In the home stretch

Jonathan Papelbon grabbing Bryce Harper’s throat in the dugout Credit: Greg Fiume/Getty Images

As we finish up the final week of the Major League Baseball season, the playoff picture is becoming more clear—but there is still plenty to play for.


The Los Angeles Dodgers clinched the National League West division crown on Tuesday night, joining Kansas City and the New York Mets as champions of their respective divisions. The St. Louis Cardinals, Pittsburgh Pirates and Chicago Cubs have all closed a spot in the postseason, but the central division crown is still up for grabs.


Things are cloudier in the American League where Toronto is the only other team (besides Kansas City) to have guaranteed themselves a spot in the postseason. Texas is atop the AL West, but both the Los Angeles Angels and Houston Astros are within striking distance of the Rangers. Throw the New York Yankees into the mix for the two wild card slots, and it becomes apparent a lot can (and certainly will) happen over the final weekend of play.


Honestly, this is how it should be. There is nothing worse than a season where the majority of playoff spots have been clinched before the final week even starts.


I suppose this is one good thing about the second wild card, and probably a reason some would tout for adding yet another wild card team. Sometimes I would agree with them.


Other times, I wish Major League Baseball would go back to having two divisions in each league, with the winners of each division meeting in a seven-game playoff to get to the World Series.


Or, how about they contract a few of the teams (Florida teams, I am looking your way) and have no divisions at all and just send the winners of each League on to the series? Okay, maybe that is an idea that is long past its time. But it did work for 60 or 70 years, right?


In the midst of the fight for the postseason, it seems the biggest story coming out of MLB was the fight between Washington Nationals’ teammates. Jonathan Papelbon and Bryce Harper disputed over Papelbon’s assertion that Harper was not hustling down the first base line after hitting a pop up.


While I am not going to delve too much into whether or not Harper was hustling, (there are plenty of great articles out there exploring jhow fast he runs down the first base line on average, which mostly prove he is in the top third of the league in speed from home to first) I will say it is kind of funny that Papelbon was chastising the potential National League MVP.


First things first, Papelbon is crazy. I watched him play long enough in Boston to know this.


Thus, it’s not surprising he decided to verbally, and then physically, attack Washington’s biggest star. However, he is also a closer who never hits. What does he know about running out fly balls?


It is also curious because he has only been in Washington since the trade deadline, so it’s not like he’s a long-time National. He is certainly a veteran of the game, but I am not sure why he decided it was his job to call out Harper. Especially, at the end of a disappointing season that saw Washington come up short in their attempts to reach the playoffs.


While we will probably never know the reason for the altercation, I am pretty sure we can all rest assured Papelbon will not be in a Nationals’ uniform next year.