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Jonathan Papelbon compared the cultures of the Red Sox and Phillies

Jan 3, 2014, 7:10 PM EDT

Jonathan Papelbon

Losing never feels good, even if you’re the most well-compensated player at your position. Following the conclusion of the 2011 season, the Phillies signed Jonathan Papelbon to the richest contract ever for a closer — a four-year, $50 million deal with a fifth-year option that can vest at an additional $13 million.

Papelbon has generally had good results, posting a 2.67 ERA in his two seasons with the Phillies, but he hasn’t been a beloved figure in Philadelphia the way he was in Boston. One reason is that Papelbon has been a rather outspoken critic of the Phillies. Last February, he said of the team’s clubhouse, “I haven’t seen any leadership.” In June, he questioned the team’s fundamentals. In July, he complained that he “definitely didn’t come [to Philadelphia] for this” after the Phillies lost their eighth game in a row.

On the air with WEEI’s Rob Bradford and guest host John McDonald on Thursday, Papelbon discussed the differences in culture between the two teams. He said:

“Look at the Red Sox last year. John [McDonald] will probably tell you the moment he walked into the Red Sox clubhouse there was an entirely different feel from when he left Philly. I’m not putting those words in John’s mouth by any means, but when you have a group of guys who go for 162 games plus spring training plus the playoffs, you have to have each other’s backs and know what he’s going to do before the next guy from you is going to do before he does it.”

Then he added:

 “Then I go to Philadelphia and it wasn’t necessarily that way, and I know that I’ve gotten a bad rap, some of the guys will say I’m not a good clubhouse guy because I’ll get upset and I’ll say something, but I’ve always said what’s on my mind. I don’t think I’ve ever shied away from my beliefs. But I think some of it reporters in Philly maybe take a little bit different because I was used to saying that, hey, this is how I feel, we’re not winning and I’m not happy.”

With the exception of Jimmy Rollins, who has drawn as much criticism in Philly as Papelbon for being willing to speak his mind, the Phillies have had a comparably quiet core of players, choosing to lead by example rather than by words. Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Cole Hamels, and Jayson Werth have all at one point or another been seen as a source of leadership on the team over the years and they’re not the type to be expressive on the field or through the media. It just doesn’t seem like Papelbon has fit in with the Phillies or in the city of Philadelphia at large.

That being said, the bigger concern is that he lost 3 MPH on his fastball since his last season with the Red Sox, which caused his strikeout rate to drop from an elite 34 percent to a pedestrian 22 percent. The Phillies can deal with a player who likes to talk a bit too much, but they cannot justify paying $26-39 million over the next two to three years to a player whose arm is on the way out.

  1. biasedhomer - Jan 3, 2014 at 7:17 PM

    Maybe, just maybe, Papelbon himself is a part of the atmosphere problem…but he probably could never imagine that.

  2. pinkfloydprism - Jan 3, 2014 at 7:43 PM

    No kidding! Let’s complain about the lack of leadership, but not step up to be one.

  3. Glenn - Jan 3, 2014 at 7:54 PM

    Things were pretty ugly in Boston when Papelbon headed out of the door. Did he forget that? And he did blow a save that sealed one of the worst season-ending collapses in baseball history. Who knows, but if he came through there, maybe Francona doesn’t get fired, we never hear of “chicken and beer-gate”, etc.

  4. brewcrewfan54 - Jan 3, 2014 at 7:58 PM

    I love guys who use the “I just speak my mind” excuse to be a bad teammate. There’s a time and place to speak your mind and every time someone sticks a microphone or recorder in your face isn’t always it.

  5. vincentbojackson - Jan 3, 2014 at 8:19 PM

    This guy’s act is old.

    Apparently he thinks he’s the only player on his team that wants to win. It’s easy to talk big when you don’t have to pick up a bat.

  6. runteddyrun - Jan 3, 2014 at 8:22 PM

    He’s a bum!

