Jonathan Papelbon Is Right

Closer Jonathan Papelbon caused a stir last night after telling the media that the Phillies need changes “from top to bottom” and that he doesn’t want to be in Philadelphia if he is “going to have to put up with this year after year”. The comments haven’t really gone over well with many Phillies fans and those who cover the team. It does seem like his reputation precedes him, which has prevented some from objectively critiquing his comments.

Here are the choice quotes in full, via Todd Zolecki:

Papelbon signed a four-year, $50 million contract in November 2011, but he has known mostly losing at this point in Philadelphia. The Phillies returned home after a 12-4 loss to the Tigers riding an eight-game losing streak and a season-high seven games under .500.

“I definitely didn’t come here for this,” he said.

Papelbon carries an influential presence in the Phillies’ clubhouse as the team’s closer, a nine-year veteran and World Series champion. Asked what he thought about the direction the organization is headed, he sighed.

“Oh, man,” he said. “We could be here all day.”

So then what about this team’s ability to turn things around, if not this season, then next season?

“It’s going to take, in my opinion, a lot,” he said. “And in my opinion, I think it’s going to have to be something very similar to what the Red Sox went through a couple years ago. From top to bottom.”

Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr., declined comment.

Papelbon saw the 2011 Red Sox fail in a similar way. After making the playoffs three consecutive seasons from 2007-09, the Red Sox had floundered towards the end of the 2011 season, going 7-20 in September and missing the playoffs for a second consecutive year. Controversies were rampant — who can forget the beer and fried chicken story? After the 2011 season, the Red Sox went in a different direction, waving goodbye to GM Theo Epstein and manager Terry Francona. They also let Papelbon walk into free agency along with other organizational stalwarts, including Tim Wakefield and Jason Varitek (both retired).

There are a lot of similarities between the 2011 Red Sox and 2013 Phillies. If anyone can legitimately comment on the state of the team, it’s Papelbon. In his above comments, he actually showed admirable restraint, as he could have gone into vivid detail about all the things the team has done wrong. And if you read only the quote without attribution, it could have come from anyone — an anonymous front office source or a writer, for instance.

Papelbon is simply saying that the Phillies need to bring in some new leadership, and he’s not wrong. Many pundits and fans have been calling for exactly that all season long, and definitely over the past week as the Phillies went 1-8 on a nine-game road trip. Manager Charlie Manuel‘s contract is up after the season and it is assumed third base coach Ryne Sandberg will end up being promoted. Under Sandberg, or an as yet unknown future manager, the Phillies could bring in a new coaching staff as well. Whether a coaching staff shuffle actually does anything remains up for debate, but suggesting it could be helpful is not farfetched.

As for the “bottom”, he is correct again: the Phillies do need to get rid of some players: Michael Young, Delmon Young, Carlos Ruiz, and that’s just to start. Trades involving Chase Utley, Cliff Lee, and Jimmy Rollins should be considered. Moving Ryan Howard‘s contract should be broached (if the Angels could move Vernon Wells, the Phillies can move Howard). Once again, this is something that has been a common topic of conversation among fans and writers. Papelbon is only saying what we have all been saying for months.

More from Papelbon:

Asked after the game if he wants to be traded, Papelbon said, “No, I would like to stay here. But if I’m going to have to put up with this year after year, then no, I don’t want to be here. Why would you? Why would anybody?”

The Phillies are open to trading Papelbon, although Amaro does not have an option to replace him internally. But there does not seem to be much interest in him at the moment. Joaquin Benoit has been effective closing for the Tigers, and Koji Uehara has been even more impressive closing games for the Red Sox.

Papelbon is 2-0 with a 2.21 ERA and 20 saves in 25 opportunities.

“If I don’t do my job right, they’re going to find somebody else,” he said. “How is that different than the rest of the organization?”

The “this” in “put up with this”, I assume, refers to the Phillies’ embarrassing level of play in their recently-completed road trip. As you can see here, the Phillies played Little League-level baseball and were completely outclassed by the Mets, Cardinals, and Tigers. If you’re a veteran player, signed to the richest deal ever given to a player at your position, you do not want to be part of a team that plays more like a .300 team than a .600 team. Papelbon will be 33 years old when the 2014 season starts and he will enter the third year of his four-year deal. He has a limited time left as a productive reliever. Not a soul on the planet would opt to spend that limited time on a team like the Astros when one could be contributing to a championship-caliber team.

