Freedom To, Freedom From: Papelbon Sounds Off Again


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Papelbon in 2012. Photo by Richard Wilkins Jr.

Jonathan Papelbon is the all-time saves leader in both Philadelphia and Boston, and he’s 12th all-time. He’s perfect on 2015, and made the All-Star team. His ERA since the beginning of 2014 is under two, which is outstanding. He more than lived up to his $50 million, four year deal with the Phillies. The Phillies will miss him, even if not in his customary 9th inning, which Ken Giles will now fill, but rather in lacking that 8th-9th inning tandem they had. No one can deny that.

One thing none of us will miss is Papelbon’s sometimes colorful quotes. He wasted no time making his feelings known on the trade:

“The biggest reason why I accepted this trade to come here because I’ve played against these guys for four years now and I’ve seen the way the organization has become and it’s a fitting organization for me,” Papelbon said Wednesday, a day after he was trade from Philadelphia to Washington.

“It’s a bunch of baseball players here that want to win and that’s all I ask for, to come here and try to win and I think it was the best fit for me to get out of Philly. It made no difference to give up the $2 million to come here. To me it’s all about winning and being at a place that I’m happy.”

So leaving Philadelphia was worth at least $2 million to Papelbon. Now, to be fair, I understand that he wanted to win very badly, which is good. I also understand that he wasn’t the reason they weren’t winning. It’s pretty clear he was frustrated with the situation:

“For years, I was supposed to get traded and for years it didn’t happen so there’s build up there,” Papelbon said. “It keeps building up and building up and when you get told certain things and it don’t happen there’s frustration involved, but I understand at the same time it’s a business as well. I’m just happy to be here and I’m happy to be free. I feel like it’s a new life.”

Believe it or not, it’s not that easy to trade a star. Stars make lots of money, and money is hard to trade. For Papelbon though, he made it clear he can motivate himself pitching for any team:

“For me I’m getting up there on the all-time closing list and that’s important to me,” Papelbon said. “When Theo (Epstein) had me as a young kid in Boston and he wanted to start to me and I said, ‘No, I’m a closer, that’s what I want to be, and that’s who I am.’ This is what I envisioned. I envisioned chasing Mariano and I’ve told Mariano that at many All-Star games, ‘I’m coming after you.’ So that’s part of it.

“Ego may be a part or whatever you want to say, but for me it’s a path that I started 11 years ago and now I’m trying to do everything I can to continue that and win championships as a closer.”

So, catching Mariano is on his agenda. He only needs 310 more, or roughly double where he is at age 34. I hope he plans on being good for a while.

The real laugher of his quotes though:

“I told Drew, ‘Listen I don’t want to come here unless you talk to (general manager) Mike (Rizzo) and everyone is OK with it,’” Papelbon said. “’I don’t want to come here and upset anyone. I just want to come here and win.’ I think that Drew realized that.”

Let’s be clear who’s not going to get to chase Mariano- Drew Storen. That’s because Papelbon will be the closer this year and next. To be clear, nothing Storen has publicly said suggests he’s in any way okay with any of this, but I guess Ambassador Papelbon smoothed things over.

To be clear, I don’t personally hold a grudge against Papelbon for wanting to leave a Phillies team that underachieved throughout his time here. Also to be clear, the Nats are getting an upgrade on Storen in the 9th, and by extension, an upgrade with Storen in the 8th. I don’t think he can catch Mariano, nor do I think Papelbon’s comments about getting out of Philly were a big deal. All of this is just, say, Papelbon being Papelbon.

The “Papitude” era is off to exactly the kind of start I expected though- their fans are angry that this guy came in and took Fister’s number and Storen’s job. Their fans should be thrilled they got him, just as Phillies fans should have been thrilled to have him here, but Papelbon is the master of making sure no one likes him everywhere he goes. While Boston fans still appreciate his on field performance there, he didn’t leave a beloved figure in club history, despite his success. That’s basically how Papelbon is everywhere he goes. If he has his way, he’ll be going on long enough to catch Mariano though, so we all better get used to it.

Honestly though, I won’t miss him. He was a great pitcher, but incredibly difficult to deal with as a fan. He may be free of our losing in Philadelphia, but we’re also free too- of having to listen to his rants and opinions. I guess it’s a two way street to DC.

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