Monday, November 14, 2011

On Shittiness

Doesn't everybody agree that Mariano Rivera has been the key to the Yankees' success for the past decade and a half? I was under the impression that if you have a great closer, you do everything you can to keep him. Obviously there's that point where a guy becomes a free agent, and you might not be able to afford him, or are unable to give him the years he wants. But that's a problem small-market teams face. Why are the Red Sox cheap and/or timid in this one important area? Why don't we recognize we have a solid guy in a key role and say "whatever it takes"? Every offseason should start with "Okay, closer? Already have one of the best. Keep at all costs. Next issue..."

Is the fact that we seemingly never had any intention of re-signing Papelbon because of the closer role itself? These guys always wanted a closer-by-committee situation. And on paper, it works. Even going with two guys and having the better one pitching the tougher inning (8th or 9th depending on who's hitting) seems like a smart idea. But the fact is, the way baseball works in 2012 is that you have one guy who pitches the 9th. And that role takes a certain kind of guy. I'm not talking about which guys have bigger fist pumps or weirder beards. I'm talking about the mentality of knowing every time you come in, the game is on the line. A slightly shittier pitcher might be better at pitching the ninth than another guy who's a better pure pitcher. The Red Sox are a team who uses the closer the same way everybody else does, and they had a guy who has proven he fits the role perfectly in both the "jock" and "nerd" categories. On top of that, he was an exciting, fun-lovin' guy--the exact type all these people who fall for the "chemistry" argument would probably want in their clubhouse anyway. So why is Jon Papelbon not on the Boston Red Sox right now? Especially at a time when the pitching staff needs all the help it can get. How crappy would it be if those guys all get back on track next year, but....whoops, every game is blown in the 9th because we didn't think the closer was "worth it"? (While thinking a lot of less-important roles ARE worth lots and lots of money for some reason.)

If having a great closer isn't worth spending money/years, how are we ever gonna have a closer for more than a few years? Say Bard becomes the greatest closer in the world over the next few years. Are you all gonna go through this whole thing again where you just act like he's "gone already" and assume the next 8th-inning guy will step right in? We've all seen the state of relief pitching over the last decade. One guy might seem great for half a season, but then he'll fall right back into the crap pile. How could any team who has one of the proven ones ever let him go?

It's almost like the Boston media convinced everyone from (some) fans to the team to Papelbon himself that he'd be gone after 2011. It's just like it was with Manny: Go to the games, and watch the fan reaction to the guy. You'd think he was a deity. The fans at Fenway Park were always there behind Pap, happy and proud to have him on our side, and ready to celebrate with him, literally, when the game was won. But flip on the stupid radio or read the stupid Internet, and it was as if Papelbon was a rival pitcher who "we" all couldn't stand and were waiting to get rid of. If Pap really just wanted to be out of here, how can I even blame him? I would hope that he'd have seen the way he's treated at the park and said, "this is how they really feel," but athletes have egos, and you know he was hurt by all the shit these assholes said about him (though I loved how he tried to get back at them with his "Cinco Ocho thrives on your negativity" routine).

This all goes back to my most common theme, how the stupid Boston sports media is ruining everything, and loves to drive our favorites out of town. This season WEEI has fired Tito, Theo, and Papelbon. For those of you who are happy about this, when are you gonna turn around and say, "Wait a minute..." I'd love to be doing happy tribute posts to all these guys, but instead I'm just fuming over what the media has done to our team. It's time we really start fucking with them. People are always bringing signs to Fenway--how about some anti-media ones? How about yelling at these old, white fucks when they're standing around on the warning track in pre-game looking for the next guy to crucify? How about never reading or watching them ever again? How about we start digging up dirt on them? (Hint: If you can't find anything, just make something up out of thin air and quote anonymous sources like they do.) We absolutely have no need for these people anymore anyway.

