Red Sox Getting Odd Love From Closer Who Beat Them


The Boston Red Sox may have lost last night’s game, but the man who shut them down for the save was oddly spreading the love about them. The man’s name is Jonathan Papelbon, the former Red Sox closer of years past.

The game was pretty much what the Red Sox strategy dictates: try to wear out the opposing starter and get into the bullpen for a late-game comeback, if needed. The table was set, as they had the bases loaded for their big-time left fielder Hanley Ramirez at the plate, who hit a grand slam in the previous matchup. Enter Papelbon, now the Philadelphia Phillies’ closer, who provided an 81 mph slider that Ramirez sent deep into the outfield, only to be caught by Ben Revere.

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The love, mentioned earlier, was not the pitch, as has Papelbon’s slider clocked at around 81 mph for the last two seasons; it was his words he spoke to the media, yesterday.

Gordon Edes of ESPN Boston reported Papelbon’s disparaging words to the Boston Globe about his current team, and his love for his former team before and after the game to the rest of the media. According to reports, Papelbon said, “I don’t really feel like a Phillie” before he faced his former team, expressing instead an attachment to Boston that sounded as strong as it was when he was still closing games for the Red Sox,” which seems odd to say so early in the season. Most athletes, regardless of their feelings, provide a united front, when approached by the hordes of reporters, to give a good start to their season.

Papelbon continued to state, “I’ve never been embraced here, from day one,” after making the save. Your team just won the game, and you are throwing them under the proverbial bus. Especially considering that if Ramirez did, in fact, hit the grand slam, much of Philly would want to crush Papelbon, but, instead, they cheered his efforts in the crowd in the top of the ninth, even in bad weather. Yet, he picked that moment for his direct, verbal attack?

“I came up in [Boston’s] organization, I was raised in that organization, I was taught how to play baseball in that organization. I was taught how to become a major leaguer in that organization, so that’s why I feel like that’s what my roots are. That’s who I am. If I get lucky enough to make it to the Hall [of Fame] one day, I’ll go in as a Red Sox. That’s who I feel like is the most part of me.”

The man clearly wants out of Philadelphia. However, the major point that should not be forgotten is the timing of his words. He picked the first series of the regular season, against the Red Sox, to say how he felt. He talked about the Red Sox so wonderfully, like family, that you didn’t need to read between the lines to see his real message: he wants to go back to Boston, right now. Not later. Not waiting to see how this season goes for him or the Sox.

According to Edes, the Phillies see “his contract an albatross and would love to trade him; he has made little secret of his desire to move on. ‘I think with all the losing years I’ve been here, I’m kind of like a scapegoat, you know?’ he said. ‘Because I guess I’m brutally honest.’”

Well, that’s great. And many media outlets, including this publication, have discussed, in the last few months, about Papelbon’s recent years in Philly and what it would mean to bring him back to Boston. However, if Papelbon is using his verbage (yes, that is the proper spelling in this particular case) to put pressure on a deal to get him out of the hell that he thinks he’s in, his strategy may only backfire on him.

Apr 6, 2015; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Phillies relief pitcher Jonathan Papelbon (58) signs an autograph during opening day before a game against the Boston Red Sox at Citizens Bank Park. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The 34-year-old righty costs the Phillies $13 million, this season, with another $13 million as an option, if he finishes 55 games in 2015. Do the Red Sox really want to bring Papelbon back in a trade, where the Phillies have already asked the moon for Cole Hamels, to have a closer who may leave again in 2016 as a free agent? From his words, it sounds like Papelbon would want to stay in Boston, but he was already granted free agency in 2011 and then signed with Philadelphia, leaving the Red Sox. Who’s to say that won’t happen again?

Plus, they already have Koji Uehara. The 40-year-old closer has had recent injury woes, but he could just as easily show that he will be back to the form that helped the Red Sox win the 2013 World Series. Even if he were to retire soon, his year could be just as solid as Papelbon’s this season. Why add more confusion and negotiations to the table, after just finishing contract extension talks with Rick Porcello?

Instead of eliminating distractions, all that Papelbon’s second-coming, at this point, would do is create even more problems. Even if Hamels was still a trade possibility, you could forget it if the trade happens with Papelbon, which would lead to even more media questions of whether the move was worth the sacrifice. All that Papelbon has done, last night, is create more problems for his current and former teams.

Papelbon should concentrate on one thing: his own performance. There is a reason why professional athletes do not talk openly about what they think and feel at all times. This case is a prime example of that reason. If he wants to be in the Hall of Fame, and wants to wear a Red Sox hat when inducted, let him. He wants to come back to Boston? Let his agent discuss it with Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington at the end of the season, when he becomes a free agent. You know, like what professionals do. Until then, he should realize that he’s a Phillie, and give his team support, while not throwing drama on to the team he professes to love.

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