Sunday, November 13, 2011

One Less Accountable Guy

I feel bad for whoever's going to be the Red Sox' manager next year, especially if it's Sandy Alomar, Jr. who thinks this team can police itself.  By my calculations at the end of the season - when I was melting down to the same extent that the Red Sox were melting down - there were exactly five players on the 2011 roster (Aceves, Scutaro, Pedroia, Saltalamacchia, Papelbon) that I want to ever see in a Boston uniform again. 

Contrary to a lot of stuff I have said over the five years on HYD, Papelbon was one of those five guys.  So now there are only four left that I ever want to see again.  This guy, and this is a theory that was first developed by Tony Massarotti (unlike David Ortiz, I will cite my sources), was one of the few people on this team who were accountable when they screwed up.  Papelbon will go out there and say he f***ed up or sucked out there.  He won't blame the ballpark like Lester.  He won't blame the official scorer like Ortiz.  He won't blame the rain like Ortiz, Lackey, Francona, or many others.  He won't blame God or the ESPN schedule like Adrian Gonzalez.  He'll take ownership for his own actions.

And he'll take that ownership, accountability, and his talents to Philadelphia.  That stuff I mentioned in the last paragraph is, in Cherington's words, subjective stuff.  And it's very troubling that the guy who is valuing subjective stuff instead of looking at spreadsheets and listening to Carmine like Theo Epstein did, has also inherited Theo's inability to negotiate poorly when it comes to free agency.

One quick note on the future:  Papelbon very well may struggle in Philadelphia because in that stadium, those warning-track fly balls might not be warning-track fly balls. 

I may be in the minority on this, but I'm one of the people who would have matched Philadelphia's four-year offer.  Sorry, the market for closers was not set by Papelbon, though that was his goal.  It was set a week ago with the Phillies and Ryan Madson with the deal that almost fell through.  Second-tier closers, as well as first-tier closers, are getting four years now.  So why not give four years and pay a premium for someone who has proven over the course of six seasons that he can get the job done?  Now Boston will get a guy who pees down the side of his leg in high-pressure situations (remember Toronto and the Wakefield game?), a fat drunk slob who spent more time on the DL than the field, a guy with an elbow that was partially created in 2010, or a guy with exactly 1.3 years of major league closing experience.

I really am trying to wrap things up here, but the core of what we do is discuss current baseball events.  Feel free to use this space to talk about your Papelbon memories.  I think the 2006-7 utter dominance, wondering if he'll ever give up a run, and putting a case of beer on his head will significantly trump the less favorable memories of bad car commercials, an occasional stupid comment, a few blown saves or extra-inning home runs.  Papelbon won me back this year, and it's a shame to see him leave.

I'm still on vacation, y'all have a great Monday.


Jason Kaplan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ross Kaplan said...

I will forever remember how intense Papelbon looked on the mound. It was as if his eyes stabbed daggers into my heart. I'll remember that plus the extra-inning homer in the rain that A-Rod hit against him in Fenway in the summer of 2007.

Anonymous said...

Good post dv. And I think you are right that papelbon is someone who cares. Through his comments over the years he is clearly someone who cares about his personal stats and the money those stats can make him on a very high level, but he was able to successfully keep that in check where it never became more important than the team winning. And that's the line we can draw easily in baseball, at least moreso than other sports. If papelbon is a "my stats" guy, well then that's really ok because his stats are the only thing that matter in terms of his contribution to the team. He's on that mound alone. No one to pass to. The better his stats, the better the team. "Me" guys can still hurt baseball teams, but really only by becoming a distraction or, in an extreme case, changing approach to rack up certain stats in a way that is detrimental to the team. Papelbon never remotely approached the latter, and although he was a distraction at times - mostly through saying absurd things to the media - it was not the norm for his time in boston. He was mostly a guy who wanted to win games, or at least that's how it seemed.

What I'll take from Papelbon's career in boston is mostly two things:

1. His 06-07 were about as dominant a years as a reliever could have. But he seemed to decline a bit in every year, with diminishing split/slider (mostly the split, because that pitch was so devastating for him in 06/07) and resulting over-reliance on the fastball. Even though he was able to keep his overall numbers at a very solid level (save 2010), the underlying metrics have been on a fairly steady decline. As a flyball pitcher, he was definitely helped being a right-handed pitcher in fenway park, otherwise a few more lefties may have gotten him.

2. The yankees just absolutely owned him. He appeared in 46 games against them and was 0-6 with a 3.86 ERA, saving less than half the games he pitched in (19). And these numbers were bolstered by a strong 2011 vs. NYY, where he converted 4/4 on saves, took no losses, and pitched to a 1.93 ERA. Entering the year, his career ERA was well north of 4 against the yanks.

To put this in context, Papelbon lost 6 games in 6 years against the yanks. It's not fair to compare anybody to Rivera, but he's lost 7 games in 17 years against the sox. He picked up 12 wins, papelbon 0. Rivera 2.82 career era against boston. When two teams playeach other as close as these two teams do, late inning relievers have huge impact in swinging the game. Papelbon, for all of his sucess in boston, did not do a good job swinging games late against the yankees. For all of the tie games he pitched in, to not pick up one single solitary win and rack up 6 losses, is not good workwhen you're talking about 7-8 games per year. It was really fun hitting him around, and I'll miss that element of it. It's fun to have rivalries.

In all, I think philly was smart to sign him and boston was smart to let him go given the teams' respective circumstances.


Anonymous said...


It doesn't bother me that Papelbon left. I think that we'll look back in four years and find that his best years were with Boston and that specifically he was never better than he was in 2006 and 2007. Back then when the Sox had a lead heading into the ninth I was certain they would win. But starting in 2008, that feeling started to erode. And while sabermetrics would tell me that 'feel' has nothing to do with anything, I think that it does. And I don't know if I want to spend $50 million on a 31 year old closer who has lost that presence. If he's great in Philadelphia, good for him. If he's not, good for Boston for letting him go. In the end, he was an excellent closer for the Red Sox and he should always be remembered as such. But right now I'm not too disappointed to see him go.

--the Gunn

Anonymous said...

Unlike many people that were impressed by Pap's bounce back 2011 season, I viewed it in a glass half empty light. It may or may not be fair to compare him to his 2006-2009 self, but last season was a slightly better-than-average season for a closer. You wouldn't want to overpay for 4 more years of regression like that. He was awful in 2010, had some shoulder issues that have never been medically addressed, and is really showing signs of losing his long-term effectiveness. Sure, he may put up good stats in Philly, where he will face a lot of weaker line-ups and late-inning double-switched backups or pinch-hitters. I wouldn't be afraid of any of those NL East line-ups outside of PHI. Bottom line is, I'd rather see the Sox spend the money elsewhere as Pap is not the lights-out pressure situation closer he used to be.