I wish I could have a heart to heart with Jonathan Papelbon and find that switch that turns off that overbearing, abrasive figure he sometimes can be. Maybe then, baseball would love this man. I’m sure many have tried and have come out on the losing end of the argument. Baseball is not at all based on anything but results, and Papelbon has delivered in that area over his entire career. But clubhouse antics and being cast as a “me” player has overshadowed that.
On Sunday night, he decided to deem himself unavailable to pitch due to soreness in his general neck area. This would have been a moot point, but the Phillies blew a three run lead in the ninth and lost the game. It irked his manager to the point that Sandberg called him out and the media has been on attack mode ever since. It does seem like a “me” decision, but if you take into account that Papelbon has never had a trip to the disabled list in his entire career and that he pitched through injuries last season, maybe he is just a smart player that knows what his body is capable of. But there will always be doubt about his true intentions when Papelbon is involved.
I don’t hold that against him, but there are other things that really annoy me about the man. He has a huge problem communicating with other human beings. When he talks, he reminds me of the Biff Tannen character from the Back to the Future movies. In Biff Tannen style, he bullies everyone around him. Reporters, teammates, fans, nobody is safe. If he wants the respect that his abilities deserve, learn how to address yourself in public. If not, continue being an idiot. For me, I don’t care, I don’t coach him and I don’t share a locker room with him, but the Philadelphia Phillies should care if he continues to cross the line. Nothing he did Sunday crossed that line, but everyone is patiently waiting for it.
The hard thing about judging someone’s character from a distance is that you really have no idea what that person is like unless your with them on a daily basis. Rumors and such fan the fire, but everything is hearsay. Basically, from what I’ve seen, I don’t like. Whether it be the story of him farting in the general direction of reporters or calling out teammates, it just doesn’t jive with me and it tells me that there has to be some tension in that Phillies clubhouse.
Through all his antics, Papelbon has had a bounce back season for the Phillies and is the lone shining star in a very bad bullpen. He has not allowed an earned run in 14 straight appearances and has an ERA of 1.76 for the season. Players are batting .185 against him and his line drive percentage is down to 12.5% from his career 18.8%. While he’s striking out less batters and his velocity is down, he is starting to find his grove as a placement pitcher that relies on his knowledge of the game.
Papelbon’s season has started out on a good note and again he is one of the top closers in the game. If he could work on his public image people might take light of just how good he is. But for now, and until he decides to change, he will always be scorned by the general public and will never get the respect he truly deserves as one of the best relievers of this era.
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