Former players think Papelbon was right? WHA?!


C.J. Nitkowski’s latest column over at Fox has me shaking my head. In it he relays the response of former ballplayers he knows to the Bryce HarperJonathan Papelbon fracas yesterday. And the overwhelming sentiment: Papelbon was in the right.

Maybe not about actually choking Harper — it’s actually surprising that no one mentions that or the notion of violence at all, making me wonder what Nitkowski actually asked them — but with the idea that Harper was wrong to not run out a fly ball and Papelbon was right to police the young kid for not “playing the game the right way.” The quotes are pretty incredible, actually, at most taking issue with the timing of Papelbon going after Harper, but generally agreeing that he was right to police Harper in some way.

Nitkowski himself sums it up thusly:

These quotes are the most objective and knowledgeable viewpoint you’ll get on this matter. These are from current and former players who don’t have a bias and come from perspectives closer to the current game than anything else you’ve read. These guys clearly respect the player that Harper is, but not the way he’s handled himself at times in his career, especially on Sunday.

Papelbon is everybody’s favorite punching bag but it’s not deserved here. This is a game that governs itself; it always has and always will. No one is above giving his full effort every time. When you don’t, there will be a veteran teammate there waiting to remind you. Sometimes that might result in a fight and that’s OK. This is not your office.

With all respect to Nitkowski, whose work and analysis I generally agree with, this is utter bunk.

For starters, the people he quoted are not objective at all, even if they are knowledgable. They are fully on the side of a baseball’s longstanding orthodoxy which expects young players to shut up and be humble, old players to tell them how to act and for deviations from such norms to be policed with beanballs, verbal attacks, hazing and other assorted garbage.

Which, yes, has long been a part of the game. And, in a certain sense it’s eminently reasonable for some of that to be part of the game, at least in the broad strokes. It makes sense for there to be a presumption that veterans teach younger players how to carry themselves and younger players learn from and emulate veterans. In a broad sense it’s totally understandable for disagreements between teammates not to be made public. In a broad sense it’s understandable for there to be somewhat different standards of behavior for older players and less experienced players. These are all norms which exist in many walks of life and all norms which understandably attach to baseball. And likely always will.

But when it comes to Harper and Papelbon, those norms simply do not apply. Papelbon wasn’t fostering a young, misguided kid, he was biting back at Harper because Harper called Papelbon out over beanballs last week rendering this, at best, a situation in which he thinks two wrongs make a right. He is not a team leader whose job it is to set misguided players straight, he’s a rented reliever who has been with the team for two months. He wasn’t teaching Harper to “play the game the right way,” he was physically assaulting him. And, no matter how damn young Harper is, he is the best player on the team and in the league and has done more to help the Nationals win this year than any other player. Hell, at times he’s been the only one who has helped the Nats at all.

All of that takes this out of the the construct in which Nitkowski and the players he quotes are operating. But to be honest, I’m not even gonna grant the construct full validity.

Most of what’s wrong with sports and sports discourse is rooted in the idea that sports have different rules, ethics and implications than all other walks of life. That a clubhouse is 100% different than an office (note Nitkowski’s citation to that). That, in other jobs, people are totally OK with slackers. That there are no other means of policing bad behavior than the way athletes police such behavior. I’ll never claim to know how a baseball clubhouse works or what challenges athletes face — I have no ability to do that at all and never will — but the notion that the world of sports is somehow wholly alien and separate from every other walk of life is an unsupportable conceit and reference to it as nothing more than an appeal to unchallengeable authority.

Yes, athletes have skills the rest of us do not have and their mastery of those skills are things that we cannot understand like they can and, usually, cannot explain like they can. But notions of how human beings treat other human beings, the ethics of interpersonal relationships and the idea of behavior, comportment and, most especially, the use of violence or intimidation are not subjects which we cannot understand. They are things we all deal with in our lives and in our jobs and, while they certainly differ in the details and in degrees, they do not differ in kind.

Especially not to the point where, when we look at one person assaulting another we must say “Hey, who are we to judge? Maybe we should defer to the other ballplayers here? After all, this is not our office.”

Will fans be allowed to attend MLB playoff games?

The MLB Playoffs are underway!
Getty Images
Leave a comment

After a condensed 60-game regular season, the MLB playoffs kicked off this week with an usual 16-team format that you can read more about below, but one of the many questions on everyone’s mind is whether or not fans will be allowed to attend MLB playoff games.

Will fans be allowed to go to MLB playoff games?

There have been no spectators at any games this season but fans will finally have the opportunity to go to the NL Championship Series and World Series at new Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas–one of the few states allowing spectators to attend events this year. The NLCS is scheduled on seven straight days from Oct. 12-18 and the World Series from Oct. 20-28, with traditional off days between Games 2 and 3 and Games 5 and 6, if the Series goes that far. Major League Baseball said Wednesday that about 11,500 tickets will be available for each game.

Below is the format and locations for each round. Unlike the regular season, there will be a bubble setup for each series in the postseason with the exception of the Wild Card round. Click here for the MLB schedule and scoreboard.

MLB Playoffs Format

Wild Card Series (Best-of-three): September 29 – October 2

All games will be held at the higher seed’s ball park.

American League

No. 1 Rays vs. No. 8 Blue Jays
No. 2 Athletics vs. No. 7 White Sox
No. 3 Twins vs. No. 6 Astros
No. 4 Cleveland vs. No. 5 Yankees

National League

No. 1 Dodgers vs. No. 8 Brewers
No. 2 Braves vs. No. 7 Reds
No. 3 Cubs vs. No. 6 Marlins
No. 4 Padres vs. No. 5 Cardinals

Division Series (Best-of-five): October 5 -10

The American League Division Series will be contested at Petco Park in San Diego and Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. The National League Division Series will be held at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas and Minute Maid Park in Houston.

League Championship Series (Best-of-seven): October 11-18

The American League Championship Series will be held at Petco Park in San Diego while the National League Championship Series will take place at Globe Life Field in Arlington.

World Series (Best-of-seven): October 20-28

The World Series will be held at Globe Life Field in Arlington. Home field advantage will go to the team with the best regular-season record.

        RELATED: Yanks rally, beat Indians 10-9 to reach ALDS vs rival Rays