Baseball can be a divisive game. The nature of the sport leads to many disagreements among fans and pundits. For instance, just look at the annual debates when the MVP and Cy Young Awards are given out.
But there is one truth that has universally been accepted throughout baseball: The Phillies would be better off if Jonathan Papelbon was no longer a member of the team.
This isn’t because Papelbon has been bad. Despite a lot of concern about his declining velocity heading into the season – as well as a VERY rough first week – Papelbon has been excellent. In fact, if Chase Utley hadn’t been voted into the All-Star Game by the fans, Papelbon would likely be the Phillies’ lone representative in the Midsummer Classic this year.
But having a top closer on a bad team is like having a high-powered engine on a car without tires. And it becomes more troublesome when that closer is being paid an insanely high price.
Fans have been cool on Papelbon from the start. Signing a high-priced closer seemed like a mistake when it happened, and it has looked much worse since the team disintegrated around that closer. When the closer suffers through a poor second season and starts saying things like, “I didn’t come here for this,” that pretty much seals fan opinion.
Now that he’s pitching well and has reached the third year of the deal, Papelbon suddenly seems tradeable. (It also doesn’t hurt that the Phillies have other good arms in their bullpen now. For much of his time as a Phillie, Papelbon was the only guy who was even remotely reliable.)
Most fans are well on board with this idea because it would allow the Phillies to clear some payroll space and possibly get a usable prospect in return. As it turns out, there’s someone else who is on board with the idea of trading the closer: Papelbon himself.
In an interview with Ryan Lawrence, Papelbon made it clear that he would not only accept a trade, but he would welcome it:
Some guys want to stay on a losing team? That’s mind-boggling to me. I think that’s a no-brainer.
Some Phillies fans are upset about this, but I’m not sure why. Papelbon made it clear last year that he wasn’t happy about being on a losing team. And it shouldn’t exactly be a shock that a guy signed as a free agent might be somewhat of a mercenary. You mean, the guy who came up in a different organization and is only here because he was given an insanely huge deal; THAT guy doesn’t feel like a “Phillie for life?” Hard to believe.
Of course, many of the fans who are upset at Papelbon are the same ones who are mad at Jimmy Rollins for NOT wanting to leave the Phillies. These would likely be the same fans who would get mad at Papelbon if he said, “I have a no-trade clause. I’m not getting traded.”
It’s apparent that the best thing a player can do in this situation is to just keep his mouth shut. If asked about being traded, the best way to respond is with bland non-answers like, “That not up to me,” or “I’m not going to worry about all that right now. I just want to win games.”
Or else they can try being Chase Utley. I don’t think there’s anything that guy could say to make Phillies fans turn against him.