Douglaston, NY—In “Broadcast News,” the classic film of nearly 30 years ago, there is a memorable exchange between the great Albert Brooks and co-star William Hurt. While Hurt’s character is rocketing to undeserved success, he asks Brooks in confidence “what do you do when your reality exceeds even your wildest dreams?” Disgusted that everything seems to come easy to his colleague, Brooks’ character brings him closer and angrily whispers-“you keep it to yourself!”
Who among us could look away this past Sunday when a brawl between Washington Nationals teammates erupted? What the late great Bob Murphy would have described as-“ewwww…a real pier six brawl!” When we learned the fight was between Jonathan Papelbon and Bryce Harper-well, talk about reality exceeding your wildest dreams!
Are there more detestable ballplayers alive today than these two? Harper, the 22 year old man-child who will likely and deservedly walk away with his first National League MVP trophy soon. Papelbon, the long hated, obnoxious, instigating teammate whose best days were years ago when he closed games for the Red Sox. There truly are few ballplayers today that evoke such strong hostility and scorn. Harper is absurdly good. Two years from now, we will shake our heads when we recall the time we thought Mike Trout was the better player. Harper is the game’s best player.
His place among the game’s finest notwithstanding, Harper incurs the wrath of a huge percentage of fans and fellow players. Harper doesn’t hustle. What makes him great-the pathological focus and drive to be the best-has yet to mesh with the fundamental lessons we all learned as Little Leaguers. Put your head down and run hard. Pout later.
With Papelbon’s headhunting of Manny Machado last week still fresh in Harper’s vulnerable mind, the closer tried to teach Harper to mind his elders, and the game. Not a crazy idea, and long overdue. It wasn’t going to come from one of Harper’s position playing teammates. And it certainly wasn’t going to come from Dunce Manager Matt Williams who looks dumber every day.
Someone had to call BS on the spoiled brat’s routine. I’m unsure why the pitcher was only capable of delivering this message while his hands were around Harper’s neck. Importing him at the trade deadline this year will go down as the worst baseball decision since Brad Emaus started at second base for the Mets on opening day 2011.
This “brawl” had it all. There could be no bad outcome. Whatever the result, an asshole would get his comeuppance. An informal polling of major leaguers done by former MLB pitcher C.J. Nitkowski was telling. The vast majority of current players sided with Papelbon. Not necessarily with the choking, but many felt strongly that Harper “had it coming.” That he should have been sent this message long ago. And that even in this era of entitlement, guys have to pay their dues and play the game the right way. Now get off of my lawn!