  7. anxovies - Jan 3, 2014 at 8:27 PM

    What do you tell a guy who is used to winning, shut up and learn to lose?

    • brewcrewfan54 - Jan 3, 2014 at 11:48 PM

      No, I say this is what you get when you take the money and run. The Phillies being as bad as they have been the last 2 seasons is a surprise but that ship was taking on water when he signed that deal.

  8. rg3zacharm - Jan 3, 2014 at 8:30 PM

    This is the problem with pro sports. They always pay a guy for what he did, not showing any financial concern of the fact that very few players are worth more at the end of their careers than they were at the beginning. I mean does Seattle actually think Robby Cano will be good in 10 years??

    • anxovies - Jan 4, 2014 at 10:36 AM

      Cano may be a problem for Seattle long before that, he has problems with staying focused. The Yankees have a culture that keeps the attention of the players on business but that may not be the case with the Mariners. I thought that last year was his best, not necessarily because of the numbers but because with the absence of most of the star players he stepped up and more or less carried the team. If Seattle is not able to channel his talent and keep him focused on his game he may decline sooner than people think.

  9. superturtle611 - Jan 3, 2014 at 8:59 PM

    Papelbon is like that ex husband who keeps showing up at the wife’s family functions. Boston dumped you buddy. Move on. Rather than build a better relationship with his new partner he bad mouths them and runs back to the ex in some sad attempt to rekindle a memory that is long gone.

  10. tfbuckfutter - Jan 3, 2014 at 9:23 PM

    Let’s see….you came up in the Red Sox system, surrounded by the same group of young players through the minors, then get to the big leagues mostly together, carve out your spot fairly quickly with the big club, and people listen to you when you talk.

    Then you sign a contract with a different team, and go into the clubhouse behaving the same way, and are confused about why they don’t love you?


  11. jrobitaille23 - Jan 3, 2014 at 9:38 PM

    lol at the comments. The guy is a legit closer enjoying solid results for a crap team and you ‘fans’ are complaining that he wants to win and calls out lazy inept teammates and a crap corporate culture. I guess when you have lost so much for so long you don’t know how to deal with success. You get a little a few years ago and think you are entitled to talk about how professionalism of ball players. Get off all you high horses. The guy is doing as well as he was in Boston all those years. The product put on the field, whether effort or talent wise has been wanting. Maybe focus more on the bad players around him than one of the only guys actually producing. Man, Philly fans smh

    • bleedgreen - Jan 4, 2014 at 4:14 PM

      Right, but they don’t take into consideration his blown saves. He had 7 blown saves in 2013 and only 1 loss. So he should really be thanking the rest of the team for saving his ass SIX TIMES rather than calling other people out for not wanting to win.

  12. pastabelly - Jan 3, 2014 at 9:44 PM

    All of the attacks on Papelbon are probably correct, but Papelbon is correct about culture of the 2013 Red Sox. Cherrington went out and supplemented leaders Ortiz and Prdroia with guys like Napoli, Gomes, Victorino, Ross, Peavy, and Dempster.

  13. DelawarePhilliesFan - Jan 3, 2014 at 10:59 PM

    He has a point about organizational attitude. The Red Sox never signed a guy to a $50,000,058 contract….because, you know, he is number 58, and $50 Million would not be about him without that extra $58.

    • kylecleric - Jan 3, 2014 at 11:38 PM

      Actually, the Sox did the same thing with DiceK’s original contract.

    • kylecleric - Jan 3, 2014 at 11:50 PM

      Papelbon may not be striking out batters at as high a rate as he was in the previous seasons but he still was fairly close in terms of productivity. The contract the Phillies gave him was stupid but if they expected him to do any differently on the mound or off the field then that’s a problem with their expectations. He is what he is, an all-star closer who will tell you what he thinks, consistent.

  14. aceshigh11 - Jan 4, 2014 at 1:41 PM

    What an asshole. So glad we got rid of this clown.

    Thanks for 2007 and everything, but…see ya. Enjoy your money and shut up.

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