UPDATE, 4:07 PM: The Washington Post is saying Papelbon to the Nationals is really close, guys.
Source: Deal to bring Jonathan Papelbon to Nationals is nearing completion.— Barry Svrluga (@barrysvrluga) July 28, 2015
The main hang-up for these Jonathan Papelbon/Nationals rumors is that Papelbon only wants to close, due to a vesting option in his contract being attached to the number of games he finishes, and the Nationals already have Drew Storen (Paps also has a no-trade clause but he says that won't be a problem). Nevertheless, they are apparently closer to getting him:
So, talk of the Phillies' most publicly unhappy player - who "will be traded" according to Jim Salisbury - going to a division rival has people riled up for a few reasons. One, because the idea of Papelbon going anywhere is good for people who don't like Papelbon, as well as being good for the Phillies moving forward assuming they get a worthwhile return. Two, because Papelbon gets people riled up in general. In this heat, you can't whisper the word "Papelbon" near too dry a wheat field without starting a brush fire.
And three, because the Nationals suck.
The Nationals, as you might recall, have made a habit of signing former Phillies. This largely applies to the 2008 squad, but in their insecurity toward the Phillies franchise, they have used all sort of strategies to mope. There was their ticket-selling strategy intended to keep Phillies fans out of their stadium, but it is also quite noticeable that ex-Phillies who join the Nats' ranks get a Nationals cap slapped on their heads and shoved out to tell the press how much better D.C. is than Philly. Jayson Werth certainly did. As did Brad Lidge.
Lidge was picked up by the Nationals in 2012 and referred to them as "Probably the most talented team I've ever been on," despite closing for the World Series champion Phillies in 2008. The Nationals did not go on to win the 2012 World Series, or any World Series, ever, but I did ask Lidge - an incredibly nice, gracious dude - about his comments at the 2013 SABR Conference in Philadelphia, where he told me:
"They did want me to make a few statements that I brushed aside, and I said 'I still got family living in Philly, man.' Are you crazy?"
Yes, those Nationals seem driven to be the most insecure team in baseball. You have to imagine Papelbon, who didn't take long to make some statements about Red Sox fans upon arriving in Philly, might have a few comments to make after being freed from his Phillies bonds. After all, he didn't even win a World Series in Philadelphia, or appear in the playoffs, or finish with a winning record. This is not what he signed up for.
While Papelbon and Lidge will likely be remembered differently around here, I still don't blame Papelbon. He gambled on signing with the Phillies and lost, and I don't think at the time he saw it as much of a gamble (they had just won 102 games the season before). I like that he grabbed his crotch at the fans. I like that he speaks his mind to the press. And I'm sure, should Washington make a deal for him, that he will speak his mind again, this time with the deeply flawed Phillies in his crosshairs and a giggling Nationals PR team in the background.