The Nationals Are All Choked Up

Papelbon Choking Harper

To be “choked up” means to become too nervous or tense in a critical situation to perform, as in “He’s fine during practice but in a game he tends to choke up.” This usage, also put as to choke alone, is especially common in sports.

Well, if “all choked up” doesn’t describe the 2015 Washington Nationals Baseball, team, I don’t know what does. The Nats were the pre-season favorites to not only go to the World Series, but to win the whole dag gum thing and bring the Fall Classic and a championship to Washington DC for the first time in a long time. That long time just got one season longer.

Officially out of the playoffs, the Nationals seemingly needed an encore, and yesterday at their last home stand of the season, they got it. Jonathan Papelbon, the mouthy reliever who has worn out his welcome in Boston and Philadelphia, appears to have punched his ticket out of DC – by attacking superstar Bryce Harper.

One day after the Nats were eliminated from the NL East race, Jonathan Papelbon and Harper brawled in the Nationals dugout. It was more than a brawl, it was one player going after another and going at his throat. His throat! Talk about choking.

After a flyout in the eighth inning of what became a 12-5 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies, Harper headed to the dugout, where he and Papelbon, the team’s closer, exchanged words. The argument escalated, and Papelbon reached out with his left hand and grabbed Harper by the throat. And if that wasn’t enough, Papelbon stayed in the game and allowed five runs in the ninth after the brawl.

Papelbon, who was suspended last week for drilling Manny Machado, has one year and $11 million left on his current deal. He was traded from the Phillies to the Nats on July 28th. On that day, the Nats held a one-game lead over the Mets, but have gone 27-30 since the deal. A coincidence? Maybe. But the Nats bet the farm on this journeyman closer, and all they got was national attention to this dugout brawl that’s become symbolic of their season.

So what did the Nats learn from this incident and from this season? Anything? Ya think? Winning cures everything. And losing exposes everything. Following this maxim, this year’s team is ill and exposed. Attacking your teammate and dueling in the dugout is NEVER a good thing. And it’s a damaging and dangerous way to end a disappointing season.  

Sports and spirituality are conterminous in this respect — unity is absolutely essential.  Harmony, not cacophony, is what’s needed in sports as it’s the main ingredient which is mandatory on every team.

My guess is that next year’s Nats team will look drastically different than this year’s, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Harper, the local golden boy, asks to be traded. Far fetched? Maybe. But we do know that Harper can’t be happy. As for Papelbon, he is already gone, because he’s got to go.

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