Frustrating year for fans of Orioles, Nationals

For the Laurel Leader
Is Papelbon, age 34 and a big leaguer since 2005, trying to protect the old boy network of baseball etiquette?

On the evening of Sept. 16, 2014, the Baltimore Orioles and Washington Nationals both clinched Eastern Division titles.

It was the first American League East championship for the Orioles since 1997. It was the Nationals' second National League East title in their 10-season history.

Both teams were knocked out of the playoffs by World Series-bound teams — the Orioles falling to Kansas City and the Nationals eliminated by eventual champion San Francisco — to deny any chance of a Beltway World Series. But it was still a very good season for both.

A year later, both teams will watch the playoffs from home while dealing with internal dissension that could destroy what had been a heady three-year run between 2012-14 for the local Major League Baseball organizations and their fans.

On Sept. 24, Ken Rosenthal, a former Baltimore Sun reporter and columnist now with FOX Sports, reported that there is tension between general manager Dan Duquette and manager Buck Showalter, citing personnel decisions as an area of concern in the organizational structure.

Two days later the Nationals, a trendy World Series pick back in spring training by many pundits, were eliminated from the playoffs when the New York Mets clinched the National League East title.

Less than 24 hours after that, the tension building in the Washington clubhouse was front and center for all to see. While the Orioles' possible struggles may be behind closed doors, it was hard to miss the action in the Nationals dugout on Sept. 27 when pitcher Jonathan Papelbon went for the throat of teammate and MVP candidate Bryce Harper.

Harper, in the lineup the day after Washington was eliminated, ran slowly to first base on a flyball out in the eighth. Papelbon yelled at Harper even before he got to the dugout and the pitcher, acquired in a trade in July with the Philadelphia Phillies, went after the young outfielder when Harper finally yelled back.

The next day Papelbon was suspended four days by the team and he also accepted the three-game ban by Major League Baseball after he hit Manny Machado of the Orioles with a pitch during a three-game sweep by Baltimore in Washington Sept. 22-24.

It will be an eventful offseason for the Orioles and Nationals. Baltimore stars such as Chris Davis, Matt Wieters, Darren O'Day and Wei-Yin Chen are free agents.

Washington free agents include Jordan Zimmermann, Ian Desmond, Denard Span and Doug Fister, and there is no way Zimmermann and Desmond will re-sign with the Nationals.

That was a given even before the Papelbon-Harper encounter. Now the Nationals have some serious damage control to take care of before the team arrives in Florida in February.

Washington general manager Mike Rizzo, who traded for Papelbon, and the Lerner ownership family will have greatly misread the Nationals fan base if they allow Papelbon to show up in spring training next year in Viera, Fla.

Papelbon had been booed by his own Nationals fans even before he went after Harper. Some fans have said they will not renew their season tickets for 2016 if Papelbon is with the team, and others have taken up a collection to give to charity if Papelbon is paid off and let go for next year.

The Nationals are in damage control and their problems make any possible Orioles' intrigue between Duquette and Showalter seem manageable.

David Driver is a former sports editor of the Laurel Leader.

Copyright © 2017, Laurel Leader - Laurel, Maryland News, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad
43°