September 28, 2015
How long should a player who insults, assaults, and actually tries to choke a team's brightest star stay with the team? Probably less time than it took me to write that sentence. Well, apparently manager Matt Williams didn't see what was going on, because he sent Jonathan Papelbon back to the mound in the ninth inning immediately after Papelbon did just that to Bryce Harper yesterday afternoon. Not only that, Papelbon then proceeded to give up a go-ahead home run (the score had been 4-4), and he was tagged with the loss in the 12-5 debacle. Five Phillies players crossed the plate (three of which were unearned runs) while he was on the mound, and three more did after he left the game. An eight-run ninth inning!? Read all about it in the the Washington Post.
After the game, Papelbon admitted he was wrong to criticize Harper for not running faster on that pop fly, but that is completely beside the point. Whenever a team is in such a fragile emotional state as this, that kind of behavior can easily have extreme (negative) consequences. Meanwhile, Matt Williams repeated his typical, robotic line about Papelbon being his closer for the ninth inning, a non-explanatory explanation. Papelbon the closer? How about "Papelbon the closer"?
First, he literally choked (his fellow team mate), and then he figuratively choked. Papelbon, who had a reputation of being somewhat of a jerk while playing in Boston and Philadelphia, is officially persona non grata in Washington. Whatever team he is with when he next appears in Washington will get a resounding chorus of boo-oos!
Obviously, there was no way Papelbon was going to play with the Nationals again, and today the Nationals front office announced that Papelbon had agreed to accept his three-game suspension from MLB over the Manny Machado hit-by-pitch incident last week, dropping his appeal. In addition, the Nationals suspended him for an additional four games; see MLB.com. Since there were only seven games left to play anyway, that means Papelbon has effectively been kicked off the team. Good riddance!
So, of course this embarrassing fracas made all the newspaper headlines and the evening news today, drawing widespread unwanted attention to what a disaster this year has been for the Nationals. Good grief.
Fortunately, the Nationals were able to quickly put that disgrace behind them. In the July 8 makeup game against the Cincinnati Reds this afternoon, Max Scherzer was actually flirting with another no-hitter, spoiled when Tucker Barnhart singled to left field with one out in the top of the eighth. Barnhart later scored after the second hit given up by Scherzer. Final score: Nats 5, Reds 1.
What a coincidence that would have been if Scherzer had gotten those last five batters out: exactly one year after the no-hitter by Jordan Zimmermann!
And that, sports fans, wraps up baseball in Our Nation's Capital for this year. Tomorrow the Nationals head to Atlanta for a three-game set, and then they finish the season in New York, facing the NL East Champion Mets. (That would have been an exciting series had the Nats still been in contention!) According to my own unofficial figures, the Nationals drew a total of 2,620,443 home attendance for the year, their third-best year ever. Total attendance was 2,720,322 in 2005, and 2,652,892 in 2013. Next week I will update the Washington Nationals page with the complete data for 2015.
Well, let's turn our attention to something more pleasant like football, shall we? Oops, the Washington Redskins are in as much disarray as the Nationals are right now, or perhaps more. Before the season started, Kirk Cousins was named the Redskins' regular starting quarterback, leaving Robert Griffin III's future status unclear. In New York on Thursday night, the Redskins lost to the Giants 32-21. Both teams are now 1-2.
To mark the near-end of the regular baseball season, and the beginning of autumnal Pigskin Fever, I have posted a batch of photos of football stadiums I took last summer, including the two NFL stadiums below plus a few others including two college stadiums. See the Football stadiums photo gallery page.
I was dubious about going from a three-division conference system to a four-division system in the National Football League back in 2002 (too many teams into the postseason!), but I don't think they're going to turn back the clock. What irks me in particular is the irrational assignment of teams to "regions," most notably putting the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC East, just to maintain the traditional rivalry with the Washington Redskins. They could have achieved that objective by some kind of informal arrangement.
It was with that in mind that I propose the following divisional groupings for the NFC and AFC. For the NFC, the Dallas Cowboys would join the South Division, trading places with the Carolina Panthers who are currently in the NFC East. On the AFC side, Indianpolis would move to the North from the South, Miami would move to the South from the East, and Baltimore would move to the East from the North. Now seriously, doesn't that make more sense??
|American Football Conference||National Football Conference|
|Indianapolis (from South)||Denver||Carolina
|Jacksonville||Cleveland||Kansas City||Philadelphia||New Orleans||Detroit||Arizona|
|Buffalo||Houston||Pittsburgh||San Diego||New York Giants||Atlanta||Minnesota||San Francisco|
|New York Jets||Tennessee||Cincinnati||Oakland||Washington||Tampa Bay||Chicago||St. Louis|