It is understandable that a 1-8 road trip has left fans feeling frustrated. Papelbon blew five saves in a calendar month between June 17 and July 14. He is showing signs of decline, with markedly lower velocity and a dramatic decline in strikeouts. He has a reputation as a loudmouth without the normal set of social graces. None of that is reason to discount his entirely legitimate criticism of the organization as they approach the July 31 trade deadline.

Leave a Reply

*

46 comments

  1. sbs

    July 29, 2013 08:47 AM

    I agree with Papelbon’s general sentiment. I also appreciate the irony of Papelbon calling out management for burying this franchise because of poor decisions, such as, oh, paying a closer $50 million.

  2. John

    July 29, 2013 08:50 AM

    Wait, so you think Papelbon shouldn’t be traded as well? Didnt see his name listed

  3. SteveH

    July 29, 2013 08:57 AM

    Great article Bill. I’m happy to see that someone on this team is not afraid to tell the truth. We all saw what has happened since the second game after the all star break until now. We all know this team truly needs to be torn down before it can rise again. Eight unearned runs takes me back to the 100 loss teams I used to pay 5 bucks to go watch play at the Vet. The Phillies may have reached the same point that the Eagles did last year. It’s time for a new look in charge because obviously this one is not working. Can we offer Ryan Howard to the Yankees for a bag of balls? They don’t even have to be new balls. Just get rid of the contract and move forward. It will hurt to see him, Ruiz, Utley, and possibly Lee go but in the end, it will probably help more then it hurts.

  4. Bill Baer

    July 29, 2013 08:59 AM

    I meant to include this in the article, but I’ll just toss it in here:

  5. Greg

    July 29, 2013 09:10 AM

    Was his saying that the Phillies need to look at what Boston did a sideways manner of saying they need to get rid of him? Because that’s a big part of what Boston did in their remodeling.

  6. JayZeeBee

    July 29, 2013 09:24 AM

    Yes, I believe acknowledged very clearly that he could be a part of the restructuring.

  7. hk

    July 29, 2013 09:25 AM

    With Detroit’s acquisition of Veras from Houston today, I don’t see a potential trade partner to acquire Papelbon unless the Phils eat a lot of his contract.

  8. SteveH

    July 29, 2013 09:38 AM

    Bill, the post you added is the one thing about being a Philly sports fan that I am ashamed of. We do that so often, and I have been guilty of it on more then one occasion. We ask for honesty but don’t like it when we hear it. I hope we can trade Papelbon and get a good future piece for him. No hard feelings or anything like that. We signed him and it didn’t work out. We move on because at least he wasn’t Mike Jackson.

  9. Murph

    July 29, 2013 10:10 AM

    The only problem I have is the implication in Papelbon’s comments that he is outside the problem. I know some here think he is not saying that, but it strikes me, since he hasn’t seen much time since the break, he is suggesting that he is not the problem. Well, he is a big part of the problem. But, Bill, how can you agree with Paplebon’s comments on the one hand, and champion the Phils resigning Utley on the other. Utley should be trade: old, getting older, skills (while still good) diminishing, will cost a lot, is actually the only player (assuming Lee is not going anywhere) who can bring some quality talent in return. Its a no-brainer in my eyes.

  10. Dan D

    July 29, 2013 10:45 AM

    I’d love to see the difference in reaction in general if it were Chase or Jimmy who said this. Actually, I’m sure people would just call Jimmy lazy and call him “boy”. But everybody would agree if Chase said this.

  11. Phillie697

    July 29, 2013 11:24 AM

    Some fans can also stand to be a little more honest. Just saying. I believe not even a month ago, many fans were openly hostile to people who suggested that the Phillies had no shot for the playoffs this year. Now those same fans are singing a different tone and acting like that’s what they believed all along.

    @Murphy,

    How is Papelbon a “big” part of the problem? By all accounts he’s pitched fairly well. His $50M contract wasn’t his fault. Can’t blame a man for getting as big of a contract as you possibly can. Blame the guy who gave it to him.

