This teaser tweet is insane enough:
But then you realize it’s not a rhetorical question. And then you realize the Kansas City Star’s Lee Judge believes the answer is “yes.”
It’s the first item in Judge’s notebook column, and this Papelbon/Harper thing has officially driven some of us out of our brains. It has led to a manager’s complete abdication of responsibility. It has led to contrarianism when no contrarian position is sane. And now, here we are, having a completely straight-faced discussion on what circumstances make it acceptable to put your hand around the throat of a co-worker and squeeze until they cannot breathe anymore.
Judge’s initial lede was, well, psychopathic.
That was quickly changed to something a little less assault-y. Just a little, though:
I don’t know Bryce Harper from Adam, but he certainly seems like a young man who needs an attitude adjustment. Unfortunately he was choked by the wrong guy in the wrong place.
Judge gets around to a couple sensible points. One, that a relief pitcher with zero career at-bats doesn’t have the standing to insist that a position player sprint out every pop fly, and two, that if Papelbon had a problem with Harper he should have confronted him in private. (Only Judge phrases it this way: “ask him to come up the tunnel and then choke him.”)
But the big problem here, besides endorsing certain forms of workplace violence, is that it starts with its conclusion (Bryce Harper is a cocky punk) and then offers a retroactive hypothesis (Bryce Harper deserved to be physically called out) to justify itself. But it’s dealing with faulty data to begin with. What so many anti-Harper takes have managed to elide is that this wasn’t about hustling to first. This was explicitly about what happened four days earlier, when Papelbon intentionally hit an opposing batter and Harper publicly complained that he was likely to pay the price.
It was a petulant, emotional Papelbon who let his teammates down by leaving them open to retaliation, and it was Harper showing leadership by expressing that that was not OK. Any narrative that Papelbon was the veteran merely trying to get young Harper to Play the Game the Right Way goes right out the window when you remember that this was just a continuation of Papelbon’s same damn tantrum.