PANIC AT THE DISCO (by bledsoe, game thread)

From our Nats beat reporter, Chad N. Freud:

Calling Dr. Phil…

A few weeks ago, I referred to the Nats debacle as a soap opera. That was wrong. It’s now a WWE storyline. Holy freaking cow. You cannot make this stuff up. The last dugout fight I remember was the Cubs, four or five years ago, Carlos Zambrano and his catcher, and then Zambrano and Derrek Lee I think in another one. Clubhouse fights happen every once in a while (Sammy Sosa didn’t break his ribs sneezing). Dugout fights aren’t very common.

The background on this is that, in the middle of getting swept by the Orioles last week, Jonathan
Papelbon decided to drill Manny Machado. There had been a lot of high and tight over the series, with nobody getting actually hit, but the O’™s pitching Harper inside and the Nats pitching Chris Davis inside. Manny’€™s mistake was that he crushed a Max Scherzer 98 mph fastball in the 7th to go up 5-4. So in the 9th, Papelbon decided to dispense some old school justice and hit Machado in the head. (Luckily, Manny took it in the shoulder instead.) Papelbon was ejected. Benches cleared, the Nats’ very slowly. Clearly, no one on the Nats thought this was justified. In the clubhouse, Bryce Harper talked to the press and mentioned sourly that he was probably going to get drilled tomorrow in retaliation. Papelbon viewed this as criticism of his actions, and thus he was looking for a chance to get back at Harper.

Even though the Nats had been eliminated Saturday, Harper still played the next day. And when Harper jogged lazily to first on a pop fly (first was occupied), Papelbon decided to ride him about not running hard. Over and over. Harper said “Let’s %$#@ing go.” And they did.

You cannot touch the Golden Child. Harper is the franchise’s All-Star, and the Nats think he’s on a HOF trajectory. You cannot touch him. And the fact that Jonathan Papelbon doesn’t know that, or doesn’t care, is an indication of just what an idiot he is.

Normally, Papelbon would be traded for a ham sandwich (who’d take him?) or released. You don’t want this guy in the same clubhouse with Harper. Given how much the pennywise Lerners hate wasting money, there’s no telling what will happen. Some post mortem observations:

  1. Bad GMing

    As you may recall, I noted a few weeks ago the insanity of the trade for Papelbon. Over 2014-15, up to the trade deadline, you could make a case that Drew Storen was the best relief pitcher in baseball. 2014: ERA 1.12, WHIP 0.976. In 2015, pre-Papelbon, ERA 1.69, 29 for 31 in save opportunities. What the Nats needed at the trade deadline were a couple of setup guys to get the ball to Storen. What they went out and got was another closer who was probably the best-known clubhouse cancer in all of baseball. And they took the ball away from probably the then-best closer in the NL (apologies to CK) and gave it to this jackhole. Not only that, but part of the Papelbon trade required them to pick up Papelbon’s option for next year: i.e., he was going to close next year too. Thanks for playing, Drew.

    This was the second time the Nats had thrown Storen under the bus. In 2011, after being lights out all year, closing 43 games, he blew a save in the NLDS against the Cardinals. Rather than chalking this up to a one-off, the Nats demoted him to setup and eventually went out and got Rafael Soriano to close, which is a bit like telling you that you lost the role as romantic lead to the current version Meg Ryan. Storen lost all his confidence and went into a tailspin.

    Having fought his way over the last four years to the closer role and success, the Nats pull the rug out from under him again. Result: Storen goes into second tailspin, spinning a 7.36 ERA after Papelbon rolls in. Storen then punches his hand against his locker, breaks his thumb and is lost for the last three weeks of the season.

    The silver lining? Not only have they destroyed Storen’s mojo, twice, maybe for good, they’ve got the guy who took a swing at their NL MVP signed for next year at $11 million. Good job, Mike Rizzo!

  2. Bad managing

    For weeks, there had been speculation about whether Matt Williams would return. Not any more. He drove his last nail in his own coffin when he sent Papelbon back out to pitch the next inning, AFTER the brawl. Inexplicable.

    I honestly thought Williams would be a good manager. Good player, hardnosed, old school, reputation as a hardass. But he’s basically toned down the yelling to the point where he appears to be sleepwalking through the season. Every post game loss press conference is the same. Pulse never above 72. “We’ve got to put this behind us and play tomorrow.” Every game.

    Don’t know if this passivity that ownership has imposed on him, or some sort of philosophical change but the Nats could have used some yelling. Actually, they could have used a lot. Few on the team seem to care a whole lot about winning and losing. And that’s part of why they’re trying to finish above .500 rather than coasting into the World Series.

