New Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon talked about how excited he was to be on the five-time defending N.L East champions and it had more to do with it than the four-year, $50 million contract he signed with a vesting option for 2016.
With the Phillies, Papelbon won’t have to face daily questions about picking up the pieces with his former team, the Boston Red Sox, after the team’s historic September collapse that was followed by stories suggesting players were among other things, drinking beer and eating fried chicken during games.
The Red Sox owned a nine-game lead for the wild card playoff race after Sept. 3. They went 7-20 for the month and watched as the Tampa Bay Rays secured the wild card spot on the last day of the regular season by beating the New York Yankees, while the Red Sox lost at Baltimore.
Papelbon went 0-1 with a 3.72 ERA in September and he blew two of four save opportunities. In the final 4-3 loss at Baltimore that eliminated the Red Sox, Papelbon blew the save and also suffered the loss.
“It was probably one of the toughest things I have gone through in my career,” Papelbon said of the final month collapse. “Those situations and those moments that happen to define who you are as a player and who you are going to be as a player and how you can handle adversity.”
There was plenty of adversity to handle. After the season, manager Terry Francona and the team parted ways. Francona was accused of having lost the clubhouse and running a less than tight ship.
“For me it was a big learning experience and something I will put in the back pocket and something I can always go to,” Papelbon said.
Then after the season came unfavorable stories in the Boston media, including a report by the Boston Globe that Red Sox pitchers Josh Beckett, John Lackey and Jon Lester drank beer, played video games and ate fried chicken in the clubhouse during games.
Those stories caught Papelbon off-guard.
“I was surprised,” he said. “I thought a lot of it was kind of unnecessary and a lot if it kind of didn’t really play into the fact that there is still a game to be played and there is still baseball to be played besides what is going on in the clubhouse and the private things going on between players and coaches in the clubhouse.”
Papelbon admits that it wasn’t the most conducive atmosphere for winning.
“What matters most is what we get paid to do which is to go out and play baseball,” he said. “I feel like, yeah, it did get a little out of hand, but it is all dead and gone now and hopefully those guys in Boston will have a great manager and I am sure, there is no doubt in my mind the bullpen over there will still be a a good bullpen, but it definitely was a tough time.”