    @Dan D.

    That’s the thing tho. Chase would never say this. Honesty or not, there is something irksome about taking $50M from a team and then saying, “I don’t want to be here if you are going to suck.”

  12. Larry

    July 29, 2013 11:39 AM

    Jimmy Rollins honesty was even funnier.

    “There are still a couple things I would like to be number one on the lists of in this organization,” Rollins said, “so until those things are done, I’m not going anywhere.”

    This is what I’ve been saying all along, he’s padding his stats. He could have said I want to be a Phillie for life or I love the fans, organization, etc.

    How can people be mad at Paps and not be mad at Jimmy?

  13. Phillie697

    July 29, 2013 11:46 AM

    @Larry,

    You DO realize in baseball, wanting to pad your stats IS basically how you actually perform your job right? This is the most individualistic sport of all team sports; there is very little chance for a player to “sacrifice” himself for the good of the team. Bunting and sac fly perhaps, but bunting has already been show to have dubious benefits to the team, and sac flies have been adjusted to not hurt a player. So Jimmy wants to get hits, steals, runs and/or RBIs? Wow, color me mad for him wanting to do those things.

    You can’t take the mentality of basketball, football, hockey, or soccer and use it on baseball. It doesn’t work.

  14. Tony

    July 29, 2013 11:56 AM

    John Papelbon is right, this team stinks. It was poorly constructed. Contracts have handcuffed this team which is not the player’s fault, they could have left just like Jayson Werth did. The problem is with the upper management of the team. It is time to blow this up. We have no middle relief, no bats, poor execution on both sides of the ball and players who are constantly hurt. Add it up and this is the second coming of the Philadelphia Eagles of 2012.

  15. Murph

    July 29, 2013 11:58 AM

    @Philly697

    I took his comments to mean not just on-filed competence but the entire salary structure. Hence, his reference to the Red Sox. His contract is an albatross. He came to Philly to compete, but more importantly to make a lot more money than anyone else was willing to offer him. That said, his on-field performance has been hardly better than the median for major league closers since he has been with the Phils.

  16. Pencilfish

    July 29, 2013 12:05 PM

    Phillie697,

    “Blame the guy who gave it to him.”

    RAJ is the GM and the face of the franchise. He negotiates with agents and players. I’m sure he makes recommendations, but to assume he gets to play with the owners’ money without any input from them is not a realistic portrayal of the negotiating process. One just has to read what Brian Cashman said about the Alfonso Soriano (and previously the Rafael Soriano signing) trade to underscore how decisions are made collectively. Somehow the owners have escaped any blame in your eyes. This is surprising because they signed and then extended RAJ’s contract, so who’s really to blame?

  17. Phillie697

    July 29, 2013 12:10 PM

    @Murphy,

    Given that most of the team isn’t even performing at league average, I hardly think he’s a “big” part of the problem. Once you tie his performance to the contract though, you really should blame the FO; obviously every other FO in MLB knew something our FO apparently didn’t (plenty of fans, incidentally, did, which is the sad part).

  18. hk

    July 29, 2013 12:11 PM

    Pencilfish,

    Was it not you who credited RAJ for taking the Phillies back to the playoffs in 2009, 2010 and 2011?

  19. Phillie697

    July 29, 2013 12:13 PM

    @Pencilfish,

    A CEO of a company who doesn’t exercise individual judgment but just does what the board of directors tells him to do is not a good CEO.

    Plus, ownership is harder to change than the GM. I will say something I’ve been saying to Larry over and over and over again: One bad apple, no matter how bad it is, does not mean other bad apples don’t exist. And I’m pretty sure conventional wisdom usually is that unless you have proof of ownership meddling, you assume the GM made the decision. Do you have proof of our ownership being meddlesome?

  20. Murph

    July 29, 2013 12:18 PM

    I clearly blame the front office for the contract. No doubt about it. I’m just suggesting that Paplebon’s performance is far below his contract value. I’m just not willing to take him off the hook for being a significant part of the Phils weak performance. I think, in his heart, he is not responsible at all, and other people are. That is wrong, frankly. That is my point.

