I'll go ahead and own up to it. I own a Jonathan Papelbon shirsey. It's probably still down there in the bottom of the drawer, stuffed away, somewhere between the powder blue Cliff Lee one (pre-Halladay, pre-Lee-to-Seattle trade, glad I held on to that one for the second stint) and the far too old Chase Utley one with the hole in it.
"This guy's good," I thought. "Purchase the shirt,", they said. Sure, I guess. It wasn't really a mistake, per se, but that's sort of how the whole Jonathan Papelbon era feels, a mish-mosh of "Eh, meh, what could have been."
He wasn't a bad pitcher. He did his job on the field. He had his off-field comments. But we sort of knew what was coming when we signed him, right? If the Phillies were going to be bad, he probably would have been saying controversial things. If the Phillies didn't turn into a team capable of losing damn near close to 100 games, he probably could have been a beloved Philadelphia legend that other teams hated and we cheered rampantly for. Them's the breaks.
Papelbon didn't hold Amaro at gunpoint to sign that deal prior to the 2012 season, after all. And, in his 3 1/2 years here, Papelbon didn't really do anything wrong on the field. His consistency, to be perfectly honest, was exceptional in this day and age.
But I guess there was the fact that some people looked at him as a Grade-A jerk. If you care about that type of stuff, then great, you have your angle. If you didn't care about that stuff, you probably wished he would have gotten the chance to pitch for a better team.
Sure, there are the telltale signs that Papelbon is declining. He's not the 12.96 K/9 pitcher he was for the Red Sox in 2007. (He had a 9.09 K/9 rate with the Phillies this season and plummeted to 6.08 K/9 with the Nats.) He's not averaging 95 MPH on his fastball like he used to. (He sat at 91.4 MPH this year per Fangraphs.)
He did manage to save 24 games this year, and departs as the Phillies' all-time saves leader, for whatever that's worth. We'll go ahead and assume Ken Giles will be hot on Papelbon's heels for that number by 2019.
Of course, best of all, it wouldn't be a Papelbon season without a few controversial quotes, right?
Papelbon told The Boston Globe back in April that he didn't "feel much like a Phillie." At the All-Star Game, Papelbon said it was time to "s**t or get off the pot" for Ruben Amaro, Jr. in terms of trading him to a contending team.
And then, about two weeks later, the deed had been done. Amaro traded Papelbon to the Nationals in exchange for Double-A right-hander Nick Pivetta. Of course, we all know how that went for the Nats. Schadenfreude at its finest, eh?
Drew Storen lost his closer's job to Papelbon. The Nats completely imploded. Papelbon pitched in a meh manner. Then, this happened:
Yeah. That was not the one shining moment the Nationals expected to be talking about when they reported to spring training. Best of all, Papelbon agreed to a reduction in the price of the 2016 option when the Nationals agreed to pick it up immediately, guaranteeing it at $11 million. Nats fans, he's your nightmare now.
Stay crazy, Paps. Stay crazy.