As I was sitting at dinner talking baseball with my finacee, Sarah, Mr. Jonathan Papelbon became the topic choice. Sarah brought up the conversation of Papelbon’s rise to cockiness and how disappointing it is to watch young players fall into the enlarging-head, ego trip trap and become jerks in front of our eyes. Does anyone remember the good old days when Pap was a young starter trying to make a name for himself?
Sarah was at Papelbon’s major league debut on July 31st, 2005 in what was, by her consideration, the best game she has ever seen live at Fenway. If you remember, the trade deadline of 2005 was a tumultuous time for Mr. Manny Ramirez (surprise surprise), with speculation for about 2 weeks prior that he was going to be unloaded. Manny had sat for several games prior to the 31st and began the game on the bench, leaving everyone to wonder what team he would be laying for on August 1st.
As usual, Manny had become somewhat of a target because of his lackidasical play and his frequent visits to the Green Monster, but on this day in 2005, Manny would be redeemed. Papelbon had an impressive debut, pitching 5.1 innings, giving up 3 runs, 2 earned and hurling 7 K’s on 100 pitches, but left with the game hanging in the balance. In the 8th inning of a tie game, off the bench comes the much talked about Manny Ramirez to pinch hit.
All 39,000+ fans in attendance, except Sarah, rose to their feet and began to chant ‘Manny, Manny, Manny’ as if all was well in Red Sox Nation. After a tough at-bat, Manny delivered a single up the middle to drive in Edgar Renteria and put the Sox ahead for good at 4-3. All I remember doing at that point was grabbing my phone and calling Sarah. She picked up, and all I could hear was yelling, screaming, and mass hysteria through the phone.
As if that wasn’t already an incredible game, Mr. Big Mouth himself, Curt Schilling, came in to get his 5th save of the season. The mention of Curt brings me back to the original conversation this evening about players cockiness when they become successful or sign a big contract, as Papelbon has done.
There is no discrediting Pap’s ability to close out games, because he has the rare balance of arrongance and confidence it takes to be an elite closer. Papelbon’s career numbers are outstanding, but as his numbers have grown, so has his mouth and head. Pap feels now that it is his responsability to respond to every situation with a comment that is either insulting to mangement or his teammates and it is beginning to become a problem.
In 2009, Pap had a solid year, but it was clear he felt he was good enough to beat any batter with only one pitch, his fastball. After getting beat a few times down the stretch, and in the ALDS, the chatter began about potentially trading Pap to get rid of his mouth and cocky attitude that is damaging to the Sox clubhouse. Ultimately, I doubt he will be moved, but if he could just keep his mouth shut, the team could focus on winning and not worry about what Pap will say next.
As I grow and modify bosoxinjection.com over time, I want to begin to open up discussion questions in hopes of engaging you, the readers. I write because I enjoy it, but also because I think others may enjoy my thoughts as well. In the same vein, I am interested in what you have to say about the Sox or baseball in general, whether it is good, bad or ugly.
Here is the first discussion question for you to ponder and respond to. What was your favorite memory at a live baseball game? Post your responses in the comment field. I look forward to hearing from you!