  21. Larry

    July 29, 2013 12:18 PM

    697,

    When I saw the article Jimmy refusing to be traded, I was surprised, because I always felt jimmy was a selfish player. Then I read why he doesn’t want to be traded. First I laughed really hard, then laughed and laughed and then laughed again. This is one of your club house leaders? I don’t care about winning, I care about my stats?

    As far as sacrificing yourself for the team, have you watched Shane Victorino and Chase Utley play the game?

    Do you ever think Jimmy will knock over a catcher in 2013? Do you think Chase tries to get hit by a pitch, because he likes pain? Shane always sacrificed himself with bunts or hit to the right side to move the runner from second. There are so many ways players give themselves up and play fundamental baseball.

    Now does everyone see why our lead off hitter was trying to hit home runs last year instead of just getting on base? Do all of the strikeouts and pop ups make sense now? Was that helping the team instead of moving a runner or getting on base?? Hey he was being honest though. I do respect his honesty, even if it was so selfish, but now we know the truth. I’ll still root for him to make the Hall of Fame.

  22. Phillie697

    July 29, 2013 12:24 PM

    Larry,

    Except stats don’t comport with your criticism. Last year Bill did an article that showed that JRoll had a higher OPS on first pitch than every other count. And his walk rate the past 3 full seasons have been 10.2, 9.2, and 8.9, which are FANTASTIC. This is not a man who’s doing what your eyes think they see; this is why I don’t trust eyes.

  23. Phillie697

    July 29, 2013 12:30 PM

    @Murphy,

    “Honesty or not, there is something irksome about taking $50M from a team and then saying, “I don’t want to be here if you are going to suck.”

    Believe me, I’m not happy with that comment either, so I’m with ya. Still, I wouldn’t say he’s a “big” part of the problem. He’s just a selfish idiot with way too big of a mouth.

  24. Larry

    July 29, 2013 12:35 PM

    I bet when Paps heard that Cliff Lee was a scratch, he probably thought why did I come to this road trip? He’s probably wondering how Cole Hamels “Mr ACE” hardly ever gets him a save opportunity? Clearly he’s frustrated and wants to do his job, but there are so little opportunities for him. Out of 105 games, Paps had only 25 save opportunities so far?

    He could clearly help this team, but they don’t really even use him in non-save, key leverage situations. How do you justify his pay if you hardly ever use him? He would have been a lot better to have in years 2009-2011. He should be traded, but now his value goes down a little with what he said. Teams don’t like players who talk bad about their organization to the media.

  25. Tim

    July 29, 2013 12:48 PM

    I’ve got no problem with Jimmy’s statements. Part of the argument against him seems to be that he should be more committed to the team winning. But if you were in his shoes, how excited would you really be about getting shipped out so the team would be better without you (though to be fair, in those situations it usually helps that they get shipped to a contender)? As for the padding his stats part, I think it’s a healthy ambition for a ballplayer to have to want to be on the all-time leaderboards for a team. It’s up to management to decide whether its worth it for the team to give him the PAs necessary to achieve that. But I’m glad that Jimmy has those goals.

  26. joecatz

    July 29, 2013 12:48 PM

    I take no issue with anything that papelbon said fro the perspective of it being the truth. Where I take issue is that its not his place to say it.

    Period.

    His comments effectively lessened his trade value (if he still had any) and put a sour taste in the air. If I made those kinds of comments about my boss? I’d be fired.

    Whether he was right or wrong is not the issue. the issue is him opening his mouth at every turn to voice his opinion. Its unnecessary, and has no positive value whatoever.

  27. Phillie697

    July 29, 2013 12:59 PM

    “• THE DODGERS. We’ve seen a lot of speculation that the Dodgers could be open to trading Andre Ethier or Carl Crawford in a big deal. But some people wonder instead: Shouldn’t they be more open to trading Matt Kemp? Since the Dodgers caught fire last month, Kemp has made it through an entire game only eight times. So they’ve essentially been winning without him. Ethier has actually played well in center in Kemp’s absence. And the Dodgers have one of the bright lights of the Futures Game, center-field prospect Joc Pederson, just over the horizon. We keep waiting for a huge name to pop onto this market in the final two days before the deadline. So just asking a question others have pondered: Why not Matt Kemp?”

