Thursday, April 22, 2010

Red Sox A-Z: P is for…

Papelbon, as in Jonathan

Jonathan Papelbon is in his fifth season as Red Sox closer. As closers go, he’s been everything you could ask for. He gets the job done much more often than he doesn’t. He does it with ease, and generally doesn’t scare you when he’s on the hill. He also has just enough Pedro in him to make things enjoyable.

No, nobody’s Pedro. Papelbon’s not even close. But, he does run his mouth like Pedro did. He has the attitude and confidence that Pedro had, and that’s a great thing for a fan. I love when a pitcher comes into a game and just knows that the batter is overmatched. I can imagine Papelbon asking a reporter to wake up the Bambino so he can drill him in the butt. Swagger is a wonderful thing. Papelbon celebrates too much for my liking, but that’s a small complaint. I always like Pedro’s reaction to a big strikeout…simply walking off the mound looking annoyed that he had to waste his time throwing the guy three strikes. Contempt is an even better thing.

As a Red Sox fan, one thing that concerns me about Papelbon is his apparent me-first attitude. The Red Sox wanted him to be a starter. Every good pitcher should be a starter, not wasted in the bullpen. Papelbon, apparently, asked to stay in the closer’s role. He wanted to feel the rush of coming into the game. Of course, he probably also likes amassing those easy to get saves. That artificially boosts his value at contract time. It’s also, probably, the reason he balked when the Sox wanted to bring in Eric Gagne. The Sox needed bullpen help, and wanted Gagne. They, apparently, asked Pap to take the set-up role for half a season. Again, Papelbon balked at losing the saves. (Apparently the rush of coming out of the bullpen wasn’t enough anymore.) Gagne agreed to take the set-up role, and it failed miserably. He couldn’t handle the change to having a closer looking over his shoulder every time he pitched. But, at least he gave it a try.

Papelbon has said again and again that he wants a big contract. That’s why he keeps gobbling up saves at the team’s expense. I can only assume that he’s figured out a couple things. He’ll be free agent eligible in not too long, and Mariano Rivera isn’t getting any younger. I bet he knows what New York can do with all the money they’re using to overpay Rivera. So, Sox fans will have to enjoy him while he’s here. Theo’s smart enough not to overpay for him. Until then, the swagger will be on display for all to see.

P is for Papelbon, Jonathan.

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