, appeared to grab Harper by the throat and shove him into the dugout's back wall.
What is Richmond 2015?
One of professional cycling’s most prestigious events has come to Richmond, about 90 miles south of DC and an easy day or weekend trip. At the UCI Road World Championships, 1,000 of the world’s best cyclists will compete for nine days on courses packed with the turns, hills and cobblestones of Richmond’s streets.
An estimated 450,000 people are expected to show up for the excitement. Luckily for them, Richmond is a great place to visit even when there isn’t a world-class sporting event underway. The championship has so transformed this charming Southern city that the event is being referred to as simply Richmond 2015. Here’s how to get in on the fun:
Donald Trump likes Tom Brady. Tom Brady apparently likes Donald Trump, too. Asked by reporters on Wednesday whether Trump has what it takes to become the President of the U.S.A., Brady said, “I hope so. That would be great. There would be a putting green on the White House lawn. I’m sure of that.” —NBC Sports, September 16, 2015
Moses Malone—the legendary basketball center who died in his sleep at age 60 this past weekend—is best known for his three MVP seasons and 1983 championship. His glory years were with the Houston Rockets and Philadelphia 76ers. But when he was traded before the 1986 season, the man aptly named Moses, whose scoring and rebounding heroics garnered biblical reverence from fans, ended up elsewhere.
The board that oversees the District's sports and convention venues will vote this afternoon on what would be a sweet deal for Washington Wizards owner Ted Leonsis: A way for taxpayers to pay for most of a $56 million practice arena for the team.
Washington's NFL team has failed yet again. Despite a preseason during which it made every attempt to zap its supporters of their dignity, it fell short in making its fans the most miserable bunch of mopes in all of professional football. According to Facebook, four teams—the Buffalo Bills, Pittsburgh Steelers, New England Patriots, and San Diego Chargers—have fan bases sadder than Washington's.
When sports historians chronicle the NFL of the second decade of the 21st century, they will not look kindly upon the Washington team's 2015 season. While the other 31 teams begin their attempts to capture the Super Bowl 50 title this weekend, Washington will watch in envy, saddled with the realization that its season ended before the first dropped pass. Still, 2015 provided fans of Dan Snyder's club many memories they'll be talking about for years. Here are a few of the highlights:
June 2: FedEx Field Downsizes
Although the team claims every home game for the last 47 years has sold out, visual checks of FedEx Field in 2013 and 2014 suggested otherwise. Less than ten years after topping more than 88,000 spectators per game, Washington's attendance dropped to an average of 68,776 in 2014—still better than most of the NFL, but not quite what you'd expect from a team that claims a 200,000-person waiting list for season tickets, and small enough to expose large, empty swaths of the upper bowl. So, in early June, the team removed huge clusters of seats from the stadium, reducing its capacity to about 75,000. Team president Bruce Allen said the renovation was based on feedback from season-ticket holders wanting a better stadium experience. But, as one former season-ticket holder told the Washington Post, "It’s just more fun to watch at home."
Matt Williams was asked August 16, after the Washington Nationals lost their fourth consecutive game, if the team, then trailing the New York Mets by four-and-a-half games, had reached "rock bottom."
"We're still in this hunt here, so no," the Nationals manager told reporters at his post-game press conference.
The Nationals went on to lose the following two games, and eventually stumbled into September at 66-65, and trailing the Mets by 6.5 games. September 1 presented a bleak situation, but not entirely hopeless. A few hot hitting streaks here, some corrected pitching there, and, somehow, the Nationals might still find a way to eke this once-heralded squad into the playoffs for the third time in four seasons. A relatively easy schedule—four games at home against the moribund Atlanta Braves—kept them scraping along.
It is now hopeless.
Among the many wonderful things about owning Redskins season tickets during the team’s 1980s glory days was one benefit for which I was especially grateful. It got me out of Hebrew school a half hour early.
Eight Sundays a year—give or take the occasional 4 o’clock kickoff or Monday-night matchup, or when I had to surrender one of my family’s two tickets to my no-account little brother (who cared nothing about football and only wanted to go for the nachos)—my father would pick me up at Temple Sinai on Military Road at 11:30. We’d zip through Rock Creek Park, past the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials, onto the Southeast Freeway, and into the RFK parking lot. At our first game, my dad innocently asked the attendant guarding the VIP compound, “Let a small car in?” and he waived us through—a ritual repeated for the next five years. At the last game of each season, we gave him a tin of my mom’s homemade lemon squares.