Since Mike Rizzo traded for Jonathan Papelbon at the deadline during the 2015 campaign, there has been extra tension in the locker room. That came with the territory of acquiring the former Philly closer, as he is known to have temper flares, but the Nats already had a solidified closer in Drew Storen, so the bitterness in the locker room was doubled. Just recently, Rizzo made the lingering decision, and traded Storen to the Jays, signifying that Jonathon will be the closer in 2016. After the nationally publicized dispute in the dugout between Papelbon and MVP, Bryce Harper, tension has been high in for the squad. Papelbon may be the better closer talent-wise, and the team may look good on paper, but new manager, Dusty Baker, might have to bring out the ruler as the new school teacher.
Baseball is different from other sports when it comes to building a championship squad. Team chemistry and teamwork are musts in order to win the big one. A naturally feisty player can be a stomach turner in the clubhouse, especially when that player has a big role to fill. Sure, other players or a coach’s positive attitude can help offset or even ease the big ego of the rambunctious star, but as seen multiple times in baseball, the situation usually turns out to negatively impact the team’s performance. There is a reason why Barry Bonds never won a championship as he and Jeff Kent fought daily being members of the Giants. There is also a reason why Jeter and Ripken won several titles, as they were some of the game’s greatest leaders on and off the field. Bryce Harper, as seen the last few years, is a guy who plays for his own stats. It is easy to dictate that in the NL, as in order to win the league, a team is usually strategic, having players sacrifice in different plays in order for the team to win.
Bryce had a total of 0 sacrifice hits in 2015, while never driving in more than 99 runs. Sure there may never have been a lot of runners on base, but when a guy hits 42 homers and doesn’t drive in over 100 runs, it draws a red flag. Born and raised as a talented American baseball player, he should mature, but now, maybe not, with Papelbon in the locker room. Ryan Zimmerman has allegations against him for steroid use, Papelbon is Papelbon, Harper thinks of himself as all that, Ben Revere is a former teammate of the closer, Jayson Werth thinks of himself as undervalued (had a dispute with Matt Williams a few times), and there is tension of a position battle at shortstop. Dusty Baker will certainly have his hands full with the team chemistry in his first year as the Nats manager, but he is the right man for the job. The Nats certainly look good on paper like they did a year ago, but can they act like men, and stay healthy as well?