Papelbon Vs. Harper: Beyond “Brothers Fighting”

Sure, it was slightly annoying to watch Bryce Harper look at that pop fly, tap his shoe with his bat in disgust, then make that token jog to first base (insert eye roll). I know that if my son did that, he would hear it from his coach. Like most baseball coaches, if there is one thing he cannot abide, it is lack of hustle – no matter the situation.

Sure, it was annoying that Bryce Harper decided to comment “outside the family” to the media about teammate Jonathan Papelbon plunking Oriole Manny Machado.  “I mean, Manny freaking hit a homer,” Harper said after the Nationals’ 4-3 loss to the Orioles in Washington. “Walked it off and somebody drilled him. I mean, it’s pretty tired. It’s one of those situations where it happens and, I don’t know, I’ll probably get drilled tomorrow.”

But most adults have learned by now– that as much as you may want to  –you just don’t get to choke the people who annoy you at work. 

Take a look:

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The Washington Nationals suspended closer Jonathan Papelbon for four games, a day after he choked teammate and National League MVP candidate Bryce Harper in the dugout. In issuing the suspension, Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said in his statement: “The behavior exhibited by Papelbon yesterday is not acceptable. That is not at all in line with the way our players are expected to conduct themselves and the Nationals organization will not tolerate it in any way.”

Both players dismissed (and minimized) the incident, likening it to brothers fighting:

Papelbon: I grew up with brothers, he grew up with brothers, I view him as a brother, and sometimes in this game, there’s a lot of testosterone and things spill over.

Harper: He apologized, so whatever. I really don’t care. … It’s like brothers fighting. That’s what happens.

This was not a typical testosterone-fueled baseball feud (those are actually kind of – fun). This was more than just “brothers fighting.”Although professional baseball is of course, nothing like a typical workplace, this by definition was a case of workplace violence.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration defines workplace violence as-  any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation, or other threatening disruptive behavior that occurs at the work site. It ranges from threats and verbal abuse to physical assaults and even homicide. It can affect and involve employees, clients, customers and visitors.

The unwritten rules, unseen hierarchies and traditions of a workplace cannot justify the use of violence.

What was particularly irritating about this incident of course, was the underlying mindset that permitted it to happen.  That the likes of known-jerk Jonathan Papelbon, only two months with this club, felt entitled to instantly claim a crown of veteran authority to openly criticize and then physically attack a teammate when he dared answer back. “Run the f@%* ball out” Papelbon clearly says, smugly, as if he is some wise old sage of hitting. A highly-respected veteran hitter speaking privately to Bryce about it? Maybe. Papelbon? No.

This is not some young flunky. This is BRYCE HARPER. Bryce Harper of the .336 Batting Average and the 41 Home Runs and the 117 Runs and the 331 bases and the league-leading .467 on-base percentage  and .658 slugging. One of the best, if not “the” best in the game. But ultimately, those production numbers and who he is should not matter. Whether he is Bryce Harper or the greeter at the local Wal-Mart, all people are entitled to freedom from violence in their workplace.