We'll see what they do about the closer role. I like Bard. I'm not gonna go judging him based on a shitty month. (Nor am I judging Pap solely on his great 2011--if you know me, you know all this is exactly what I'd be writing when Pap was finally gone, regardless of the previous season's outcome.) I just fear neither he nor anybody else we get could possibly be what Pap was for us. I'd hate to see "closer" be the new "shortstop" when we fucking had the right World Series-winning guy right there all along. We've seen plenty of times where guys come in and Fenway just turns out to not be right for them. I fear this could happen with both the manager and closer roles, but I'm not about to give up. I'm just glad Pap won't be in our own league, shoving it down our throats 10 times a year.

i can't believe they didn't even talk to paps.
Have to disagree with this one. In order to record a save, a pitcher needs to give up less than three runs in an inning. That means any pitcher with less than a 27.00 ERA should save most of the chances he gets. Even "tough" saves of one run would require a guy to have less than a 9.00 ERA. Sure, they might not be 1-2-3 innings with 3 K's, but they don't have to be. Bard will be fine. Most any reliever will be fine.

And, no. Only the Media thinks Rivera was the key to the Yankees success. Or was it Jeter? I can't remember.
I kinda don't know what you mean with your first paragraph. But most any reliever may be fine sometimes, and even for long stretches, but when you have a guy who can do it in that spot for years, why not try to hold on to him?

As for Mo--if that's true, can I please get Red Sox fans to stop saying what a god he is? Yeah, most awesome starters could probably pitch the ninth and get three outs, but the point is, those Yankee championships might not have happened without them knowing that all they had to do was get through 8 innings and the other team was done. He was absolutely key. He just can't do it against the Red Sox....
And wait a minute--you're saying you don't need to go 1-2-3, you just have to get the outs before giving up the runs, and that's EXACTLY what Papelbon's been doing for years. Even in the years that people somehow considered to be bad years for him, he'd still get the outs. Even a crappy Pap performance still got him the save. That's all I ever wanted--save the game no matter how you do it. That's what we had. Not every single pitcher can do that. He did that and more.
Mom here.
Please address Pap's not coming through for the last game of 2009 (which we saw) and the last game this year. At the end of that game I almost felt as though I were watching the ball go through a certain 1st baseman's legs. (I can't even write the latter's name, though of course I love him for being part of a great team that got us into the World Series.) Am I too hard on Pap for not thinking those two horrific performances weren't coincidences? I love Pap. I felt I've known him personally ever since you helped him flag down a taxi in NYC. I will really, really miss him. I hope we play the Phillies in the World Series.
ps. If I got some, half, or a majority of my facts wrong remember that I'm an old lady. I love you, sweetie. Sorry about Pap
In the case of 2009--those were his first-ever postseason runs allowed, and they came with us down 2-0 in the series anyway so I never could fathom blaming the whole 2009 season on him. Yes had we held the lead there was a chance we win the next game, then go back out to Anaheim and win again, but the odds of that were pretty slim.

And as for this season's end, well yeah it is like Buckner in that so much crappy crap led up to the very last inning that once again, I don't blame the team's downfall or lack of making the playoffs on him and I don't think many people would, after all, he had a great season so without him we wouldn't have even been alive in that final week.

I'm not saying he's perfect, but I don't think you can ask too much more of a closer that what he's given us.
I agree that Pap has been everything a closer should be. I just don't agree that his talents are unique, or even all that uncommon. Think back to every inning pitched last season. How many times were three runs or more scored? Not many. Even John Lackey had a vast majority (I bet). after all, his ERA was, what, 7? A 7.00 ERA means seven runs in nine innings...or less than a run an inning. So, Even John Lackey last year would have converted a vast majority of his save opportunities. They wouldn't have been 1-2-3 with three K's. But, they would have been saves all the same. Which is all a closer can do.
For some reason this doesn't hurt that much - Paps has always been about the cash, always, and he has always been open about that - although for some reason he still tried to pull the athlete's classic "it isn't about the money" line today. For whatever reason, Paps clearly didn't care whether he stayed in Boston or not - and I don't harbor any grudge against him for that.

On the flip-side, this Sox management team (and it is hard to believe that the new GM would have a fundamentally different position on what is effectively a fundamental issue of 'sabermetric' analysis) has always been quite open about the fact that they think any closer is over-paid for what he does. In this case, they have paid up through the arbitration process, but it has always been through gritted teeth. I never thought this was a judgement about Papelbon, just a judgement on such a limited role - and I struggle to harbor a grudge against them for that.

