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.

Our long Nationals nightmare is over . . . for now

The Nats have fired Matt Williams, who was in the dark about more than a few things . . .

The Nats have fired Matt Williams, who was in the dark about more than a few things . . .

Before the Washington Nationals lost their final regular season game to the National League East champion Mets, general manager Mike Rizzo promised he wasn’t going to leave people twisting in the wind. Rizzo’s words, not mine. Maybe he thought Nats fans had been forced into doing the twist too long this season already.

Monday morning Rizzo kept his promise—and how. He executed manager Matt Williams, just a year after Williams was named the National League’s Manager of the Year. The man who came into the season leading the prohibitive World Series favourites leaves it with his head in a guillotine basket.

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.

Pain, not champagne for the Nots—er, Nats . . .

Harper's Saturday game winner was too late for these Nats, alas . . .

Harper’s Saturday game winner was too late for these Nats, alas . . .

This was the kind of situation the Nats always want, Stephen Strasburg striking out thirteen Phillies, and Bryce Harper smashing a game-winning double in the bottom of the twelfth Saturday afternoon. And it didn’t mean a thing anymore when it ended in a 2-1 Nats win.

Because almost an hour before Harper tagged Phillies reliever Colton Murray with one out, Mets closer Jeurys Familia finished the Mets’ destruction of the Reds in Cincinnati to clinch the none-too-potent National League East.┬áThe division just about all the experts picked the Nats to run away with, all the way to a World Series crown, even.

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.”

Harper’s bizarre with Marvelous Marv

Hudson (right) preparing to throw Harper out of the game. From the look of it, Hudson might have wished he could throw Harper out of the ballpark.

Hudson (right) preparing to throw Harper out of the game. From the look of it, Hudson might have wished he could throw Harper out of the ballpark.

For those curious, and who aren’t always abreast of ancient history, this journal is named for an Original Met (sort of: he was acquired during an in-season deal), Marv Throneberry. God rest his soul in peace, his earnest personality and comic opera play in 1962 earned him the nickname Marvelous Marv.

Al Rosen, RIP: Heart over vision

Rosen (far left) with Martin and Steinbrenner, before the Billy & George Show sent Rosen scurrying.

Rosen (far left) with Martin and Steinbrenner, looking none too thrilled, before the Billy & George Show finally sent Rosen scurrying.

When Gabe Paul bolted as the Yankees’ president, exhausted by George Steinbrenner’s machinations, Steinbrenner had just the man to succeed him: Al Rosen, the one-time Cleveland third base star and a minority partner in the Yankee ownership.

There were those who thought the personable Rosen—who died 14 March at 91—was just the right guy to neutralise the tensions between two time bombs named Steinbrenner and then-Yankee manager Billy Martin. Including Martin himself. “Al played the game,” Martin told reporters. “He understands what it’s like. Gabe got in the way. He didn’t know the game.”

Bryce Reiser?

Blasting his way into thumb surgery . . .

Blasting his way into thumb surgery . . .

The line between hard nosed and bull headed can be a very fine one. The question before the house, as Bryce Harper begins his recuperation from surgery to repair a torn collateral ligament in his thumb, incurred during a head-first slide on a bases-clearing triple, is whom on the Washington Nationals has crossed it further, Harper or his rookie manager Matt Williams.

Jeter opts in, Red Sox make qualifiers, and other stove bolts . . .

Derek Jeter will earn $2.5 million more than the 2014 player option he could have picked up would have paid him. ESPN’s Andrew Marchand reports the Yankees have signed Jeter to a one-year, $12 million deal for 2014.

The Captain returns . . .

The Captain returns . . .

A source with knowledge of the negotiations told ESPN New York that the talks were largely held between Jeter and team owner Hal Steinbrenner, who both live in Tampa. Jeter’s agent, Casey Close, handled the details of the contract.