  3. Bad ownering

    It was in no way a coincidence that the Braves starting getting good when Ted Turner starting losing interest in the Braves and starting dating Jane Fonda instead. Likewise, the local flaming tire mountain of a football team is entirely the product of one Daniel Snyder’s personal obsession with dictating all player moves. The Lerners meddle in stuff that they should leave to the GM (not that this is an endorsement of Rizzo).

    Scott Boras is NOT your friend. And if you continue to let him run your team for you, the only thing that will happen is that Scott Boras and his clients will get rich.

  4. Natitude!

    The Nats just announced that they have suspended Papelbon for four games — i.e., “for the rest of the season” — and they’re docking his pay, too. But the damage has been done, and they continue to own his contract for 2016.

    As a local gumshoe on the scene, it is hard not to notice the lack of fire in this team. There is a lot of horseplay and high spirits that seem to take precedence over winning and losing. There’s a lot of post-game chocolate sauce pouring and such. Not so much of the hardnosed baserunning, hitting the cutoff man and fundamentally sound baseball.

The ESPN guys were actually saying that this episode and the Nats’ underachievement were so egregious that the Nats may need to return to rebuilding mode. Not sure it’s that bad, but it’s certainly dysfunctional. I expect Williams will go, Rizzo may hang on.

Good times, good times.

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64 thoughts on “PANIC AT THE DISCO (by bledsoe, game thread)”

  1. Great stuff thanks. It’s funny how frequently “playing the game the right way” is explanatory, but it never seems to be terribly predictive..

  2. Papelbon is also dropping his appeal of the suspension for the beanball, so 3 for MLB + 4 for Nats = rest of season.

    Some Nats fan just tweeted from the Nats store that a worker came out and pulled all the Papelbon jerseys off the rack and took them in the back.

  3. I think the only people who think Paps was trying to police the game instead of trying to get a pound of flesh for Harper’s “Pap smear” if you will following the Baltimore game were the anonymous players in CJ Nitkowski’s article (who were likely all named CJ Nitkowski IRL).

    /hot taek

  4. I’ll miss Matt Williams. As was once said of Chris Sabo, he conducts interviews as though he’s facing a firing squad.

  5. Great post, Bledsoe. I’d hate for the Natspos to break up the team. They’ve lifted my spirit this lost year. God knows how responsible management would affect the comic relief.

  6. Coop, me too. Me too. This cluster brought me so much joy that I actually feel guilty about it.

    As anyone knows, the true fun part of any disaster like this is the recriminations. Lots of revisionist history and I-told-you-sos from all the fanboy sportswriters who didnt-tell-us-so and felt very differently about the Nats as recently as 2-3 weeks ago.

  7. 6—Nitkowski’s article is stupid, and the selection bias is probably pretty strong w/r/t the guys whose opinions he solicited, but I don’t for a second believe he just made them up, as you and Deadspin are suggesting.

  8. Lost in all this is the fact that under no circumstances should Papelbon be drilling a guy because he hit a HR. I am old school enough to believe that hitting a guy is sometime justified. But it’s never justified because you can’t/didn’t get the guy out, (which was about 80-90% of Roger Clemens’s HBPs, btw.) And 2, it’s never justified to aim at someone’s earhole.

    That I think may have been part of the reluctance of the Nats to spring to the defense of Papelbon, and part of Harper’s chagrin that this was fake tough guy stuff, and he, not Papelbon, was going to taste the other end of Papelbon’s fake-tough act, and if the O’s had a guy like Papelbon, he was going to take one in la cabeza.

  9. I’ll happily concede that CJ got some quotes from somewhere. The wonderful thing about anonymous quotes however is that you can cherrypick, contextualize and paraphrase them anyway you like and no one can call you on it, so they might as well be made up.

  10. @ Remy, #28, previous thread…

    …amid all the excitement and vituperation the stat you produced is quite astonishing and you are to be congratulated on digging it up, Heyman and others not withstanding, they didn’t post it here…it is priceless…

    i was at the ranch in Death Valley a few weeks ago, scouting,totally amped up, asking questions of anyone i could …in the gift shops when you mentioned the M word employees looked away, some muttering we are told not to talk about him…it doesn’t take long in this ambiance to get freaked out yourself…if only i had known then what you shared with us today, the whole Mother thing, how different it would all have been.

    So she arrested him, the man himself? Good Lord, a moment in history. And was Matt around then, mathematically marginal you would have to say. But the genes, that explains it all. Anyone whose mother arrests M sets the the tone for the issues of her womb. Paplebon? Big F’ing deal…they may call Matt stoic but they didn’t see the two of them in the car park at midnight. Suspend him? what else could they do, he won’t be out of hospital till Christmas.

    Thanks Ma…and thanks Remy, made my day.

