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Nats 2015 biggest moments No. 2: Harper vs. Papelbon

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Nats 2015 biggest moments No. 2: Harper vs. Papelbon

We are counting down the 10 biggest moments of 2015 for the Nationals as we approach New Year's Day. In the ninth installment, we look at the fight between Bryce Harper and Jonathan Papelbon...

The weekend of Sept. 26-27 at Nationals Park had already gotten off to an eventful - and bizarre - start. On Saturday, the Nationals were officially eliminated from the playoffs. But it came in a walk-off win over the Phillies, so the postgame clubhouse featured a wide array of emotions depending on which direction you looked.

There were pockets of players hooting and hollering in celebration of a big win at the end of a trying season. Then, there were plenty who were more focused on the big picture and the realization that their season was now truly over. It was also a day that happened to begin with a Nats player's dog using the center field grass as a bathroom during pregame warmups. Don't worry, the dog's owner cleaned it up.

Sunday was supposed to be the easy day, the one that didn't matter. The obituaries of the 2015 Nationals season had already been written and they were playing the lowly Philadelphia Phillies. Bless the fans who had bought tickets and showed up that afternoon because it was two teams heading nowhere and football was on.

Little did all of us know that Sunday would include an event so big that it would become the lasting memory of the Nationals' 2015 season and one of the lowest moments in the organization's history. 

After flying out to left field in the bottom of the eighth, NL MVP Bryce Harper walked back to the home dugout, only to get screamed at and then attacked by Jonathan Papelbon. Cameras from both team's television networks rolled as Papelbon grabbed Harper by the throat and slammed him into a wall before teammates intervened.

The footage was shocking and it quickly circulated around social media and on TV. Yet there was Papelbon, going back out there to pitch the top of the ninth and face seven more batters before rookie Sammy Solis came in to replace him.

It is still hard to believe all that went down and the effects are still being felt by the Nationals. They suspended Papelbon and would like to trade him this offseason, but he still remains on the roster. Now he has filed a grievance against the team for lost pay during his suspension.

An ugly situation has somehow managed to get even worse and the only end in sight would seem to be a trade. Unfortunately for the Nats, a trade will not be easy. Papelbon is owed $11 million next season, has a no-trade clause, and it's never good for leverage when everyone in the sport knows you need to get rid of somebody.

On paper and in a baseball sense, Papelbon would fit well with the Nats who currently do not have many options for the backend of their bullpen. The free agent market has dried up and Craig Kimbrel and Aroldis Chapman have already been traded elsewhere. On paper, Papelbon and Drew Storen could form a dangerous combination in the eighth and ninth inning, despite what happened in 2015.

But, as the Nats already saw with Papelbon, sometimes things go beyond baseball. And the presence of Papelbon in their clubhouse could cause problems once again next season. Plus, it would be a hard sell to the fanbase to bring back a player who was being booed at home even before he assaulted the best player in the sport.

The Papelbon situation is a tough one for the Nationals and it's likely to be resolved some time in the next six weeks before pitchers and catchers report to spring training. Their best hope is for another team to get desperate for relief help and make a suitable offer. Right now, however, getting rid of Papelbon remains much easier said than done.

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More from the countdown:

Nats 2015 biggest moments No. 10: Scherzer signs

Nats 2015 biggest moments No. 9: Trade deadline series vs. Mets

Nats 2015 biggest moments No. 8: Scherzer's second no-hitter

Nats 2015 biggest moments No 7: Harper's 3 homers vs. Marlins

Nats 2015 biggest moments No. 6: Final chance vs. Mets

Nats 2015 biggest moments No. 5: Scherzer's first no-hitter

Nats 2015 biggest moments No. 4: Williams' downfall as manager

Nats 2015 biggest moments No. 3: Dusty Baker hired as manager

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It's Day 1 of spring training and Bryce Harper is already done taking questions regarding his future

It's Day 1 of spring training and Bryce Harper is already done taking questions regarding his future

So if you have not heard, Bryce Harper is going to be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2018 season.

All off-season talking heads, baseball aficionados, radio hosts, etc. were speculating on where the outfielder’s destination will be next year.

And we are still a year away from it actually happening.

RELATED: VEGAS SETS OVER/UNDERS FOR 2018 MLB SEASON

Reporting to spring training on Monday, Harper did not waste any time telling the media how his press conferences were going to play out this season.

