WASHINGTON — Senate Majority Leader and Washington Nationals fan Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has an idea of what his favorite baseball club should do to improve upon its 83-win season.
Speaking at a Politico event in the District on Tuesday, McConnell was asked a “hardball question” by interviewer Mike Allen.
“How are your Nats going to come back next season?”
“First of all, they need to get rid of Papelbon,” McConnell said. “Getting in fights with the Most Valuable Player in the National League strikes me as not a team-building exercise.”
McConnell, of course, is remembering when — on live television — closer Jonathan Papelbon choked out eventual MVP winner Bryce Harper in the Nationals dugout, adding a layer of glycerin to an already combustible 2015 season.
McConnell’s opinion mirrors that of many Nationals fans, though it doesn’t necessarily reflect the views of players within the clubhouse.
Nats GM Mike Rizzo has carefully navigated the topic in the months since, even saying Papelbon filing a grievance against the club to recoup money lost from his season-ending suspension is no indication of an acrimonious relationship.
Rizzo has, on the other hand, acknowledged other teams’ interest in Papelbon, and also stated the Nationals’ ability to eat money, if need be.
The Nationals have been active on the free agent market, focusing most of their energy on fortifying their bullpen with key additions Yusmeiro Petit, Shawn Kelley, Trevor Gott and Oliver Perez. They also went after Gold Glover Jason Heyward — whom they offered a deal in the neighborhood of $200 million, according to Jon Heyman — before losing out to the Cubs.
“And I think they need a solid, good-hitting outfielder,” McConnell added. “Because Jayson Werth is getting older and not playing many games anymore. And we could use another starter, although I think this young guy, Lucas Giolito, down in the minors may be their answer to Jordan Zimmermann’s departure.”
The Nats maintain a fertile fanbase in the top ranks of the U.S. Senate. You may recall former Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid (D-NV), once famously quoting a now-infamous Bryce Harper line while addressing reporters in 2012: “That’s a clown question, bro.”
Fast-forward to the 33-minute mark of the video here.