Red Sox Could Use Jonathan Papelbon, But It’s Not Worth Complaining About Something That Made Perfect Sense

Jonathan PapelbonThere’s way too much Monday morning quarterbacking going on in Boston these days. It needs to stop.

Now that the Red Sox closer’s role has become somewhat of a revolving door, the cries for Jonathan Papelbon grow louder and louder each game. On Saturday, even Papelbon himself probably heard the shouts when he took the mound in Arizona. At the very least, his ears were ringing. But while Papelbon would undoubtedly be a perfect closer for the 2013 edition of the Red Sox, we shouldn’t get too caught up in this whole revisionist history thing.

The skepticism about the future of the ninth inning in Boston is warranted. With Joel Hanrahan done for the season, Andrew Bailey battling an injury issue and Junichi Tazawa having given up runs in back-to-back outings since being named the temporary closer, the Red Sox don’t have the stability they had during Papelbon’s six-year stint in Boston. Don’t criticize the Red Sox for not re-signing Papelbon prior to the 2012 season, though. It was the right decision at the time.

Saying nowadays that the Red Sox should have re-signed Papelbon is like saying, “I should have stayed at a different hotel,” following an unpleasant stay or, “I shouldn’t have parked here,” after someone rams a shopping carriage into your passenger’s side door. Well, yeah, but staying at that hotel and parking in that spot made perfect sense.

When the Phillies signed Papelbon to a four-year, $50 million contract, there were plenty of Red Sox fans — probably the majority of Sox fans, in fact — willing to pack Papelbon’s bags. Overpaying for closers is something that’s extremely hard to justify, and as good as Papelbon was in Boston, he was overpaid by Philadelphia.

Papelbon had a down year in 2010, so he wasn’t without red flags, and plenty of teams have shelled out big money to big name closers, only to then regret the decision before long. Do B.J. Ryan (four years, $47 million), Francisco Rodriguez (three years, $37 million), Brad Lidge (three years, $37.5 million) and Kerry Wood (two years, $20.5 million) ring a bell?

It’s not as if the Red Sox haven’t been aggressive in their search for Papelbon’s successor, either. Signing Bobby Jenks — you need a puke bucket? — and acquiring Bailey and Hanrahan were all bold moves aimed at filling the closer’s role with a proven, yet cost-efficient option. Such an approach has worked for other teams. It just hasn’t worked out for the Red Sox thus far, mainly because of injuries.

Knowing what we know now — that the Red Sox, struggling to find ninth-inning stability, saved less than $2 million by going the route they did — it’s easy to reminisce about how things used to be. It’s not worth getting frustrated about, though, because it’s difficult to fault the Red Sox’ original decision.

All we can do in life is make decisions based on the information available. Hindsight will always be 20/20, and in sports, it’s usually even clearer than that.

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