The way his agents have handled this process was designed to force an early conclusion - so his ultimatum was overpay me before the market starts to form, or I leave for a team that will. Given the number of closers who are available this year, there is a real risk that some decent quality closer is going to get a pretty poor 1 or 2 year deal. I don't think that Paps was exposed to that risk, but he has always said he wants to set the pay bar for closers, and his early resolution does just that and means that he has no risk that the market price is below his expectations. His agents are paid to get him the most money they can, and they have, and I find it difficult to harbor a grudge against them for doing their job.

For the good times, I hope he sets regular season record after regular season record - heck save a June game or two against us for the next 4 years - but I will hope he fails spectacularly any time he has a game on the line against us in the post season.

Neil H
Sec 36--I am having one problem with your argument, which is that it's not like the lead is always 3 runs, sometimes it's 1 or 2 so you have to give up less than 2 or less than 1.

Neil H--Thanks. Yeah, they don't like the closer role. And that's what I'm saying--either they should change the way they do it, or keep using the closer and therefore pay the closer. I hate the fact that should we ever get an incredible closer, he'll soon be gone because we don't want to pay for it, when meanwhile we're doing lots of paying in other areas anyway. Talk about purposely making it so fans can't get attached to someone.
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
"If having a great closer isn't worth spending money/years, how are we ever gonna have a closer for more than a few years? Say Bard becomes the greatest closer in the world over the next few years. Are you all gonna go through this whole thing again where you just act like he's "gone already" and assume the next 8th-inning guy will step right in?"


If the Red Sox could have signed Papelbon two years ago to one of the contracts that they signed Youkilis or Pedroia to, they would have. They tried for years. Papelbon's strategy all along has been to reject those, take arbitration, and then go for a record setting contract in free agency. It hasn't gotten to that point because of the media, it got to that point because he didn't want to sign a contract where he traded free agency years for guaranteed money early.

The best thing that could happen for the sports media in Boston would be for the Sox to buy WEEI and make it part of NESN, like NESN radio or something. It would be really nice to have a station that wasn't trying to sell controversy.
Neil H pretty much nailed a lot of what I was going to say but a few things:

Funny to see you telling us how valuable Mariano is. And I've now seen you defend Paps' meltdown against the Angels in '09 a couple of times by saying that they were down 0-2 in the series and unlikely to come back anyways, which I really don't get given that a)it's not that hard to come back from 0-2 in the ALCS, it's been done a few times (twice by the Sox), and b)you're usually the guy who's always predicting they'll storm back no matter long the odds. You really think their chances of coming back in that series were slim? I personally think they were pretty good if he hadn't crapped the bed that day.

Closers have, in fact, become massively overrated over the past 20 years or so as they've become mostly one-inning specialists, partly because they just don't pitch enough innings in a season to justify their perceived importance, and partly because often times the most critical outs to get come not in the 9th inning, but in the 7th or 8th innings (or even earlier) with men on base, or the top of the lineup due up. I don't agree with you that the front office wants a closer by committee situation; they only went to that back in 2003 by necessity, and went out and acquired Foulke that winter. I just think they correctly recognize that the vast majority of relief pitchers do not remain dominant over extended periods of time. The real reason Mariano has been so much more valuable than other closers is that while he'll blow a save now and then, he's never had a flat out lousy year (which Papelbon did in 2010), and he's maintained his extremely high level of effectiveness for 15 years now, stretching into his forties. I see very little chance of Papelbon doing that, given his history of shoulder issues, and the fact that he did regress materially in '09 and '10 before coming back and having an excellent season this year. That contract that the Phillies gave him was ridiculous...he shouldn't have too much trouble getting the option year to vest, so it's effectively a 5 year $63mm deal...and while losing him will hurt the Sox in 2012, I'm really glad they didn't have any interest in matching that deal. And I share your dislike for the Boston sports media, but I don't see them playing any role in his decision; as many have noted, he clearly was all about the big free-agency payday all along; the Sox tried over the years to extend his contract, but he always insisted on only signing one year deals.

I've obviously been a very vocal critic of Paps over the past couple years on this blog, but I bear him no ill will going forward. He was actually fantastic in his role for several seasons, and was on the mound to record the final out of a Red Sox championship, something I wasn't certain I'd ever see just a decade ago. I don't begrudge him for going after the big contract, and good for him in actually getting it. I'll look back on his Sox career fondly.
Make that "it's not that hard to come back from 0-2 in the ALDS".

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