Dusty Baker talks Jeff Kent. Lessons in Dugout Fights. Can Papelbon co-exist with Bryce Harper?

Dusty Baker called into MLB Network Radio on the “Inside Pitch” show hosted by Jim Bowden and Casey Stern yesterday. The “Inside Pitch”show airs weekdays starting at 2pm EST on Sirius XM. http://www.siriusxm.com/MLBNetworkRadio

It was a long interview that was lengthened when Dusty lost his cellphone connection twice.  At one part of the interview Dusty seemed to digress to a text message he received from Jeff Kent and then Dusty corrected himself that it was actually an email from Jeff Kent which Dusty revealed,

Tell my soul Mormon brother don’t play so angry ’cause you will make it harder on yourself

kent bonds

Chronicle/Michael Macor

There wasn’t much context given to fully understand where Dusty was going with that quote from Kent and then Dusty was onto the next subject, but it was definitely directed at Bryce Harper, and there’s no reason to speculate what Kent meant by it or why Dusty brought it up.  Our intelligent commenters this morning created the perfect segue into coexistence in a dugout as Jeff Kent reminded us that he and Barry Bonds fought often and publicly, “Add this to the half-dozen times we’ve done it before,” said Kent referring to a fight with Bonds in the Giants dugout. If the math works, that makes at least 7 Kent/Bonds fights.  It’s well documented and Bonds/Kent coexisted as teammates where Kent won a MVP and Barry Bonds won multiple MVPs and the two along with Dusty Baker almost won the 2002 World Series together.

In case you don’t remember, Jeff Kent was traded to the San Francisco Giants from the Cleveland Indians for MATT WILLIAMS! Talk about coincidences!  Right from the beginning of the Jeff Kent and Bonds teammate relationship, it was re-told that they conflicted right from the start in an argument of who would get a seat in a team van during Kent’s first Spring Training with the Giants in 1997:

Jerry Crasnick writes the story on 1/22/2009 for ESPN:

But the definitive Jeff Kent story actually revolves around a seemingly innocuous encounter in a Scottsdale, Ariz., parking lot in the spring of 1997, when Kent did his Rosa Parks routine with Barry Bonds.

It was the first day of Cactus League workouts, recalled former Giants first baseman J.T. Snow, and the players were boarding vans that would take them to the spare fields at the minor league complex. Kent, newly arrived by trade from Cleveland, was first out of the clubhouse and staked out a seat in the first row.

All was well and good until Bonds, the king of the hill, boarded the van and sensed that something was amiss.

“Dude, get in the back,” Bonds told Kent. “That’s my seat.”

Most newcomers would have simply rolled over, caved to the pecking order and moved their fanny back a few rows to accommodate the face of the franchise. Not Kent.

“I’m not moving,” Kent told Bonds. “I was here first. You came after me. You sit in the back.”

The give-and-take went on long enough for the other Giants to take notice. After a brief and animated exchange, they were astonished when Bonds shrugged his shoulders, gave up and moved to the back of the vehicle.

“We were in the back going, ‘Whoa, Kent’s putting Bonds in his place,'” Snow said. “There were probably six other guys in the van, and we were all kind of looking at each other.

“Then we got to the field, and Jeff got out of the van like nothing had happened. We went out and practiced, and that was the start of it. From the very first day. Jeff was old-school. He told Barry, ‘I was here first. You get in the back.'”

That is a lot of history between Kent and Bonds and if you Google their names and the word ‘Fight’ there will be plenty of old articles to check.

This is a good article with some great quotes of how Dusty Baker handled these two. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/15/sports/baseball/15jeffkent.html?_r=1&

“It’s actually funny they would be on the same team,” Donnelly said. “And how Dusty handled that? It was probably like Arthur Mercante, the great referee. ‘O.K. Break, now box.’ And everything was wonderful.  Barry and Jeff together, you just laugh at them,” Donnelly said. “Jeff doesn’t talk to anybody. Jeff says hello to his kids once in a while, when he brings them in the clubhouse.”

“I wouldn’t say that they totally hated or despised each other,” Aurilia said. “It’s like anybody else. They had different interests. Two guys can play together if they’re not the best of buddies.”

“On the field, we’re fine, but, off the field, I don’t care about Barry and Barry doesn’t care about me. Or anybody,” Kent told Sports Illustrated in 2002.

As noted, Bonds and Kent co-existed for 6 seasons in Giants uniforms while spanning enough innings together that Bonds hit almost 300 HRs in those 6 years.

