Papelbon: Boston’s Loss, Philadelphia’s Gain?

A Red Sox fan gives us the benefit of his experience with the closer

Our corporate brothers at Philadelphia magazine asked me to write a post here telling you, from a Bostonian’s perspective, what you’re in for with Jonathan Papelbon. Here’s a little breakdown:

The Good: Papelbon was flat out one of the most fun players the Red Sox have ever had. I wrote about this today on I’m just going to miss the guy. Here’s a bit of what I said:

”Forget the baseball for a second: Papelbon was pure entertainment. Here was a smoke-throwing crazy-man, prone to wild convulsions of fist-pumping. Yeah, I know some people got tired of his act—but hell, it was a pretty fun act. He was about the closest we’ll ever get to seeing Major League’s Ricky Wild Thing Vaughn in real life. He even got the haircut. Baseball, as much as we all love it, is an inherently boring game. Characters like Papelbon add life, they make it fun. Ever since the Idiots of 2004, the Red Sox haven’t had enough of those guys. Seriously, is there anyone else on today’s Red Sox who you think would even consider doing something like shaving his head like Wild Thing Vaughn?”

The Bad: The contract. Four years and $50 million. Wow. Who do they let do the negotiating down there, the Phanatic? I haven’t run into one person in Boston who thinks the Red Sox should have matched that. That’s crazy money for a guy whose shoulder we always worried was about to fall off. Also, there’s been a lot of talk about Papelbon having a great bounceback season this year. To a certain extent, that’s true: His 2011 ERA of 2.94 was almost a full run better than his 2010 ERA. Problem is, it was also more than half a run worse than his ERA in any of his other six full seasons with the Red Sox. So he bounced back from his worst season to have his second-worst season. This is not 2006 Papelbon you’re getting (that year he had a ridiculous 0.92 ERA). Oh, remember to send him a card the day before Thanksgiving. That’s his birthday—he’s turning 31. Good luck with that.

The Ugly: Nobody works more slowly on the mound than Papelbon. SEPTA better plan to run late when he’s in for the 9th. At least by lengthening the game, though, he’ll give Phillies fans more time to vomit on each other and throw projectiles onto the field. I know how much you guys love doing that. So maybe this is just a win-win.

Jason Schwartz is a senior editor at Boston magazine.