  11. Charlie Manson
    Squeaky Fromme has called him handsome
    Rosemary La Bianca
    given the chance, would likely have called Matt’s mother, to thank her.

  12. @7

    …had forgotten that side of Sabo, your lovely turn of phrase, the image of those pointed guns…he is still revered in these parts, more so than many of his more publicised team mates. Pete Rose lite perhaps but Pete of course would go before the squad with combative relish.

  13. 14—Well, like I said, I’m sure there’s selection bias. Who are his connections gonna be? Older guys, probably mostly relief pitchers. I doubt he did much cherry-picking, it’s just that the guys he polled are a tiny subset of “MLB players.”

    Anyway, his article here notwithstanding, he’s always seemed like a pretty decent guy to me, so I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt re: his motives.

  14. @24
    assuming the lobbying effort is centered in DC our man in Washington will have to bear the brunt, right Alex? If they’re in NYC they say ububba is unstoppable…if successful Andrelton can take advantage of one of their rules, no need to give up your day job, spend it anyway you like.

    @25
    Always onward, after the year we’ve all had!

  15. #27
    Well, as it goes for NYC, just show some of the outrageous, game-saving plays that Andrelton has made in Flushing — that’ll do plenty of the selling.

  16. coop
    a writer of recaps his passion the scoop
    such equanimity
    ensures that miscreants treated with much magnanimity.

    @28
    will be there this weekend for the NY Festival…airbnb’ing in Jersey for god’s sake..last year it was Brooklyn and i got to walk the Ebbets Field block..asked for directions, got detailed answer in perfect cockney…love the place.

  17. @26 that John S interview is remarkable…

    Q – You’ve been the team president this whole time. How did the farm system become so weak?

    A – I’m a team president that hires people, empowers people, honors people and trusts them to do their job. If someone says to me “This was a good draft. Our farm system is robust.” I have no reason to not believe them. I believe people to be honest and trustworthy until I see it with my own eyes the results are not what I expected to see over time, which is why we made our changes last Sept. 22 and put a new leadership team in place. It’s not that I was asleep at the switch, but I trust people who I empowered to do a job and I didn’t feel like it was going the way it needed to go, so we made the change.

    Ok so he’s saying he trusted Wren was doing his job but he didn’t know exactly what the state of the system was. Interesting management strategy but let’s look at an earlier questions here…

    Q – How do you think the reboot of the roster is going?

    A – I think it’s going well. It’s unseen mostly by human eyes because its not at the high end. It’s not getting a lot of publicity. We had to reset and reestablish our player development system. It had gone fallow. We didn’t have the pipeline of quality Major League Championship caliber players any longer that we had for years when I was general manager that kept pumping guys to us. Home-grown players, which is the secret sauce to success in baseball, and the baseball business, is to have your own players to rely on. We fixed that.

    Wait so before it was Wren’s fault cause you were just trusting he was doing his job and stuff but now you know exactly what’s happening and can send flowery messages to the fan base? Wtf is this?

  18. Most of that interview was barf-worthy. (Barv-worthy?)

    But I didn’t realize we intended to keep Hart on as GM for “at least three years” more. Interesting.

  19. Much of that interview is why I will no longer be a season ticket holder after this year. My date to select seats in the new stadium was originally early September, then it was pushed back to late September and now it has been pushed to November. Yet JS says all season ticket holders have already gotten to choose seats? He is so full of BS that I have to believe it will have a trickle down effect and the entire management will become full of BS. I have stopped believing anything JS says. Still a fan of the laundry but not a fan of much else these days.

  20. He essentially pledged that the Braves would make short-term win-now moves this winter to signal to fans that the putrid awfulness of the second half was unacceptable to them.

    “Wait until we do our winter’s work to construct the roster for this team… We decided to shorten this and be aggressive… We need to pivot dramatically.”

    We’ll see.

  21. They are making it up as they go. “Pivot dramatically” isn’t what you want to year in year one (!!!) of the “rebuild”.

  22. I’m interested to hear what “pivot dramatically” means, and I’m sure we’ll know soon enough.

    I didn’t have much of an issue with the article, and I’m going to go with this narrative: Year One of the rebuild was bad, very bad, but not quite as bad as they thought it was going to be. They like the return they’ve gotten (which I know some on here don’t), they like how the return has developed, and instead of standing pat and not doing anything in the 2015/2016 offseason, they’ll actually open the coffers and bring in some decent FAs this offseason (which is what we’ve speculated before). So instead of continuing to be bad in 2016, they might even be .500+ and playing meaningful baseball in September. By 2017, they project to be towards 9-10th in MLB payroll, instead of the 14-17th they’ve been in historically. If that’s based on 2015 numbers, that means in between $122M-$135M in payroll.

    I mean, it sucks, but as long as Liberty Media is still at the helm, that’s what it means to root for the Barves.

