Sometimes Jonathan Papelbon’s syntax is a little strange, not to mention a few mixed metaphors and some surprising, thinly veiled insults to others around him. Sometimes Jonathan Papelbon is a little strange, without the words. But in recent days, the king of the Red Sox closers–though that title is nebulous according to many–has made some sense, both scholarly and profound. With all the jubilation about our Winter Signings Wonderland, we have been counting the wins. 100? 103? The best records in baseball in 84 years? But Pap brings us back to reality. He deflates the hype the way he punctures the hearts of autograph seekers by driving right by them with nary a glance.
We don’t have the best bullpen in baseball until we win the World Series, he says. This led me to consider how an overloaded pitching staff can suddenly look like the rotation of the PawSox. After last year’s decimating injuries to just about everyone in the lineup, we must be cautious about our expectations. That doesn’t mean my heart isn’t racing with the sight of palm trees.More importantly, though, I am thinking about the way we assume our bullpen is overloaded. We assume Bard is the closer of the future. Hey, we have Bobby Jenks, too. Was anyone paying attention when baseball’s brightest star unhinged his elbow in the nation’s capital? Of course we all were watching. We watched more closely as our middle relief and closers blew lead after lead. We have the bats, but never ever enough arms.