Jonathan Papelbon Reiterates Clubhouse Comments in Interview

Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon has not been shy in voicing his opinion about the team’s clubhouse and the connection it has to their lack of success ever since he inked his four-year, $50 million deal. In February, prior to the start of the 2013 season, he said of the Phillies’ clubhouse, “I haven’t seen any leadership.” In June, he questioned the team’s commitment to getting even the basic fundamentals down. In July, he said he “definitely didn’t come [to Philadelphia] for this.”

Earlier today, Papelbon went on WEEI’s Hot Stove show with Rob Bradford and guest host and former Phillie John McDonald. They asked him a bunch of questions, including what it was like to watch the Red Sox — his former team — win the World Series. He was asked about the Phillies’ clubhouse dynamics and took the opportunity to reiterate what he had said in the past:

“On our team, I honestly believe we have more talent than any other roster out there. But if you don’t take that talent and mesh it together, figure out each others’ little pros and cons and figure out how to make a 25-man roster form into one, nothing will work. I don’t care how much you spend or how many guys you have in the bullpen or how many starters you have and it just doesn’t work,” said Papelbon. “Look at the Red Sox last year. John [McDonald] will probably tell you the moment he walked into the Red Sox clubhouse there was an entirely different feel from when he left Philly. I’m not putting those words in John’s mouth by any means, but when you have a group of guys who go for 162 games plus spring training plus the playoffs, you have to have each other’s backs and know what he’s going to do before the next guy from you is going to do before he does it.”

There’s more:

“I was a new guy coming into the Philadelphia clubhouse. Coming into a new clubhouse, you tend to watch more than you speak. I will say this, I came from a clubhouse where it was in your face, it was ‘this is how we’re going to do it.’ We’re going to yell at each other and when we don’t do what we’re expected of, we’re going to let you know. That’s kind of the way I was groomed into being a baseball player,” said Papelbon. “Then I go to Philadelphia and it wasn’t necessarily that way, and I know that I’ve gotten a bad rap, some of the guys will say I’m not a good clubhouse guy because I’ll get upset and I’ll say something, but I’ve always said what’s on my mind. I don’t think I’ve ever shied away from my beliefs. But I think some of it reporters in Philly maybe take a little bit different because I was used to saying that, hey, this is how I feel, we’re not winning and I’m not happy.”

On one hand, it’s very easy to be skeptical of Papelbon’s comments. Bad clubhouses tend to emerge as a result of losing, not the other way around. If the same group of Phillies, with the same personalities, had managed to defy the odds and make the playoffs, Papelbon likely doesn’t make any of the comments he made in February and beyond.

On the other hand, it’s also easy to believe that Papelbon simply doesn’t fit in with the Phillies’ culture. Every team has a different culture. Papelbon came from a team that was very outgoing with personalities like Manny Ramirez, and David Ortiz becoming the core of the Red Sox as they enjoyed success from 2007-09. Papelbon fit in with his weird commentary in the media and his dancing. Meanwhile, with the exception of Jimmy Rollins, the core of the Phillies during the “golden years” was composed of relatively quiet players who led by example — Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Jayson Werth, and Cole Hamels rarely went out of their way to say anything beyond cliches in interviews and were not animated on the field. Granted, this is some heavy armchair psychoanalysis, but there are some cultures where some players just won’t fit in, and this may be the case with Papelbon.

That being said, there really isn’t any reason for Papelbon to be going on the air trashing his team. All he is doing is creating a controversy where there shouldn’t be one, and giving his teammates another slate of questions they’ll have to answer when they want to be focusing on other subjects to prepare for the 2014 season. And as long as Utley and Rollins are on the team, Papelbon isn’t going to be changing the culture to meet his expectations. What Papelbon should be focusing on is recovering the 3 MPH of velocity he lost on his fastball over the last two seasons and getting his strikeout rate closer to the 30 percent rate it had been as opposed to the 22 percent rate of last season. If he continues to decline, the Phillies will have a real problem on their hands, with as much as $39 million remaining on his contract over the next three years.

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18 comments

  1. Ken

    January 03, 2014 07:20 AM

    There is, of course, a third possibility. It could be that Papelbon, aside from his utter lack of tact and diplomacy, is completely correct. When the Rube dropped Victorino and Pence for a bucket of spit, he took away the very heart of the team.

  2. BeninDC

    January 03, 2014 07:41 AM

    Seriously, @Ken? Pence was on the team for less than a year and played in one playoff series – the last of five years of playoffs. The heart of the team? He was a complementary player. Victorino was a loss last year, his skills and leadership, and Amaro should have resigned him. But that club’s heart was more multifaceted than the Flyin’ Hawaiian’s personality and contributions.

  3. Tim

    January 03, 2014 09:25 AM

    For all I know, Papelbon may be completely right about the lack of leadership or chemistry or whatever in the clubhouse. But the fact also remains that he’s clearly an asshole (which is not to say there’s no place for assholes in sports, obviously), so you have to take everything he says about his peers with a gigantic grain of salt.

  4. JM

    January 03, 2014 09:48 AM

    I see his comments as a borderline apology. he meant no offense when he made the comments. There are different types of leadership and he didn’t see the type he was raised with when he came to the Phillies. I am quite certain that the atmosphere in Boston was much different than Philly, for better or worse, last year. It certainly wasn’t beer & chicken and Paps doesn’t elude to that being the case. the Media will try to stir up controversy wherever possible and Paps is not capable of dealing with or even deflecting it in any kind of real fashion. All that said, he really isn’t a fit in Philly. his style and pace of play are different than the rest of the team, his personality is different, and obviously his expectations are different. he is totally correct about not coming to Philly to lose…he came for the money

  5. jonny 5

    January 03, 2014 09:49 AM

    Maybe Papelbon was part of the “clubhouse problem” in Philly as well as in Boston? It’s no secret that Boston was tearing itself apart from the inside out “clubhouse” wise. Is it just a coincidence that when he goes the entire attitude changes and somehow follows him to Philly? Philly is trying very hard to trade the guy and i’d bet that nobody really likes him very much on the team because he can’t stop the endless crap pouring from his mouth.

