There’s no doubt four years and $50 million was too much for Jonathan Papelbon. Considering the uncertain state of his arm, the Red Sox did the right thing letting him walk to Philadelphia. But man, does that suck. 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? (Ok, maybe Adrian Gonzalez would if God told him to.)
Over the last few years, nothing beat the electricity of Papelbon entering a game at Fenway Park. Maybe it’s just that “Shipping Up to Boston” is a damn good song, but when it came on and he knocked fists with the bullpen cop and ran out on the field with the crowd going crazy…MAN. It almost made up for Sweet Caroline’s lameness the inning before. There’s a reason that if you search “Papelbon entrance” on Youtube, you get about a zillion homemade videos people took of him running onto the field. It doesn’t come across on TV, but whenever I was in the ballpark and Papelbon came in, I always thought, “Man, the guy in the on-deck circle must be crapping himself right now.”
So yeah, he lost a few miles per hour on his fastball and he never seemed to be able to recapture the magic he had in 2006 and 2007 (back then, the late movement on his fastball was just wicked). And he did take too long between pitches. And he blew that last game in Baltimore. Fine, whatever. All I know is the 9th inning at Fenway is going to be a lot less fun next year. So here you go, for just one last time:
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