Tuesday, July 30, 2013

What Exactly Was Jonathan Papelbon Expecting?

Noted Deep Thinker Jonathan Papelbon shot his mouth off again at the conclusion of the Phillies' train wreck of a road trip. Saying that he hadn't come to Philadelphia for this, whatever this is (I'm assuming it's an 8 game losing streak that knocked the aging, wounded Philberts from the Oort Cloud of contention to definite "Sell" mode), he then demanded wholesale changes to the organization a la Boston. Entirely lost on him was the irony that one of the changes that improved Boston was, well, getting rid of one Jonathan Papelbon.

But it's easy to see why he's confused. Paps, when he came to Philly, saw the same thing notoriously analytics-unfriendly GM Ruben Amaro Jr. did. He saw a rotation anchored by Hall of Fame-caliber starter Roy Halladay, backed up with Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels. He saw the Howard-Utley-Rollins infield, bespangled with MVP awards and All-Star appearances. He saw, well, I'm not quite sure what he saw in the outfield, but Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence were out there, and that was something. And he saw himself filling the one big obvious hole, at the back of the bullpen.
Of course, those who weren't Papelbon and Amaro saw a few other things. They saw Howard's declining production and blown-out heel. They saw Utley's injury history, and a hole at third base. They saw a team that was going to score a lot fewer runs than people thought, and that was going to have to lean heavily on its starting pitching to stay in contention. And if anything happened to that starting pitching - like Halladay's injury or Lee's bad luck - then it was all over.
And that's the sort of stuff that you don't get better from.
So maybe Papelbon wasn't expecting this when he came to Philly. He should have been. And as an aging, expensive closer whose fastball is ticking back down, MPH by MPH, he's part of the problem, not the solution.
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