Jonathan Papelbon reflects on choking Bryce Harper: “I was in the wrong.”

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Remember the time Jonathan Papelbon choked teammate and eventual National League Most Valuable Player Award winner Bryce Harper in the dugout during a late-September game against the Phillies? He was given a three-game suspension and later said he only regretted doing that in front of the television cameras. Harper called Papelbon after the season to patch things up.

It seemed like Papelbon would be on his way to his fourth team, but the Nationals instead kept him and traded Drew Storen to the Blue Jays this past offseason. The three-plus-month layoff has allowed Papelbon to reflect on the incident with Harper. As Chelsea Jane of the Washington Post reports, the closer said, “I was in the wrong.”

Papelbon’s full comment:

“Me and Bryce, we’re good. Like we’ve both said. I’ve apologized to him. I’ve apologized to my teammates. I want to apologize to the fans and the coaches and everyone included, and I think that with what happened last year, I was in the wrong. Should have never went down that way, and I understand that. I had a lot of time this offseason to reflect on that. I have had three months to think about it. I’ve done a lot of reflecting and I think sometimes in life, good things can come out of bad situations. So I’ve been in contact with Bryce and J-dub [Jayson Werth] and [Max] Scherzer and all these guys, and I think the main goal is to know that everybody here has each other’s back.”

It’s a shocking admission of fault from Papelbon, particularly given the comments he made about only regretting choking Harper in front of the cameras.

His non-pitching antics aside, the 35-year-old closer has continued to rank among the game’s best finishers. Last season, between the Phillies and Nationals, Papelbon saved 24 games in 26 chances and compiled a 2.13 ERA with 56 strikeouts and 12 walks in 63 1/3 innings.

MLB crowds jump from ’21, still below pre-pandemic levels

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PHOENIX — Even with the homer heroics of sluggers like Aaron Judge and Albert Pujols, Major League Baseball wasn’t able to coax fans to ballparks at pre-pandemic levels this season, though attendance did jump substantially from the COVID-19 affected campaign in 2021.

The 30 MLB teams drew nearly 64.6 million fans for the regular season that ended Wednesday, which is up from the 45.3 million who attended games in 2021, according to baseball-reference.com. This year’s numbers are still down from the 68.5 million who attended games in 2019, which was the last season that wasn’t affected by the pandemic.

The 111-win Los Angeles Dodgers led baseball with 3.86 million fans flocking to Dodger Stadium for an average of 47,672 per contest. The Oakland Athletics – who lost 102 games, play in an aging stadium and are the constant subject of relocation rumors – finished last, drawing just 787,902 fans for an average of less than 10,000 per game.

The St. Louis Cardinals finished second, drawing 3.32 million fans. They were followed by the Yankees (3.14 million), defending World Series champion Braves (3.13 million) and Padres (2.99 million).

The Toronto Blue Jays saw the biggest jump in attendance, rising from 805,901 fans to about 2.65 million. They were followed by the Cardinals, Yankees, Mariners, Dodgers, and Mets, which all drew more than a million fans more than in 2021.

The Rangers and Reds were the only teams to draw fewer fans than in 2021.

Only the Rangers started the 2021 season at full capacity and all 30 teams weren’t at 100% until July. No fans were allowed to attend regular season games in 2020.

MLB attendance had been declining slowly for years – even before the pandemic – after hitting its high mark of 79.4 million in 2007. This year’s 64.6 million fans is the fewest in a non-COVID-19 season since the sport expanded to 30 teams in 1998.

The lost attendance has been balanced in some ways by higher viewership on the sport’s MLB.TV streaming service. Viewers watched 11.5 billion minutes of content in 2022, which was a record high and up nearly 10% from 2021.