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Michael Marzzacco | email@example.com
On Friday, Feb. 19, Jonathan Papelbon spoke to the media for the first time since being suspended by the Washington Nationals for choking Bryce Harper in late September. He started off with an apology.
“I want to apologize to my teammates, to the fans, to the coaches, and everyone included. I think with what happened last year, I was in the wrong,” said Papelbon. “Should have never went down that way, and I understand that. I had a lot of time this offseason to reflect on that.”
It all happened in late September against the Philadelphia Phillies on a cloudy and gloomy day at Nationals Park. After Harper flied out to left fielder Jeff Francoeur, he headed back to the dugout where Papelbon was waiting near the top voicing his displeasure. Shouting ensued, and Papelbon clenched his hand around Harper’s neck for a few seconds before coaches and teammates broke up the fight.
A lot of players have spoken out, including Harper himself, about how they have forgiven Papelbon and moved on.
Gio Gonzalez, whose locker is next to Papelbon’s said, “I love Pap. I think what I love about him is that he’s just not afraid to speak his mind and those are the people that you cherish the most because you appreciate what he’s saying.”
Gonzalez showed up to Vierra, Florida for spring training with long hair and Papelbon put a picture of Aladdin on his locker that said “You know you need to cut your hair when you start looking like a Disney character.”
It is clear that Papelbon is a jokester on the team and his teammates have moved on, but what about the fans? Those who wear their colors, pay for tickets, and come out to the park on a nightly basis. When you go to a game, you will even see lots of fans in Harper jerseys. Those fans certainly have not forgotten about the elephant in the room.
When the Nationals open their home schedule on Thursday, April 7 and do player introductions, fans will most likely boo Papelbon when his name gets called. Despite his apology before the season, it is going to take a while for him to win the fans over. The damage has been done. It is a monumental blow that comes when you choke the team’s star player.
If Papelbon blows saves, especially on a consistent basis, it will take even longer for the fans to fully forgive him. There is an old saying that winning cures everything. It is going to take a lot of wins – and maybe a return trip to the playoffs – for the fans to forget about that gloomy afternoon last September.