    I would offer Dodgers Cliff Lee and Ryan Howard for Matt Kemp, with no salary swaps (I don’t really care where they play Ryan Howard and/or Gonzalez, that’s their problem). And throw in Corey Seager too, Magic.

  28. Larry

    July 29, 2013 01:00 PM

    @ Tim,

    I like players to have goals. I have no issue with that, but the fact that was his only reason for staying is terrible, especially for a team leader. I wish he would have said, I want to stay, because I love the Phillies, I love the fans, and I have unfinished goals that I want to achieve as a Phillie. Even if he didn’t believe that, he should have lied. With all of these players saying selfish things to the media, I feel like they are turning into the New York Jets. It’s starting to get out of control and someone should step up change this before the culture of the locker room gets really bad.

  29. Larry

    July 29, 2013 01:14 PM

    “By Phillie697 on Jul 29, 2013

    Larry,

    Except stats don’t comport with your criticism. Last year Bill did an article that showed that JRoll had a higher OPS on first pitch than every other count. And his walk rate the past 3 full seasons have been 10.2, 9.2, and 8.9, which are FANTASTIC. This is not a man who’s doing what your eyes think they see; this is why I don’t trust eyes.”

    I blame Charlie Manuel for this. Clearly having a lead off hitter with a 316 OBP last year and 317 OBP this year doesn’t work well. There is way to many solo homers on this team. He should have been moved down the lineup. I am glad that Charlie finally put Revere in that spot, but now he is injured.

    One other thing I thought was funny:

    About 2 weeks ago Charlie publicly stated that they need more help……………And boom, in walks Michael Martinez. lol There’s your help Charlie, now go win the division.

  30. Pencilfish

    July 29, 2013 01:32 PM

    “I’m pretty sure conventional wisdom usually is that unless you have proof of ownership meddling, you assume the GM made the decision.”

    Conventional wisdom also says one gets a say in how his/her money is used or invested. If that applies to you and me, why wouldn’t it apply to the owners? Otherwise, why trade Lee after getting Halladay and trade Pence after re-signing Hamels?

    It’s one thing to call RAJ a bad GM. It’s another to claim he has unlimited power within the organization.

  31. Larry

    July 29, 2013 01:46 PM

    @Pencilfish,

    “Conventional wisdom also says one gets a say in how his/her money is used or invested. If that applies to you and me, why wouldn’t it apply to the owners? Otherwise, why trade Lee after getting Halladay and trade Pence after re-signing Hamels?

    It’s one thing to call RAJ a bad GM. It’s another to claim he has unlimited power within the organization.”

    I have to agree with you, or why wouldn’t RAJ be fired right now?? Clearly most owners approve contracts especially big ones. Maybe some of the bad decisions came from ownership, not RAJ.

  32. Tim

    July 29, 2013 02:04 PM

    Larry, while I don’t have a problem with Jimmy’s statements, you’re absolutely right that they were not the best things for him to say, and your phrasing would have certainly been an improvement. I think that’s an issue that Rollins has – he often has a point in my eyes, but he hasn’t exactly mastered the art of tact.

  33. Scott G

    July 29, 2013 02:07 PM

    Pencilfish,

    So ownership made RAJ spend more money on an expensive closer than an inexpensive closer? That sounds insane to me. If anything you would expect ownership to want RAJ to use saavy means at finding a quality closer on the cheap.

  34. Pencilfish

    July 29, 2013 04:29 PM

    Scott G,

    “Made RAJ spend money”? Surely, RAJ had input, and it is possible he had decisive input, but it is a collective decision. People who think GM’s have absolute power over all personnel decisions are delusional. As for closers on the cheap, he tried Aumont, who had been characterized as “future closer”. We know how that is turning out.

  35. Scott G

    July 29, 2013 04:44 PM

    Pencilfish,

    Yea, the SAVVY decision to finding a QUALITY CLOSER on the cheap included using a pitcher with a career 5.82 BB/9…

    In the perfect world, shouldn’t the owners have 0 input on the personnel decisions? I mean, aside from setting a budget, shouldn’t they leave the personnel decisions to the guy they pay to know the most about just that very topic?

