The Washington Nationals took one step closer to missing the postseason last night by losing to the Baltimore Orioles. Max Scherzer surrendered a go-ahead home run to Manny Machado in the top of the seventh inning. The Orioles third baseman didn’t immediately sprint out of the box on the no-doubter. This enraged Jonathan Papelbon, who threw two pitches near Machado’s head two innings later — the second of which made contact with the All-Star’s shoulder.
Papelbon didn’t exactly deny the plunking was intentional.
“Perception is reality,” he said. “If Manny thinks I hit him, then that’s what he thinks. I’m not going to sit here, go back and forth on whether I did or whether I didn’t, because it doesn’t matter. If he thinks I did, that’s what he thinks.”
Machado, like the rest of us, saw it for what it was.
“It’s something that’s uncalled for,” Machado said. “It’s [garbage]. It’s something that you don’t do. I expect more from a guy like that, with the past that he has. You’ve just got to go out there and keep playing baseball. It’s part of the game. If you can’t take the heat, just stay out of the kitchen and just go on from it. You don’t throw at somebody’s head. I think that’s [garbage]. I think we’ve just got to keep playing baseball.”
Papelbon’s sloppy misreading of baseball’s non-written rules has a logical end: Bryce Harper getting stuck in the ribs with a fastball. You know it. I know it. And Harper certainly knows it.
“Manny freakin hit a homer, walked it off and somebody drilled him,” Harper said after the game. “It’s pretty tired…I’ll probably get drilled tomorrow.”
Getting beaned sucks. Sitting around for 18 hours waiting to get beaned sucks even more. When this happens during this afternoon’s game — and it will — it will provide a nice punctuation to a disappointing season. An insult and an injury.
It’s interesting that Papelbon would suddenly be so concerned about histrionics on the diamond considering his rich history in that department. You can harp on the archaic nature of baseball’s secret code of conduct all you want but if Papelbon doesn’t go rogue here, his teammate’s safety isn’t put in jeopardy. It’s as easy as that. As is the case so often, the problem isn’t with the message, it’s with the way the messenger handles it.
With a guy like Papelbon, there’s bound to be wayward shrapnel.