Then there is this article http://www.sfgate.com/sports/a… and more quotes:

“The fight, which also involved third baseman David Bell and included manager Dusty Baker yelling at Kent, was captured on camera”

“Bonds refused to comment, while Kent called the episode “no big deal.” In fact, Kent revealed that he has had several physical altercations with Bonds since they became teammates in 1997.”

“Add this to the half-dozen times we’ve done it before,” said Kent, who said the fight actually helped the Giants get off the mat after they fell behind 5-0 after two innings. In the inning immediately after the altercation, Bonds hit a three-run homer, and Kent homered in the sixth.”

So what does all this have to do with Bryce Harper and Jonathan Papelbon?  A lot actually because teammates fight publicly and also out of the public eye.  After the Papelbon/Harper choke game, Papelbon called Bryce a ‘brother’ and said that brothers fight.  More importantly, according to the Washington Post, Bryce Harper recently phoned Papelbon in an attempt to make sure their working relationship is “functional,”.

“Papelbon and Harper are fine together,” a source described as inside the Nationals told the Post regarding Harper’s call. “Harp just wants to win. All he cares about is that we have a 45-save relief pitcher who’s going to help us.”

Dusty Baker at his November 5th press conference had this to say on the subject,

“There’s always conflict at some time. I’ve never been on a team that didn’t have any. You handle it like men and you talk about it and get it out into the open and don’t let things fester. You can sort of see it on the plane, in the bus, and you try to bring guys together as quickly as you can.”

Let’s rewind to late July 2015 when the Nats were rumored to get Jonathan Papelbon. There were fans none to pleased that the Nats answer to the bullpen was to add the papelbon-crotch-daily-newsunpopular closer to the Nats roster. When Papelbon arrived he seemed to say all the right words to ease some of the pain in the fanbase and then when Storen blew an 8th inning 3 run lead on August 7th and then blew a tie game on August 9th, sentiment seemed to change with many fans to gaining some support for Papelbon.  Fans change their feelings quickly and many were impressed that Papelbon made a nice donation to some local charities and also purchased a home in Alexandria Virginia.  Then quickly things changed in late September when Machado hit a long HR off of Scherzer and Papelbon entered the game and plunked Machado.

After that game, Bryce Harper this was said:

And here’s the video of Bryce’s postgame comments where he basically dissed his teammate Papelbon

We detailed everything from both sides leading to the Papelbon/Harper altercation in the dugout: http://www.talknats.com/2015/09/27/bryce-harper-papelbon-get-into-an-altercation-in-the-dugout/

When Bonds and Kent had their clubhouse fight, Dusty Baker was in the middle of the two along with others. He wasn’t sitting in the corner.  After that altercation between Bonds and Kent and Bell, Baker had this to say,

“It ain’t a problem. I went through the same thing in L.A [as a player] with a couple of guys. Now we see each other and we’re partners. Usually this happens on good teams. Bad teams always get along.”

The takeaway, “usually this happens on good teams. Bad teams always get along” and that’s a powerful statement from Dusty Baker, and while Kent and Bonds remained teammates until Kent hit Free Agency after six seasons together, the Harper/Papelbon script hasn’t been written fully written after their 1/3 of a season together. There is clearly a public relations issue if the Nats retain Papelbon for the 2016 season, and this comment is probably in the popular view of Nats fans:

“Can he build a bridge to the fans who want Papelbon gone? I doubt it. Not this one, at least.” — SoMdNatsFan http://disq.us/8r8rmm

“Fence mending is tough and people didn’t like Papelbon before.” — Gonat http://disq.us/8r8tp7

You know there will be some boo’ing Papelbon when he comes out for the 9th inning whether he pitches for the Nats or another team.  Papelbon plays the villain role well. In an irony, Papelbon has gotten used to his ‘home’ team boo’ing him.

Will this be a public relations nightmare that dictates that the Nats must dump Papelbon or is this a Rizzo decision to be made by baseball people about baseball players?  Before Dusty Baker was hired, it appeared to be a foregone conclusion that Pap would be traded, and now it doesn’t seem to be a done deal.  Somewhere buried on Dusty Baker’s resumé, it says he is adept in conflict resolution between employees he supervises.  Dusty’s  resumé makes no mention of a conflict-free workplace.

It would appear that Dusty Baker could convince ownership that he can handle the task of having Pap and Harp on his roster like he did for all of those seasons with Kent and Bonds, and the fans will just have to deal with it in their own way because sports will always have teammate conflicts, and brothers do fight.

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