Remember That Time Jonathan Papelbon Choked Bryce Harper in the Dugout?

I don’t know why this old scrum randomly popped into my head this morning, but it did and I thoroughly enjoyed the trip. So I thought you might too. Allow me to bring you back in time for a moment.

The date was September 27th, 2015, and the second-place Washington Nationals’ season was over, despite seven more games on the calendar (the Pirates and Cubs had an absurd number of wins that year, locking up the first and second wild card in the NL).

A 22-year-old Bryce Harper was perhaps the best player in MLB that season, slashing .336/.467/.658 (201 wRC+) at the time of the incident, en route to runaway NL MVP honors. And a 34-year-old Jonathan Papelbon (who was also an All-Star that year) roamed the dugout like a sheriff at high-noon.

Bryce Harper stepped up to the plate in the bottom of the 8th inning of a tie ball game against the last-place Phillies and eventually popped up to shallow left field. Harper took a leisurely stroll to first base on the obvious out, and … the sheriff didn’t appreciate it.

Not one bit.

Look, part of me gets what Papelbon thought he was doing here (someone’s gotta teach these damn kids the ways of old!). And part of me knows that Harper wasn’t getting reprimanded for do something fun like flipping his bat or pimping a double. But watching this old dude choke slam a 22-year-old superstar for not running out an obvious pop-out during a late-season game between two non-playoff teams is a little jarring.

Here’s another, quicker look:

https://twitter.com/BaseballSecret1/status/751521856448966656?s=20

That’s something that needs to be reserved for the locker room, or possibly for never, because Harper was awesome that season and earned the right to be lazy on that particular out.

I mean … what is this?

(Photo by Getty Images)

Call me new-school (no, really, I’d prefer it), but I was then and am now fully team Harper. Performance should earn you just as many “rights” on the field as experience. And also, maybe players should just be able to show frustration however they want in the waning games of a lost season.

written by

Michael Cerami began covering the Chicago Cubs for Bleacher Nation as a part-time contributor in 2015. One year later, he joined Bleacher Nation full-time, covering the Chicago Cubs and Major League Baseball. Today, Michael runs Bleacher Nation, contributing as a writer (Cubs, MLB) and an editor for all sections of the site, including the Chicago Bears, Bulls, and Blackhawks, as well as MLB, NBA, NHL, and NFL. In 2019, Michael was the co-host of NBC Sports Chicago's Cubs Post-Game Show Outside the Ivy. You can find him on Twitter/X @Michael_Cerami

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