The Washington Strangler asks for and gets his release

The smirking strangler, captured against the dugout rail shortly after he tried choking Harper last September . . .

The smirking strangler, captured against the dugout rail shortly after he tried choking Harper last September . . .

When the Nationals reached out and landed then-Pirates closer Mark Melancon two days before the non-waiver trade deadline, I wondered aloud whether that meant incumbent Jonathan Papelbon’s days in Washington were numbered. They were. The Nats granted his release Saturday afternoon.

According to ESPN Saturday morning, Papelbon himself sought to put paid to those numbered days, reportedly asking the team to release him. The move ends a tenure that wasn’t exactly an overwhelming favourite in the first place.

Does landing Melancon number Papelbon’s days as a Nat?

Mr. Melancon goes to Washington, but . . .

Mr. Melancon goes to Washington, but . . .

Maybe the Nats really are looking to open the trap door through which Jonathan Papelbon will fall away. You don’t trade for the other guy’s star closer unless you’ve just about had it with your incumbent, for whatever reason.

Wasn’t that the reason the Nats themselves dealt for Papelbon a year ago Thursday? Because they’d just about had it with Drew Storen despite Storen having what should have become a bounceback for the ages, or at least for the Nats’ ages?

Papelbon’s apology amplifies the Nationals’ unreality

Papelbon's choke attempt . . .

Papelbon’s choke attempt . . .

Jonathan Papelbon struggles with at least two things off the mound, apparently. He isn’t as good as he thinks with public apologies, and he’s no historian of Washington baseball. He showed both when he faced the press at the Nationals’ Space Coast Stadium spring digs and owned up over trying to choke Bryce Harper in the dugout on last September’s Fan Appreciation Day.

It may have been nothing compared to the Nats themselves showing how out of touch with things like reality they may well be.

What the Dodgers may not have learned from the Nats

Going for Chapman may have made Jansen a very unhappy camper . . .

Going for Chapman may have made Jansen a very unhappy camper . . .

Set aside for the moment that the Aroldis Chapman trade to the Dodgers may fall through thanks to a domestic violence investigation involving the Cincinnati closer and his girlfriend. It┬ádidn’t come to light until the winter meetings launched and it looked like Chapman was going west. And it’s thrown the winter meetings into a partial loop.

Now, ask yourself whether the Dodgers learned nothing from the 2015 Nationals.

The old school flunks the Papelbon-Harper question

Why are you seeing this shot from the Nationals' team store? Because the two Stephen Strasburg jerseys replaced two Jonathan Papelbon jerseys in this display---and because the store removed all the Papelbon merchandise post-haste Monday.

Why are you seeing this shot from the Nationals’ team store? Because the two Stephen Strasburg jerseys replaced two Jonathan Papelbon jerseys in this display—and because the store removed all the Papelbon merchandise post-haste Monday.

From your ancient baseball history, 1949 to be specific, a little story: In his third major league season, a still very young Yogi Berra has been the target of much veteran needling. Part of it has been due to his squat, homely appearance. But sometimes it has nothing to do with his appearance and everything to do with continuing the young man’s baseball education.

The last thing the Nats need

Papelbon (58) has the nerve to look surprised after being tossed for drilling Machado with apparent malice aforethought . . .

Papelbon (58) has the nerve to look surprised after being tossed for drilling Machado with apparent malice aforethought . . .

This one you simply can’t paper over, try though you might. Just keep your eye on Bryce Harper today. If the Nationals’ and maybe the National League’s best player this season gets drilled, you can thank his teammate Jonathan Papelbon—then ponder whether the Nats have plans to ship him off in the offseason to anyone who’ll have him.

No tomorrow for Mr. Amaro

Ruben Amaro, Jr.

Amaro, whom Phillies fans probably think should have been cashiered last winter at minimum . . .

In Italian, amaro refers to a bittersweet liqueur, used customarily as an after-dinner cordial, whose origins may have been in monasteries. Well, now. One day after the Phillies were eliminated mathematically from the postseason, Ruben Amaro, Jr. may wish he’d been in a monastery rather than the Phillies’ front office from which he’s just been canned.

Williams’s Nats looking booked and cooked

Matt Williams, to whom the Book is too sacred when it needs to be set aside . . .

Matt Williams, to whom the Book is too sacred when it needs to be set aside . . .

Let’s not be too polite about it. The team every expert on earth picked in spring to win the National League East, with no few of them picking them to go all the way to a World Series ring, is doing its level best to make chumps out of every one of those experts. That’s because manager Matt Williams seems to be doing his level best to make sure they don’t even get to the wild card play-in game.

The NL East race tightens up, Du-da, Du-da . . .

Duda doesn't mind making you pay one bit for your skipper's brain farts . . .

Duda doesn’t mind making you pay one bit for your skipper’s brain farts . . .

All the Mets had to do to get power hitting but often inconsistent Lucas Duda back in gear was bring aboard Kelly Johnson and Juan Uribe and have manager Terry Collins let Duda know, no questions asked, that it was time to produce runs now or the Mets, somehow, would get someone else. And all Duda did was look the boss right in the eye and say, “I got it.”

West’s suspension versus real accountability

Try to imagine what would have happened if Papelbon (right) had grabbed and shoved West . . .

Try to imagine what would have happened if Papelbon (right) had grabbed and shoved West . . .

In June 1983, Joe Torre was the Atlanta Braves’ manager, Joe West was a veteran of six seasons’ umpiring in the National League, and Bob Watson—who has held the baseball government post Torre now holds—was a Brave who’d been fined $100 for arguing over a game-ending third strike when the game was over. And all Torre wanted was to question West as to whether Watson deserved such a hit after a game.