At this point in the season and with the particular circumstances present, the question has to be asked, that of “does Jonathan Papelbon want out of Philadelphia?” One can also presuppose the notion that Philadelphia might want Papelbon out of Philadelphia.
Whichever way you may wish to look at the issue at hand, one thing for sure is that Papelbon’s time in Philadelphia may be running out and another team may be the ideal suitor to pick up his time clock; however, before we make any brash assumptions, let’s look further into the recent clamor that has surrounded Philadelphia and Papelbon, and the potential solutions that may unfold with the ensuing trade deadline in July.
The recent debacle concerning Papelbon has its roots in Wednesday’s game between the Phillies and the Washington Nationals, a game in which the Nationals walked off with a victory in the 11th inning on a grand slam by Ian Desmond.
Papelbon was brought into the ninth with a 2-1 lead with the objective of cementing a three-game sweep of the Nationals and garnering his 15th save of the season in the process. However, all did not go as planned.
However, the Phillies closer would surrender a walk to Adam LaRoche, placing Span in scoring position at second. Jayson Werth would then approach the plate, ripping the first pitch of the at-bat to left, scoring Span and tying the game at 2-2.
Papelbon would strike out Desmond to end the inning, but the damage had already taken its toll. It would be his second blown save in his last three games, having blown his first of the season on Monday (while earning the win in the process).
Although he had pitched in two straight games coming into Wednesday’s contest, Papelbon had only thrown 24 pitches in those efforts, suggesting that he was more than capable of getting the job done on Wednesday.
However, he did not get the job done and Papelbon would be the first one to acknowledge that following the game.
Papelbon being Papelbon?
“That’s a tough one to swallow,” Papelbon said. “As a closer, it’s important for me to be able to finish off those wins for our starters. Unfortunately, the bullpen wasn’t able to do it tonight. I’ve got to be able to make a pitch to Werth there. I have to get into more of a battle with him.”
But before we suggest that he was solely accepting of his performance and gracious in the losing effort, let’s continue with more statements from Papelbon.
“This is a game of fundamentals and we’ve got to do fundamentals right and keep grinding,” he said. “It’s a game of who grinds the most and who plays the best fundamental baseball. That’s pretty much it.”
“I’m not pointing fingers at anyone. It’s a team effort here. To be able to win and be in the forefront of the playoff race, you have to play good fundamental baseball and do the little things, and the little things are before the pitches are thrown. There’s 150 pitches thrown by our pitchers and before every one of those we have to make sure we’re putting ourselves in a position to be the best we can before each pitch.”
Not pointing fingers? Well, to be quite honest, calling out the Philadelphia bullpen, offense, and defense (essentially the entire team) seems to be a form of pointing fingers.
Papelbon is right when he says that a team must have all of its players playing to their absolute potential and performing in-sync to give the best performance possible. However, it is certainly not his place to point to the performance of other players.
Rather, Papelbon should have focused on his sole responsibility and the one thing that is of his own concern, that of his own performance.
Calling out your fellow teammates will not get you positive attention and reactions from the rest of your team, fans, and certainly the media, as has been the developing case with Papelbon in the days since Wednesday.
Although this may be my own opinion and by no means am I suggesting that any player or person to agree with this sentiment, but here is the proper response that Papelbon and other big league relievers (and to an extent, all big leaguers for that matter) should make following rough outings:
“I did not bring my best game to the mound and as a result I blew the game. The other team (in this case, the Nationals) was able to take advantage and come away with the win. All we can do is put the game behind us, pick up our heads, and move on to our next game where we will look to play better.”
Despite the recent drama, is it realistic that Papelbon will be moved?
And more interestingly, does Papelbon want to be moved?
From his statements following the game on Wednesday, it appeared that a bit of animosity and impatience comprised the undertone of the message. Although nobody can truly attest to what Papelbon is truly thinking in regards to his level of contentment with the Phillies, we can always make an educated guess.
And that guess is that his patience has grown thin, especially on a team that has played mediocre baseball for much of this season.
While Papelbon’s patience may be dwindling, can the same be said about the Phillies?
According to CSNPhilly.com, in a question-and-answer session with Philadelphia GM Ruben Amaro Jr. on Thursday, June 13, Amaro was adamant that he did not want to break up the core of his roster come the trade deadline and virtually ruled out a potential move of Papelbon, wherein he suggested that a definitive replacement for the Phillies closer was nonexistent.
However, if Amaro and the Phillies organization decide to waiver from their original testament (that of not moving Papelbon), two particular teams could be potential suitors come the deadline.
Those teams are the Boston Red Sox and the Detroit Tigers
Boston was confident in Joel Hanrahan (acquired in the off-season from the Pittsburgh Pirates) to fill that role at the beginning of the season, however, a string of early poor performances and a season-ending injury took Hanrahan out of the picture for the Red Sox.
In stepped Bailey, who has been less than impressive in the ninth inning this season. In his last five outings, Bailey has posted a 15.75 ERA and 3.25 WHIP, as well has surrendered four home runs and five walks. In that five game span, Bailey has blown three saves and has seen his ERA balloon from 1.47 to 4.03.
As for Detroit, their closer situation is not any better. Jose Valverde has posted a 5.54 ERA in 20 relief appearances this season, highlighted by his most recent appearance on Wednesday in which he surrendered four runs on five hits in one inning of work.
Although Joaquin Benoit and Drew Smyly have provided the Tigers with solid relief appearances this season, they don’t necessarily offer the Tigers definitive solutions at the closer role, which may lead Detroit to shop the market come the trade deadline.
Whether Papelbon will be on the table for the Red Sox and Tigers to consider is still yet to be known.
But two things are known at this time: the relationship between the Phillies and Jonathan Papelbon appears to be strained at best, and both the Red Sox and Tigers are in desperate need of a closer (as both will need a definitive closer to remain atop their respective divisions in the summer stretch ahead).
For now, only time will tell. Papelbon will continue to be Papelbon, while Boston and Detroit will continue to feel the anxiety over finding a closer.