July 13, 2024

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When Jonathan Papelbon fought Bryce Harper in the Washington Nationals’ dugout as cameras rolled during a famous Sept. 2015 incident, the consequences were predictably large.

The Nationals suspended Papelbon for four games — effectively, the remainder of the season — without pay. “It tore us apart as a team,” Papelbon would later say about the fight.

The closer called a team meeting, but the fallout had already been set in motion. The Nationals missed the playoffs. Harper would go on to win the National League Most Valuable Player award, but manager Matt Williams was fired and replaced with Dusty Baker after the season.

That’s one reason why the Papelbon-Harper spat still reverberates nine years later. It wasn’t merely a spectacular fight involving one of the game’s marquee players; even small dugout dust-ups over the last decade have been hard to come by.

“Absolutely no question about it (Harper) has become the player our league needs and he knows it and cherishes it,” Papelbon wrote on his Twitter/X account Monday. “Some may not believe this but I pull harder for him than any other player. #BrotherlyLove”

Few questioned Harper’s talent then or now. The 2015 season might still count as the high-water mark of his 13-year career, but he’s collected four NL All-Star Game nods and another MVP award in the years that followed.


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