A Timeline of the Washington Nationals' Embarrassing Season

Washington Nationals
Washington Nationals closer Jonathan Papelbon argues after being ejected from a game against the Orioles. USA Today Sports via Reuters

The 2015 baseball season hasn’t gone well for the Washington Nationals. Picked by many to win the World Series before the season began, a depressing six-month-long carnival of injury after injury, underperforming stars and managerial incompetence has left the team barely above .500 and well out of playoff contention. The historically disappointing season reached its nadir on Sunday, when closer Jonathan Papelbon choked probable MVP Bryce Harper in the dugout after the former didn’t feel the latter exerted enough effort while running out a fly ball.

Papelbon confronts Harper. Newsweek

And it doesn’t end there. Though Papelbon violently lunged at the team’s best player, manager Matt Williams decided to send him into the game the next inning (inexplicably, he benched Harper). Papelbon proceeded to give up five runs before getting booed off the field. The Nationals lost 12-5, and on Monday the team suspended Papelbon, who was in the process of appealing a separate three-game suspension from earlier in the week:

Not only is the team fed up with him, so are the fans, some of which are trying to raise money to donate to charity if the Nationals cut the hothead closer.

So how did we get here? Let’s travel all the way back to January when the Nats were World Series favorites and trace our steps. If you live in or around the greater Washington, D.C., area, you may want to go ahead and close your browser now.

January 21: The Nationals sign starting pitcher Max Scherzer away from the Detroit Tigers for $210 million over seven years. Adding a Cy Young–caliber ace to pitching staff that boasted a 3.03 ERA in 2014, the best in baseball since 2011, almost didn’t seem fair.

April 4: ESPN.com runs a piece in which its top 15 baseball analysts make predictions for the upcoming season. All 15 choose the Nationals to win the NL East, six choose them to win the NL and six choose them to win the World Series—more than any other team. Analyst Jayson Stark even penned a 2,500-word opus titled “Why the Nationals Will Win It All.”

May 1: A month into the season, the Nationals are off to a slow start, sitting at 10-13, while the Mets have streaked to a 15-8 record. Everyone assumes the Nats will eventually get it together while the inexperienced Mets will inevitably fall out of contention.

May 19: Jayson Werth, having missed the first nine games of the season, is placed on the DL once again, this time after taking a fastball to the wrist during a game against the Padres. Werth was hitting .208 through 27 games at the time of the injury. He won’t play again until July 28.

June 1: Getting 6-1 odds, the Nationals are the favorite to win the World Series. After a solid May, they’re 28-22, a half of a game ahead of the Mets in the NL East.

June 11: After a disappointing start to the season, the Nationals place first baseman Ryan Zimmerman on the disabled list with plantar fasciitis. Like Werth, he won’t play again until July 28.

June 20: Scherzer nearly misses throwing a perfect game when he hits a batter with two outs in the ninth inning. He still completes the no-hitter, though, marking the high point in a four-game run in which he only allowed four earned runs over 34.1 innings. Approaching the season’s halfway point, he’s the front-runner to win the NL Cy Young, but the Nationals are only a half game up on the Mets.

July 8: The Nationals place center fielder and leadoff hitter Denard Span on the DL for the second time in 2015. He will return on August 25, play two games, and then go on the DL once again, this time for the rest of the season.

July 29: Despite Drew Storen having converted 29 of 31 save chances, the Nationals trade for Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon, puzzling many. At the time of the trade, the Nats are 52-46, one game better than the Mets.

August 2: The Mets sweep the Nationals in a crucial three-game series and take over first place in the NL East. The Nats will lose 15 of their remaining 27 games in the month of August.

August 16: The Nationals lose their sixth straight game, falling under .500 for the first time since May 6. With a month-and-a-half left in the season, they’re 4.5 games behind the Mets in the NL East.

September 1: The Nationals are barely above .500 at 66-64 while the Mets have surged to a 73-58, good for a 6.5-game lead with a month to play. Because of the strength of the Cubs and Pirates in the NL Central, a wild card berth is out of the question. The only way the Nats can make the playoffs is to get hot and overtake the Mets to win the East.

September 7: Harper calls out Nationals fans after a loss to the Mets. “They left in the seventh, so you know that’s pretty brutal,” the MVP candidate said of his hometown fans.

September 8: After blowing a six-run lead in a crucial game against the Mets, the Nationals trailed by one run heading into the ninth inning. Leadoff hitter Werth singled. Anthony Rendon and Harper were due up next, but manager Williams for some reason decides to have Rendon, one of the team’s best hitters, bunt. It didn’t work, the Nationals lost, and a media firestorm ensued.

After the game, Williams was booed at his own press conference.

September 9: The Mets complete another sweep of the Nationals, this one in Washington. Their lead in the East is now seven games.

September 18: Williams comes out to the mound while Scherzer is pitching in a tense situation and Scherzer yells at Williams, insisting he leave him in the game. After Scherzer gets out of the inning, he stares down Williams before leaving him hanging in the dugout.

September 25: Papelbon is fined and suspended for three games for intentionally throwing at Orioles third baseman Manny Machado in the ninth inning of a Nationals loss.

September 26: The Mets beat the Reds 10-2 to clinch the NL East, eliminated the Nationals from playoff contention. The Nationals are the third team in the past 15 years to miss the playoffs after being favored before the season began.

September 27: Papelbon chokes Harper. Ladies and gentlemen, your 2015 Washington Nationals!