“If guys do [ask], or talk anything about that, I will be walking right out the door.”

Entering his seventh season with the Washington Nationals, the 25-year-old is coming off the second-best season, statistically, of his career. The 2015 NL MVP has hit .285 in his career, with 150 home runs and 421 RBIs. Unquestionably he is the face of the Nationals’ organization, if not, the best player in the team’s history.

If he does end the season without a contract extension, he will join Rafael Palmeiro, Alex Rodriguez, Randy Johnson, and Barry Bonds as the top sought out free agents in MLB history.

One thing is for certain in terms of Harper’s free agency; Harper has given no inclination on where his landing spot will be.  The top three cities are of course his favorite childhood team, the New York Yankees; joining with one of his closest friends with the Chicago Cubs; or just staying with Washington.

Wherever he does land, it does appear that it will be the largest contract given to a free agent ever.

As for now we just wait and direct any of your calls to his agent Scott Boras.

READ ALSO: NATIONALS FULL SPRING TRAINING SCHEDULE

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Nationals Spring Training Schedule 2018

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USA Today Sports Images

Nationals Spring Training Schedule 2018

Now that pitchers and catchers have reported, the next step in our long journey to Opening Day is the spring training games themselves. Not every game is televised, so get ready to follow along with your favorite beat writer's Twitter account for all your updates.

Even without getting to watch the games, it'll still be exciting to once again check box scores in the morning to see if Bryce Harper homered again, or if Max Scherzer is perfect through 4 innings (spoiler: both of these will happen).

This year's spring training will be especially interesting, considering how many big-name players will be signing contracts in the next few weeks. The Nats are always willing to make a big splash, and even beyond the available free agents, have been linked to impact players like J.T. Realmuto in trade rumors.

Typically, the excitement of adding a new piece to the roster has to be reignited after a long winter off, but this season, those additions will be happening while camp is already underway.

It's going to be a hectic few weeks as teams prepare for their seasons, so bookmark this page to check on the Nationals spring training schedule over the next few weeks as the team finally takes the field in 2018.

Nationals 2018 Spring Training Schedule

Friday, Feb. 23 - Nationals at Astros, 1:05 pm (MLBN)
Saturday, Feb. 24 - Nationals at Marlins, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Feb. 25 - Braves at Nationals, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Monday, Feb. 26 - Nationals at Braves, 1:05 pm
Tuesday, Feb. 27 - Marlins at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Wednesday, Feb. 28 - Nationals at Marlins, 1:05 pm
Thursday, Mar. 1 (SS) - Nationals at Braves, 1:05 pm
Friday, Mar. 2 (SS) - Nationals at Mets, 1:10 pm
Saturday, Mar. 3 - Nationals at Astros, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 4 (SS) - Tigers at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 4 (SS) - Nationals at Mets, 1:10 pm
Monday, Mar. 5 - Nationals at Cardinals, 1:05 pm
Tuesday, Mar. 6 (SS) - Astros at Nationals, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Wednesday, Mar. 7 - Nationals at Cardinals, 1:05 pm
Thursday, Mar. 8 - Mets at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Saturday, Mar. 10 - Nationals at Astros, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 11 - Cardinals at Nationals, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Monday, Mar. 12 - Nationals at Tigers, 1:05 pm (MLBN)
Tuesday, Mar. 13 (SS) - Mets at Nationals, 7:05 pm (MLBN) (MASN)
Thursday, Mar. 15 - Astros at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Friday, Mar. 16 (SS) - Cardinals at Nationals, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Saturday, Mar. 17 - Mets at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 18 - Nationals at Cardinals, 1:05 pm
Monday, Mar. 19 - Nationals at Marlins, 1:05 pm
Tuesday, Mar. 20 - Marlins at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Wednesday, Mar. 21 - Astros at Nationals, 1:05 pm (ESPN2) (MASN)
Thursday, Mar. 22 - Nationals at Mets, 6:10 pm
Friday, Mar. 23 (SS) - Astros at Nationals, 6:05 pm (MASN)
Friday, Mar. 23 - Nationals at Marlins, 7:05 pm
Saturday, Mar. 24 - Marlins at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 25 - Cardinals at Nationals, 1:05 pm (MLBN)
Tuesday, Mar. 27 (at Nationals Park) - Twins at Nationals, 4:05 pm