    Obviously it’s not the case, or we wouldn’t be talking about it, but is there any evidence to prove that the owners told them to pay Pap that ridiculous amount of money?

    Maybe the owners should hire someone that is willing to use all information at his disposal to make the Phillies good again.

  36. Lee

    July 29, 2013 05:10 PM

    The mouth has spoken..again. Who gives a crap what he say’s. He may be right, but seriously, a relief pitcher should be silent and concentrate saving ALL his games. He’s art of the problem.

  37. solon

    July 29, 2013 08:35 PM

    I don’t understand how you can blame a guy for being honest and of all of the games so far only have 25 save opportunities. He gets 50 million. Ok this day and age a closer is the main part. If he can’t do hia job you don’t win. I don’t remember too many complaining when he first signed the contract. You are placing blame on him, but who signed delmon young before the season giving up nate? I don’t think papelbon did that. You guys blame the players, but looking at this horrible offseason, did you really expect a playoff team? People should be calling for the head of RAJ. Any one that says I don’t know I guess that’s my job to figure out shouldn’t be running a local mcdonalds let alone a mlb team!!!

  38. hk

    July 29, 2013 09:17 PM

    solon,

    You must be new to this website if you think no one here complained when they signed Papelbon or that no one here is calling for the head of RAJ. Look at the archives from when Papelbon and Delmon Young (among others) signed and you’ll see plenty of critics of the deals and the GM.

  39. Matt

    July 30, 2013 03:16 AM

    No, This is worse than the 2012 Philadelphia Eagles. At least that team still had players who are young and talented, not to mention explosive on offense. Just in need of some defensive leadership – similar to the Houston Texans. The 2013 Phillies have only Hamels and Brown to put any near future hope in. Reminds me more of when those roles were filled by Schilling and Rolen. And those guys never ended up being the “foundation” of the future.

  40. Matt

    July 30, 2013 03:16 AM

    …. The pre-Wade Phillips Houston Texans…

  41. Phillie697

    July 30, 2013 11:34 AM

    I believe I had wanted to occupy RAJ’s office when the Papelbon contract was announced. I had wanted to before that, but I REALLY wanted to by that point.

    It was the second worst contract handed out by RAJ, and the shock value of which was mitigated in the most major way possible because he was also the man who handed out (or at least had a hand in doing so) the Worst Contract in MLB History, so by comparison the Papelbon contract looked rather tame.

  42. Pencilfish

    July 31, 2013 12:21 PM

    Scott G,

    I disagree that owners should have 0 input on personnel decisions. Owners of other organizations do (ie, Yankees). That’s not to say they meddle on every decision, but it certainly be unwise for a GM not to consult with ownership on important decisions. It would be bizarre if RAJ doesn’t have regular meetings with ownership to update them on roster moves, farm news, coaching vacancies, etc.

    Here’s David Montgomery talking about RAJ recently:

    “Ruben is not making independent decisions. He’s going with a pretty good group of eyes who are looking out there at players and making determinations.”

  43. solon

    August 01, 2013 02:36 AM

    Hk,
    I didn’t mean that no one complained when he got signed or that no one blames RAJ. What I am saying, is I don’t understand how people are blaming him. He understands that he is getting paid 50 million, but he has had zero opportunity to actually make it money. He even stated he is part of the problem. What I don’t understand is how every can put this horrible season on him. I mean, even the Astros have more save opportunities under their belts then Papelbon. All I am saying is every grown man has to feel the same way he does, I play softball in a beer league and get pissed off when we lose, I couldn’t even imagine to be a closer in the MLB and only getting reps as a reliever cause there is no chance at winning.

  44. Joshua Gruenberg

    August 01, 2013 08:38 PM

    Papelbon should shut up and pitch. He sucks.

  45. hk

    August 03, 2013 05:53 AM

    “You guys blame the players, but looking at this horrible offseason, did you really expect a playoff team? People should be calling for the head of RAJ.”

    solon,

    I was responding to this comment of yours and pointing out that many who comment on this site don’t hate the players, they hate the contracts given to those players by the GM and they do call for RAJ to be fired.

Next ArticleThe Bullpen in a Nutshell