Closer Nation

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.

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photo by David Martin, Boston Herald
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4 comments

  1. bklyntrolleyblogger

    That’s my kind of thinking. Hey, a broken clock is correct twice a day too. I think bullpen problems ultimately scream for making starters pitch longer. We consistently hand over games to mediocre pitching and to arms that can’t handle the often daily shock of relieving. When we start expecting another inning from starters and bring back the Fireman, all these by-the-way injuries waiting to happen will go away.
    …Who needs Spring Training…I’m ready!
    Mike

  2. blithescribe

    Wow. Papelbon does sound strangely profound. It’s definitely not a bad idea for the Sox to block out the hype and just concentrate on playing. It’s interesting how Papelbon has lost a lot of the swagger and become a little more thoughtful as he’s encountered rougher seasons on the mound. Adversity brings maturity even to those I would not have expected. But I think he needs to find a balance and get a little bit of the swagger and confidence back in order to recover his former presence.
    Kristen
    This is a very Simple Game…

  3. thomasox

    Randy,
    After watching some of the MLB Network Special on closers, I will stand by Pap until his arm falls off. He is 5th in the majors over the past two seasons for saves. We move dangerously close to Yankee management thinking when we assume that only the best closer in the game is suitable, when such a thing is hard to predict. The life of the closer can be brief, so yes Pap’s best years might be in the past. Or he can make adjustments, like the best pitchers do, and have five more great seasons. But egos are always in need of careful management, though an essential quality for the closer.
    Thanks for reading!
    michael

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