For a while there, the Phillies only had one problem: too many players wanted to play for them! Every July when Ruben Amaro would make some trade or signing, everyone would get excited, and we'd all laugh and clap and the next year we'd act like we didn't want him to trade minor leaguers for Hunter Pence but we'd all be thinking "Again! Again!" (I know, I know; not you, because you were so smart and knew better, but everyone else did).
But the truth is, every signing after 2011, or more specifically, after the fairly vigorous trauma of Ryan Howard collapsing in a broken heap after another playoff run ending prematurely, has felt like a either desperate overpay or an unexciting filling of space. It's not fun to be a Phillie right now, and a lot of guys are here because they are leftovers from a bygone era when it was or because the team was willing to give them a deal and if they perform well enough, they might be able to escape and catch on somewhere a bit less putrid. And that has made it difficult as fans to a lot of these view guys as "Phillies."
Jonathan Papelbon, whose signing before the 2012 season was sort of jarring - everyone had assumed the Phillies would work something out with homegrown Ryan Madson - and expensive, has had a hard time fitting in, as he is being asked to be worth an absurd amount of money, at a time when the team is bad enough that it makes the closer's role sort of irrelevant. Plus, he grabbed his crotch! The very high level of decency for which Philadelphia is known makes this an unspeakable act.
Three years into his deal, Paps, too, has yet to feel like he's on the team, he tells the Boston Globe:
Even with three seasons, 197 games, 106 saves and 212 strikeouts in a Phillies uniform, the seven seasons Papelbon spent in Boston are still a part of his baseball DNA.
"The Red Sox are a part of who I am, man," Papelbon said. "I don't really feel much like a Phillie."
"Boston's where I was born and raised. It's kind of like that, you know. It's the city you were born and raised in."
Hey, I get it. I mean, not all of it. He's not from Boston, he's from Baton Rouge, but he probably means "born and raised" in a baseball sense, so let's not be snarky.
And to be fair, I doubt there was a part of his contract that required him to forget all good memories he had with his previous team. But who could blame him? He had the time of his life as part of the Red Sox World Series champions, and he came here thinking he'd stick it to them for not re-upping on him. Remember when he first signed, and wasted no time putting Phillies fans' intelligence above that of Red Sox fans?
"The Philly fans tend to know the game a little better, being in the National League, you know, the way the game is played."
We sure do! I mean, stay out of the live chats and comment sections, but yeah, we generally seem to know how the game of baseball is meant to be played from a "rules" standpoint. Most of the time. Last night, when the topic was brought up after the game, and Papelbon dodged the question by saying what he felt like was a barnyard animal, it was actually a pretty diplomatic approach.
Some people are going to react negatively to this, but Papelbon is an emotional guy who loves to win playing for a crap team at the age of 34. I'm sure a lot of these older guys are thinking about the past right now. I know I do, every day. And people say, "Hey, maybe consider thinking about your own past, instead of that of a bunch of a guys a few years older than you." And to them I say, "I told you to leave me the hell alone, dad," and slam the phone down. It's not a rotary phone, but I slam it anyway.