Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Closing Time

"And the Padres tie the game at 3!"
It's a very simple three step process:

1-Closer blows a game.
2-Closer blasts his teammates.
3-Closer blows more games.

Philadelphia fans have seen this before, of course - Billy Wagner made an art form out of throwing his teammates under the bus with his left hand while serving up longballs with his right - but there's something particularly Wagnerian (in the "let's watch Elmer Fudd in a tin sweater vest and horned helmet sing about killing the wabbit" sort of way) about watching Paps melt down right after he questioned the baseball IQ and dedication of the rest of his team. You can get away with that stuff - barely - if you're throwing lights out and doing your job. It gets considerably less funny when you're the one drop-kicking the full gas cans onto the fire.
And of course, this is the worst possible time for Papelbon to go full Joe Boever. No matter what Ninja GM Ruben Amaro Jr. says, this year's Phillies team isn't going anywhere, and the sooner the teardown happens, the better. Of course, the most marketable piece the Phillies have to move - and the one that's the biggest luxury for a team that's roughly -60 in run differential - is an expensive closer. A guy who's lights-out in the ninth, even if he's signed for a whole lot of cheesesteaks, is a valuable trading chip. A guy who goes out there and makes like Drew Barrymore in Firestarter and is less popular in the clubhouse than a guy with a fistful of subpoenas is not. So Crystal Papsy  is simultaneously torching not only the Phillies' season but also the team's future every time he hands a game to the Padres.
Of course, the thing about closers is that they by definition don't pitch a lot of innings. Papelbon's horrific 8 game stretch is, in aggregate, hard to distinguish from a single Tyler Cloyd start. It could just be a little rough patch, and Papelbon will snap out of it, and he'll make some fans in Detroit very happy while hopefully bringing back a few prospects with a pulse. But right now it looks bad and it sounds worse, and the smart money is not on it getting better.
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