On Monday, Jonathan Papelbon got suspended for four games.
He’d previously been suspended for three games for errant pitches of the inside variety. His second offense was getting into a fight on Sunday with Bryce Harper in the dugout of the Washington Nationals, the team by which both men are employed.
The fight started when Papelbon accused Harper, the team’s most celebrated player, of failing to hustle down to first base after he’d hit a pop-up.
Before the two men growled and swiped at each other in the dugout, the Nationals had made news by failing to live up to the expectations of many prognosticators, who had said Washington would be involved in the playoffs, which will begin on Tuesday.
One theory has it that fights between teammates can benefit a team. Some football coaches regard their practices as useless unless at least a couple of players square off. The Oakland Athletics used to fight amongst themselves while they were winning three World Series in a row during the '70s. The late Billy Martin, over and over again the manager of the New York Yankees, was regarded by some as a baseball genius. He fought with slugger Reggie Jackson, a pitcher named Ed Whitson and a marshmallow salesman, although not all at the same time, or somebody would have turned it into a sitcom.
The fight Jonathan Papelbon provoked occurred too late to benefit anybody but those who filmed and photographed it.
My recollection is that most of us started laughing before we could reach the two original combatants. It was all a joke. It was a stupid joke, but not as stupid as actually fighting would have been.
Hockey features fights, though not usually between teammates, and I once took part in one, or at least something that was designed to look like one.
I played in a youth hockey league run by some terrific coaches who made it clear before any of us pulled on skates that there would be no fighting. I don’t know what those coaches would have done if any of us had fought, because we didn’t. We just played hockey.
Anyway, for adolescent reasons, some of us decided that we’d surprise these earnest men on the last day of the season. We arranged for two players, one on each team, to drop the gloves and square off just seconds before the game would end. As soon as that happened, both benches would empty. We’d all rush on to the ice, dropping our gloves along the way. With our sudden and inexplicable violence, we would frighten the coaches and the handful of unlucky spectators on hand — parents whose turn it was to drive the carpool.
My recollection is that most of us started laughing before we could reach the two original combatants. It was all a joke. It was a stupid joke, but not as stupid as actually fighting would have been. We were only 13 or 14, but we already knew that.