  23. I think there’s going to be some level of reactiveness during this process (as injuries, performance, and development occurs), but this is hardly “making it up as they go”, and that’s a very selective interpretation of the words “pivot dramatically”.

  24. “We are above $100 million and not up to $120 million, so somewhere in that range is where we operate and we will operate again next year.”

    Objectively untrue. Even counting Uggla/Quentin/Arroyo/Minor dead money, I’ve got them on $91 million + a handful of minimum slots that have been passed between like 20 different fungible AAA callups. So probably about 95 or so.

    The trick is prorating all these deals across the % of the season they actually spent in Atlanta, but all it takes is an Excel spreadsheet and a few open tabs on timeanddate.com to let you know Schuerholz is BSing you on that bit of simple math and, probably, on the rest of the talking points they need to sell tickets in the face of the Rebuild That Dare Not Speak Its Name.

  25. The dramatic pivot statement is a reaction to attendance going to zero in the 2nd half. If they really are surprised by this then they are truly the dumbest mf’ers in baseball.

    Probably best not to read too much into anything said by the front-office. It’s all BS, and the fans aren’t listening anyway.

    I do bet you that there’s a few people up there that are clenching pretty hard about the Olivera deal. There’s so many ways that one can go south. Maybe we’ll get lucky and he’ll be the anti-Upton/Uggla … a FA that exceeds expectations for once.

  26. The only dramatic pivots that will be seen in Atlanta are Monday nights on “Dancing with the stars”. Does our “brain trust” actually think anyone is buying into this? The Braves are headed for the rocks in attendance, I don’t care if they sign the risen corpse of Babe Ruth. And the senior management deserves every piece of blame for it.

  27. Not to be the contrarian, but I will definitely care if they sign the risen corpse of Babe Ruth. After an 80-year hiatus…

  28. Lolzers from the interview…

    ” My favorite saying as a management leader is “Winners make commitments and losers make excuses.” We are not offering any excuses. We’re owning this. This is not a good year. Some of the reasons are ours and some of them were none of our doing”

    Literally right next to each other, no excuses and not our fault. Just rich.

  29. 47—I groaned at that part, too.

    42—I have them at right around $110 million for the season. $100 million if the cash they got from Cleveland counts this year, but I’ve been counting it toward next year, since I’m pretty sure that’s what they’re doing, too.

    So, I would call that objectively true.

  30. The biggest double-take I had was when he said that the team won “World Championships” with its payroll in the 14-15-16 range.

    The team has won exactly one championship in the last 58 years — and two in the last 101 — and the 1995 championship was won when the Braves had the fourth-highest payroll in the majors.

  31. Would we slot the Babe’s corpse in the rotation or make him a loogy?

    How long would it take a Ted Williams clone to be ready, and what would the cost be?

    More somberly, is there any news on Folty?

  32. @49

    I also paused for that line too. I didn’t read back over it, so I think I convinced myself that he meant “we won some Division Titles and a couple Wild Cards with payroll in the 14-17 range”.

    I don’t think we’ve won a playoff series since we left the top 10 in payroll. Can someone fact-check that?

  33. This says we were 10 in payroll on opening day in 2008. Braves have not won a series since the 2001 NLDS, when they were 6 in payroll on opening day.

  34. How long would it take a Ted Williams clone to be ready, and what would the cost be?

    Bryce Harper has more or less replicated Ted Williams’ age 22 season. Somebody get Rizzo on the phone.

  35. When JS said we wanted to aggressively accelerate the process, I assumed he meant we needed to be awful for a year or two rather than go into protracted mediocrity like those other teams he mentioned. When he said pivot pretty quickly, I assumed he meant to get back to the mediocre play we showed through 84 games rather than record-setting horrible. Taken in the context of other statements, these interpretations make sense.

    Otherwise, he is mildly delusional or mouthing PR platitudes, but whatever. I still haven’t forgiven him for the Drew, Teixeira, and Lofton trades. He was a great GM in my mind right up until he traded David Justice. After that he made only one good trade–Gary Sheffield. Everything else was desperate hemorrhaging.

  36. AJP for MVP…there is no one close.

    Apparently we broke a ML record tonight, 20th one run win at home, consecutively if i heard it right. No, it doesn’t mean the last 20 home games we have won by one run. rather, of the last 20 home games we did manage to win all were by one run. the mind boggles…no one else has ever…well, it’s easy when you win so many.

    Announced attendance 15,200..really?

  37. coop…did you catch your own special clerihew posted here earlier? all that hard work you do had to be celebrated.

  38. @57 Beat the Rocks by 2 Aug 24th. I believe the stat is that the last twenty 1-run games at home, the Braves have won.

    So weird, not sad.

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