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The Players’ View

From NBC SportsWorld:

Let me say here that I strongly disagree with almost everything in C.J.’s column … but I never thought agreeing or disagreeing was the point. Nitkowski gave us what we crave. He gave us the players’ perspective. He gave us powerful insight into how Major League Baseball players think. This is a gift.

The Players’ View

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17 Responses to The Players’ View

  1. Half-assed assessment. A pitchers aren’t really viewed part of the team unless you can throw and field like a Don Sutton. Papelbon isn’t exactly known for his covering of 1st base. C.J. couldn’t throw a strike to save his life in the bigs. He moped day or night when he was with the Tigers (he didn’t cover first all the time). Yeah, Harper is wrong. But Paps, you don’t go for the choke hold. Either punch him in the face or in the ribs. Papelbon thought about his pitching arm and his career not his team. It was jealousy.

  2. PlanetZ says:

    I agree with Nitkowski to an extent. I think that Harper needed to be told to not call out his teammates to the media. I think he probably needed to be told to run out his popups. But I also think that Papelbon was the very last person in that dugout who should have been telling Harper these things.

  3. tborg says:

    The point of view of Nitkowski, if it accurately describes what the typical player is thinking, may well explain why Matt Williams did what he did. Maybe he honestly thought that Harper was in the wrong here (though he could have explained it that way to the press later).

    It seems like the average fan finds the players attitude dismaying. This “play the game the right way” attitude, without any deeper thought as to what “the right way” really is, is even more frustrating to me when it leads to more thoughtful players like Kevin Slowey or Dirk Hayhurst being ostracized for daring to think differently. It certainly doesn’t help my fandom. Has Hayhurst written anything on the whole Harper/Papelbon incident?

    • tborg says:

      I just answered my own question. Hayhurst’s point of view can be found here . He even uses the word “kerfuffle”!

    • David says:

      Matt Williams claimed he didn’t see the fight, and if he had, he would have taken Papelbon out as well.

      • “Claimed” is the operative word. If a Manager doesn’t know what’s going on in his own dugout and/or nobody bothered to brief you on what you missed, then you don’t know very much at all. I think Williams was gone anyway, but this removed all doubt.

    • Marc Schneider says:

      I agree. The idea that Harper shouldn’t have called out Papelbon for apparently hitting Machado on purpose is disturbing. All you hear from players is about how the game “polices itself.” And, of course, the “you didn’t play the game so you don’t know.” I find this a crock. I understand frustration but you shouldn’t be hitting people on purpose and the idea that violence is an acceptable solution is wrongheaded, even if it is the clubhouse.

    • sanford943 says:

      Yes he has written about it. Check out my link. He also did an interview which was fantastic. Link is there as well.

  4. The whole issue for me is that this couldn’t have had much of anything to do with Harper not running out a routine pop up. What Major Leaguer hasn’t thrown down their bat in disgust and jogged lightly to first after popping up? For that matter what ball player at ANY level hasn’t done that. It’s not like you won’t make it to first base should the leftfielder drop the ball & hustling for a possible double likely won’t yield that result even with a drop.

    OK, yeah, it’s better to run it out, you never know. The leftfielder will drop about 1 out of every 1,000 of those at the MLB level. But if every player that didn’t run full speed on a popup got called out by a player in the dugout, there would be non-stop scuffles going on.

    Obviously, of course, Papelbon is a jerk and was butt-hurt because Harper (also a jerk) called him out in the press. Two jerks going at it. That’s the Gnats season in a nut-shell.

  5. I think too, some are missing the most important point. Harper called out Papelbon for his very thin motives for throwing at Machado because HE, HARPER would be the one that got the retaliatory fastball in the ribs… possibly during the next game. But the way things are done in MLB, teams have long memories. Harper might have to wait out the retaliatory strike until it comes some time next year. All because Papelbon is defending some code where a guy shouldn’t admire a HR for “too long”. Well, that code seems to be pretty outdated since SportsCenter shows multiple highlights every night of guys admiring their HRs.

    Harper might be OK with being in the middle of some beanball war that was justified…. i.e. the other team started it by throwing at one of their players. I get that, and he gets that. But an extra second or two watching a HR? Harper’s just thinking “oh, come one. If we’re going to throw at someone, at least have a really good reason for it. Now someone’s going to feel they need to stick on in my ear”. I don’t like Harper. At all. But I understand his reasoning and I understand why he called out Papelbon. It also probably has to do with the fact that Papelbon is not exactly the likeable type where you could have a beer and hash out your differences.

