Jonathan Papelbon isn’t feeling the brotherly love.
Papelbon’s two seasons with the Philadelphia Phillies have been marred by both controversy and inconsistency. The former Boston Red Sox closer’s outspokenness has rubbed some people the wrong way, and the Phillies’ struggles have compounded the issue.
“On our team, I honestly believe we have more talent than any other roster out there. But if you don’t take that talent and mesh it together, figure out each others’ little pros and cons and figure out how to make a 25-man roster form into one, nothing will work,” Papelbon said Thursday on WEEI’s Hot Stove Show. “I don’t care how much you spend or how many guys you have in the bullpen or how many starters you have — it just doesn’t work.
“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 the next guy from you is going to do before he even does it.”
Papelbon spent seven seasons in Boston before signing a four-year, $50 million contract with Philadelphia prior to the 2012 season. Papelbon, who earned four All-Star selections and won a World Series with the Red Sox, was solid in his first season as the Phillies’ closer but regressed in 2013. The Phils did the same, finishing 81-81 in 2012 and 73-89 in 2013.
Papelbon has been under a microscope in Philly for reasons beyond his on-field performance. He made some polarizing comments last season regarding the clubhouse culture in Philadelphia, and reports have surfaced this offseason stating that the Phillies are trying to trade the veteran right-hander.
“I will say this, I came from a clubhouse [in Boston] where it was in your face, it was, ‘This is how we’re going to do it. We’re going to yell at each other, and when we don’t do what we’re expected of, we’re going to let you know.’ That’s kind of the way I was groomed into being a baseball player,” Papelbon said Thursday. “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.’”
Papelbon is owed $13 million each of the next two seasons and has a $13 million option for 2016 that vests if he finishes 55 games in 2015 or 100 games between 2014 and 2015. He also has a limited no-trade clause and has shown diminished stuff, making it difficult for the Phillies to move the 33-year-old.
For now, Papelbon’s future is a bit unclear. Philadelphia could decide to eat a large chunk of the pitcher’s contract to trade him or could opt to keep him in the hopes that the Phillies will turn things around in 2014. Whatever the club’s intentions, Papelbon is well aware of the rumblings.
“I think there’s a little bit of truth to every rumor,” Papelbon said. “I don’t know. It’s hard to say.”
It’s easy to say that things have not gone swimmingly for Papelbon since he left Boston.