One day, far, far in the future, Jonathan Papelbon and I will embrace as friends. When that day comes, we will thank CSNPhilly's Jim Salisbury for starting it all.
OK, probably not. But Salisbury published a story yesterday about Papelbon and his role in the Phillies bullpen that went a long way toward making me think that he's less of a stupid buttface. (A stupid buttface who is totally dominating on the mound lately, by the way. I recognize that.) Papelbon has become the unlikely leader of the young (and recently successful) Phillies bullpen, and he takes his job seriously.
Quoth Jake Diekman in Salisbury's story:
"He’s very supportive of the guys in the bullpen. He’s always asking, ‘How do you feel?’ He gives you advice. He wants to see you do well. He’s happy when you do well. He wants you to do well so he has a chance to get in the game."
He's like the big brother on "Leave it to Beaver"! He's Wally! Or maybe he's more like Charles from "Charles in Charge." I can hear the bullpen singing the theme song to their new FOX sitcom, "Pap In Charge", premiering this October. "Pap in charge, of our days and our nights. Pap in charge, of our wrongs and our rights. And I sing: I want Pap in charge of me!" Papelbon's mentorship extends beyond helpful advice and big brother-esque support, though. According to Salisbury, Papelbon is also "the leader of the good-times squad in the bullpen".
Papelbon likes to play the role of villain in some of his dealings with the media, but beneath his prickly exterior is a character who likes to laugh. He’s not the bad guy some people think he is.
For the record, I never thought Papelbon was a bad guy. I just think he's kind of an idiot. An expensive idiot. Who puckers up his mouth when he pitches so it looks like an anus. But, you know, certainly not a bad guy. And there is no way I could think Papelbon was a terrible dude after reading this:
Papelbon is a pro wrestling aficionado. Over the last few weeks, he has given his mates in the bullpen nicknames to go along with pro wrestlers.
Diekman is Jake the Snake Roberts.
De Fratus is Goldust.
Giles is Diamond Dallas Page.
Martin is the Iron Sheik.
Hollands is Eddie Guerrero.
Mike Adams is The Hulk.
Antonio Bastardo is Rey Mysterio.
B.J. Rosenberg is Stone Cold.
Jeff Manship is Mankind.
Papelbon, of course, is Ric Flair. He enters games to a sound track of Flair’s booming voice at Citizens Bank Park.
I didn't make up that quote up there. It's all true. We're not in a movie. Or in a piece on The Onion. Jonathan Papelbon has assigned actual wrestling characters to each member of the bullpen. Pap goes on to say that he wants the guys to adopt those personalities on the mound. He didn't do a bad job assigning wrestlers to the bullpen, either.
I for one would like to see Jake Diekman take the mound with a snake coiled around his shoulders, and then march over to first base and DDT the first guy who gets a hit off him.
That makeup is epic. Justin De Fratus would look completely badass in Goldust's makeup and costume. Or he'd look like an insane person. Badass or insane person, either way you don't want that staring in at you from the mound. Though the insane person is more likely to chase after you if you get a hit.
Ken Giles is pretty intense on the mound. I'm not sure if Diamond Dallas Page really jives with Giles' personality, but maybe Papelbon thinks that Giles needs to loosen up a bit. Come up with a signature hand movement, Kenny!
Papelbon is already Ric Flair, pretty much. I'm honestly surprised that Papelbon doesn't wander around in the bullpen wearing a sparkly bedazzled bathrobe.
Jonathan Papelbon is having fun, and it's impossible for me to hate that. For the past 3-4 years (dating back to 2011 at least), the Phillies haven't been a team that has fun. Or at least they don't show their fun outwardly. I mean, they could be having a party in their heads, I don't know. But Jonathan Papelbon is helping the young bullpen bond by encouraging the having of fun. Plus, he's helping them gain confidence by urging them to take on personas that have no self-doubt. A fake-it-'til-you-make-it kind of thing. Fun AND functional!
And It's working. Or, I like to think it's working. The Phillies bullpen has been absolutely stellar in the month of June, but no one has any idea how much this affects performance, if at all. The entire bullpen could be getting hot at the same time, and in a week they could all crash and burn together. But this at least has a positive psychological impact that can hopefully pay dividends when they're not doing so well. (Which is something that will happen again sometime, despite the dream I had last night about them never giving up another run ever ever again.) They're a team within a team, and they can have fun and be successful regardless of how the larger team is doing.
I have to change my entire worldview now that Papelbon is being likable. Everything is different. The upside to this, besides the obvious benefits to the team and all that, is that I'd rather hate him for making me like him than hate him because he's a massive ignoramus. He's probably still the same ignoramus that I've grown to really dislike over the past few years. But no one's personality is defined by a single thing, so I'm glad we've gotten a chance to see a different side of the legendary Papelbon weirdness.