  6. dlf9 says:

    I’m not very interested in the Harper – Papelbon confabulation. It’s been hashed out infinitely here and elsewhere. I am, however, more interested in Pos’ take on player accessibility.
    I’m Joe’s age, so I missed the hagiography of the pre-70s writer/player relationship. Back in the day, the writers drank and chased women with Babe and built up the legends of Mickey without reference to showing up to the ballpark too hung over to play. Jim Bouton’s Ball Four was remarkable in that it showed a (very mildly) critical view of the inner workings of the players; it hadn’t really happened before and was roundly criticized at the time. Somewhere in the 70s, perhaps as the amount of money flowing to the players started to grow and nation-wide factors came into play** the number of critical articles and books grew. Writers like Dick Young built careers out of pointing flaws – real and perceived – of the players. The was a visceral hostility evident that has only grown with today’s Plasches and Lupicas. As a result, access shrank, players responded with the Crash Davis list of clichés, and only the rare writers (like Joe) were able to build any meaningful relationship with the player and enabled us fans to see a glimpse of not only what happened, but the personalities the drove what happened.
    **This is certainly not limited to sports. Think, for example, of how the press treated the extra-marital affairs of FDR versus the treatment of Clinton. It would take a couple of books to think through how the post-Watergate era of writers have changed the approach to the subjects about whom they are writing. I don’t exactly picture tiny little post-debutant Kay Graham as much of a baseball fan, but her standing up to Nixon seems to have had an impact in how, for example, Tom Boswell could cover Earl Weaver and Jim Palmer.
    Today, it seems that players have a different way of accessing the fans directly. They are becoming more prolific on Twitter. And the launch of The Players’ Tribune opens up a post dead tree newspaper written by the players themselves. It will be interesting to watch to see if the various methods of communication will result in just another channel of Crash’s clichés or if, absent the all to often hostile intermediaries, the players will let the fans see a bit of ‘the other side.’

  7. Brent says:

    I must say that my perspective about Nitkowski’s comments were “which” players did he call? Current Nationals? (I bet not, I bet dollars to donuts that Werth, Span, Zimmerman, etc. were not universally on Papelbon’s side or even close to universally on his side. In fact, I would bet it is pretty universal the other way around). Formers teammates of Harper or Papelbon? They might some perspective on the two players that might be “inside” information. People who have never played with either one? Why would any of the players in the last category have any better idea of what was going on in the Nats clubhouse than a bunch of sportswriters? Or fans, for that matter?

  8. McKingford says:

    I think the player perspective is interesting, but because it gives us some insight into how fallible players can be. In this instance, players faulting Harper for not running 100% to first base are empirically, objectively, wrong. Other than the “theater of hustle”, there was literally no tangible difference between Harper running full out and taking a moment to express his disgust and then running at 80%: in both instances he arrives safely at first in the event of a drop and in no better position to take second (because there is no player in baseball, even Billy Hamilton, who could have made it from home to second on that play).

    IOW, I don’t think the players cited in the Nitkowski story actually saw the play (meaning the full play, where Harper arrives at first in plenty of time).

  9. Isn’t this a case where we have an opinion even before the incident happens? Harper and Papelbon are very polarizing figures, it seems to me that our opinion on this matters goes in hand with how we felt about these two guys BEFORE the incident occurred. If you disliked Harper more than Papelbon then I think you will side with Papelbon and will find a way to justify it, and vice versa.

    It isn’t surprising either that players are siding against Harper, I think it was last season or the season before that somebody drilled him because “he is too cocky”. Hey, I am a Giants fan and I didn’t think too much of him the way he yelled at the Giants pitcher after a homer (and he hit a few monsters here); but looking at this objectively you really have to dig very deep to blame Harper.

  10. sanford943 says:

    Here is Dirk Hayhursts thoughts on the issue. He did an interview on 670the Score today. The interview starts at about 2:15. It was great. Every one I listened to thought Papelbon was wrong. He had been with the team just a short time. People thought that Papelbon was itching for a fight because of Harper saying he was probably going to get drilled because Papelbon threw at Machado. Has everyone forgotten that he was suspended for that. It was also pointed out that players such as Ramirez did not always run everything out. The thing is Harper plays hard, will run in to a wall to catch a ball. On the play in question he was standing on first base. He was not going to make second as the fly was in short left field.

    And here is the interview with Hayhurst. it is the fourth hour of the show and as I said starts at the 2:15 mark.

  11. TS says:

    Proof in print on why many people add the word “dumb” in front of jock.

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