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.
Although the melee was quickly broken up by Ian Desmond, the incident did not end Papelbon’s day. Manager Matt Williams sent Papelbon—who before coming to Washington spent nearly ten years in Boston and Philadelphia—to start the ninth inning, when he promptly surrendered five runs to the Phillies, who went go on to score eight total in the frame. (The Nationals lost the game 12-5, like anyone still cares.)
Following the game, Williams was asked why he still turned to a player who appears to have created a physically unsafe work environment.
“He’s our closer,” the manager said.
At this point, perhaps the only person who can help explain the Nationals is the great Cleveland Indians broadcaster Harry Doyle:
Correction: An earlier version of this article stated the altercation between Papelbon and Harper started because of a ground-ball play. It was a fly ball.