  6. dejesus54

    January 03, 2014 10:37 AM

    a. Why is the rest of the Phillies roster being called out for lack of leadership and bad attitudes by a relief pitcher?
    b. Show me Pap’s World Series ring and I show you Nick Punto’s. (59 games at $425,500 for the 2007 Sox vs. 63 games at $750K for the 2011 Cardinals. Pap pitched 4.1 scoreless innings. Punto went 3 for 14, but with 5 walks. You want clutch? I give you clutch.)
    c. re: “On our team, I honestly believe we have more talent than any other roster out there,” of course we don’t want Pap to be honest (I mean, he is being honest to the degree that he may likely believe this to be a true statement, but not to the degree that this is actually a true statement). We want him to be more than truthful (the Phillies can contend with some luck and unexpected degrees of health) and less than honest (I would trade the whole 40-man roster for Mike Trout). But how much of this is, he’s unrealistically evaluating talent based on how much talent he single-handedly brings to a team? Which brings us back to,
    d. Pap is a d*****bag. (But he’s our d*****bag. For the moment. Can we trade him for somebody else who can close for my fantasy team? Wait, did Wagner retire?)

  7. Equious Pondelson

    January 03, 2014 11:46 AM

    You have to love the guys that are complete A-Wahd’s and hide behind that ever lovin statement “I just say what I feel, I say what’s on my mind” as if that excuses him from being a Douche, it doesn’t. Howard Foreskin always uses that tact , does anyone on earth think he is NOT a Douche – of course not.

  8. Melvin

    January 03, 2014 12:55 PM

    Very true , love the Foreskin ref that is dead on.Barkley was the same way , all they have to say is I’m just being honest and they can then say any ignorant thing they want – People are so stupid to buy into their Garbage.

  9. Larry

    January 03, 2014 08:01 PM

    “Meanwhile, with the exception of Jimmy Rollins, the core of the Phillies during the “golden years” was composed of relatively quiet players who led by example — Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Jayson Werth, and Cole Hamels rarely went out of their way to say anything beyond cliches in interviews and were not animated on the field.”

    Less than a month ago, there was this headline in Philly:

    Cole Hamels blasts Phillies’ locker room, says ‘our hitting sucked’ in 2013

    “Our hitting sucked,” Hamels said. “The energy in the clubhouse changed. It used to be all high fives. This season, there weren’t as many high fives. There was a lot of bitterness, pointing fingers — ‘You haven’t played well in a week, why weren’t you in here early?’”

  10. Larry

    January 04, 2014 10:08 AM

    No, No I got it Bill. I should have been more clear on my point. You stated:

    “That being said, there really isn’t any reason for Papelbon to be going on the air trashing his team. All he is doing is creating a controversy where there shouldn’t be one, and giving his teammates another slate of questions they’ll have to answer when they want to be focusing on other subjects to prepare for the 2014 season.”

    My point was that Cole was doing the same thing Paps was. I agree with your statement that Paps should keep his mouth shut. It’s not helping the team. Even though Cole and Paps are being honest, it should be addressed in the locker room.

    I was just pointing out that you were berating Paps but giving Cole a pass for some reason. I was just wondering why you were doing that, unless you forgot what Cole said last month.

  11. Bill Baer

    January 04, 2014 10:41 AM

    I wouldn’t say I’m berating Papelbon. I think he’s likely right about most of what he’s been saying. But it’s a frequent occurrence with him where it’s more of a hindrance than a helpful service.

  12. Josh Soto

    January 04, 2014 02:42 PM

    If you want a stronger clubhouse and better leadership, you dont sit back and wait for it, complain about it, and you definitely dont publicly call out your teammates. Be a leader yourself. Dont ask or expect others to do shit you cant or wont. Calling someone out who had a bad baserunning mistake or 2 errors in a game isnt leadership either. Saying you’re willing to say things because that is who you are and “this is how I feel”, is a cop out.

  13. Andrew Cleveland Alexander

    January 04, 2014 02:54 PM

    Idiot though he is, I think Papelbon must realize what this kind of thing does to the front office, and I think it’s quite possible that he is saying it deliberately in order to force the Phillies to trade him to a team that has a chance to contend next year. If it’s a conscious strategy on his part, it’s even more dickish, as the more discontented he appears the more leverage other teams will have vis-a-vis the Phillies in negotiations over how much of his salary will be picked up.

  14. Josh Soto

    January 04, 2014 03:04 PM

    Ya I think its clear he wants out, but seems like a poor stretegy to market yourself by publicly talking down about your clubhouse. But it is sports and winning cures all. I suggest he takes over some leadership responsibility on the busted relief pitching they’ve had. Not his job, but leaders dont have job descriptions.

  15. Ryan

    January 04, 2014 03:21 PM

    Unless Pap wants to be that leader, then it’s his job to get in line with the style of the team.

  16. Josh Soto

    January 04, 2014 04:01 PM

    Exactly. So then he should shut his mouth.

  17. SocraticGadfly

    January 08, 2014 04:02 PM

    And, he’s way wrong that the Phils have as much talent as any team. Really, Pap? Keep whistling in the wind like that.

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