After Friday night's win over the Atlanta Braves, in front of a crowd of 23,536 in Nationals Park, Washington's closer Jonathan Papelbon talked to reporters (with a smile on his face according to the Washington Post's James Wagner) about the enthusiasm, or lack thereof, in the ballpark during the Nats' third straight win.
"I got a little bone to pick with some of the fans here tonight," Papelbon said, after throwing two scoreless frames and earning the win.
"I saw a few of them sitting down. I’m not gonna lie. We need to stand on up in those situations. Let’s get that going. Ya know what I mean? Because this is playoff baseball."
Once the Nationals completed a sweep of their four-game set with the Braves on Sunday afternoon, Jayson Werth talked to MASN's Dan Kolko about the roll the Nats were on after their fifth straight win overall, which left them 4.0 games behind the New York Mets in the NL East.
With the division leaders on their way to D.C., Werth was asked if the momentum of the past few days could play a big role in the run he and his teammates were trying to make?
"We just need to keep going," Werth said. "Keep playing the way we're playing. We've got a big series coming up, hopefully people come out and cheer us on and we'll see what happens."
Did he have a message for Nationals fans? "It's going to be a fight," Werth said. "I hope you're ready."
Bryce Harper too talked about the upcoming series being a big one, with a chance to chip away at the Mets' lead.
"They’re coming into our park, so we just have to keep playing our game," Harper told reporters, as quoted by CSNWashington.com's Chase Hughes:
"They’re a great team, but like I said, they’re coming in here to our place. Hopefully our fans show out for the next three days and we can have some fun and enjoy the game of baseball."
On Monday, on Labor Day in the nation's capital, an announced crowd of 34,210 watched the Nationals rally from a 3-0 deficit only to fall to the Mets 8-5, in a dispiriting loss which left them 5.0 games back with 25 to play.
Instead of Max Scherzer's struggles, or the fact that the Nationals scored five runs in a big fourth, but came up empty against New York's bullpen after knocking starter Jon Niese out, when the game was over, it was Harper's comments about the atmosphere in D.C. and fans leaving the game early that got the bulk of the coverage following the loss.
"I mean, they left in the 7th," Harper said when asked about the atmosphere. "That was pretty brutal."
It didn't feel like a playoff game, Harper explained, though it was a game that had significant postseason implications.
"I mean, playoffs is totally different," he said, as quoted by the Washington Post's Chelsea Janes:
"When we play in the playoffs, our fans are going nuts. They’re going crazy. I think the loudest I’ve ever heard it was probably when me and (Asdrubal) Cabrera went back-to-back in (Game 1 of the 2014 NLDS).
"That was pretty insane. Throwing the towels, doing what they’re doing, that was pretty incredible. This is a totally different atmosphere than what playoffs is like."
The reaction (which focused solely on the "brutal" quote, of course) was fairly typical:
U know what's "brutal"? Swinging 2-0 at what likely was Ball 3 in 9th inning with tying run on deck to play hero ball or pad stats #Natitude— Joel Sherman (@Joelsherman1) September 7, 2015
Bryce Harper went there: http://t.co/p5zRXh5vEQ #mets #nats #natitude— Adam Rubin (@AdamRubinESPN) September 7, 2015
Memo to Bryce Harper: If you think fans complaining about athletes is tired, athletes complaining about fans is even moreso.— Evan Grant (@Evan_P_Grant) September 7, 2015
Bryce Harper taking out his angst on Nationals fans, it seems. https://t.co/vDst8LeXdv— Anthony DiComo (@AnthonyDiComo) September 7, 2015
With the latest "outrage" over Bryce Harper's comments have we finally reached "Hey it's Bart! And he's doing stuff!" territory? Story at 11— federalbaseball (@federalbaseball) September 7, 2015
[ed. note - "Yes, that's a Simpsons reference and yes I am ashamed of myself."]
Are you really mad about Harper's comments? Really? Mad, mad? Really mad? Was Harper trying to deflect attention from a rough loss?
Harper has, of course, praised the fans in the nation's capital in the past, and big crowds in general as he did when speaking to Washington Post columnist Thomas Boswell after a 4-1 homestand in May:
"I thrive on big crowds. Of course. I love playing in front of a lot of people. If it’s a little crowd, I hate playing. I mean, truly. I’m not trying to be rude, but a little crowd, I can’t stand it. . . . It’s kind of tough when we go on the road and some places don’t sell out," Harper said. "So having the fans that we do come out here every single night — this homestand was epic."
There was plenty to be mad and disappointed about after Monday's loss, plenty of serious questions to be asked, but Harper's comments may have deflected attention from some of those other topics that might have gotten more attention otherwise.