The first words out of Jonathan Papelbon’s mouth were telling.
“This year I’ll definitely try to be more of a positive influence, be more upbeat.”
But then Jonathan Papelbon spent the next 20 minutes pretty much saying he was not a problem, that he was a victim of losing, that he didn’t plan on filtering comments in the future and that Ryne Sandberg would be the solution to a clubhouse in need of some good tidings.
Yeah, without coming out and saying it out loud, Papelbon put blame on former manager Charlie Manuel. Even though it was Papelbon, and not Manuel, who said he “didn’t come here for this” during the most trying time of the 2013 season, words that were not received well throughout the organization.
Here is some more from Papelbon’s press conference Monday afternoon:
Q: Is your attitude different?
Papelbon: This year, I'm definitely trying to be a lot more of a positive influence and be more upbeat. It starts from Ryno. It starts from our manager in encouraging us to stay positive and be upbeat even though the last two seasons didn't go as expected for myself and the rest of the guys in that clubhouse.
Q: Are you saying you were not a positive influence last year?
Papelbon: I’m just speaking for myself and nobody else. At times, when you lose 12 games in a row and you're in Detroit and you say you didn't come here for this, that gets spinned in a couple of directions. For me, I didn't come here to lose. I came here to win. I came here to win a world championship. I don't take losing very well.
The one thing I can say that does upset me is a lot of you guys here - not pointing anyone out - took that as I'm a bad teammate, which is definitely not true. I'd break my back for my teammates. I'd do anything. They're my brothers. I'm with them more than my family. If you could ask all 25 guys in there, I live and die for my teammates.
Q: Are you sorry you were vocal?
Papelbon: It was taken in a couple of different directions that may or may not have been right. I said a lot of things in my career that may or may not have been right. I won't take a single one back, though. I say what I say and I mean it. I'm an emotional person. I pitch emotionally. I wear my heart on my sleeve, man. That's just the way I go about it. If that's the way I'm going to continue to do it, I want you guys to know I'm a good teammate. Don't let that spur into the clubhouse when nobody really knows what goes on in that clubhouse.
Q: Was your velocity dip because you lost interest?
Papelbon: No, I don’t think that’s all the case. I think that has something to do with it. My role is an intensity-driven role, so on nights when the ballpark is full and it’s a close game, that’s what makes me tick and we’re in a race. That’s the big reason I’ve always decided to be a closer is when the dial is turned up and there is something on the line, I just seem to be at my best.
When it’s a day game in New York and you’re 12 games behind that dial ain’t really turned up. That ain’t really how I go. I’m sure velocity has something to do with that, but you know I don’t feel like I was at my healthiest I could have been last year and I had to grind through some things here and there. [Later says hip bothered him, but it was just “nagging stuff.”]
Q: Phillies tried to trade you. Is their perception of good teammate different? Have you talked to them about that?
Papelbon: No, we haven’t talked about that. I said that my teammates know me and they know I’ll break my back for them. I don’t think that’s ever been any issue in any clubhouse I’ve been in. So, I think you can take that and run with it however you want to run with it.
Q: Did anyone talk to you about taking on a different role… being a leader…?
Papelbon: No. it’s just something that I decided to do because that’s what our manager’s come in here doing. It’s that simple. (It’s) buying in, man. Like every morning we have a meeting with Ryno and we talk about things. If you can’t buy into your manager you’re not going to buy into anything.
Q: So… you didn’t buy in on Charlie Manuel for two years?
Papelbon: Well, you know, I think, um, when Charlie was here there was already a set environment. There was already a set way of things to do. And they were winning, they were winning, then all of a sudden it hits rock bottom. Literally within a year you start losing. So I think that just took on a whole life of its own. Not that I didn’t buy into it. I bought right in. But two years you lose 100 games a year almost…
Q: Will you consider not being as vocal?
Papelbon: Um, not really, because I never really bit my tongue. It’s something I believe in. If I feel strongly about something, I’m going to tell you the truth.
Q: Is your alter ego, Cinco Ocho, the problem?
Papelbon: Cinco Ocho drives me crazy sometimes. I’ve tried to strangle him many times. He’s got nine lives.