Jonathan Papelbon Blames the Phillies Problems on Poor Chemistry
By Mike Lacy
Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon recently spoke to Boston radio station WEEI and had some interesting things to say about the different fates his former and current team have experienced since he signed a free agent contract after the 2011 season.
Despite his time with the Red Sox ending poorly, Papelbon says that he’s still a fan of them, and was very happy to see them win the World Series. As for his current team, Papelbon seems to blame most of their struggles on poor chemistry.
"On our team, I honestly believe we have more talent than any other roster out there. But if you don’t take that talent and mesh it together, figure out each others’ little pros and cons and figure out how to make a 25-man roster form into one, nothing will work. I don’t care how much you spend or how many guys you have in the bullpen or how many starters you have and it just doesn’t work,” said Papelbon. “Look at the Red Sox last year. John [McDonald] will probably tell you the moment he walked into the Red Sox clubhouse there was an entirely different feel from when he left Philly. I’m not putting those words in John’s mouth by any means, but when you have a group of guys who go for 162 games plus spring training plus the playoffs, you have to have each other’s backs and know what he’s going to do before the next guy from you is going to do before he does it."
Apparently, Papelbon’s confrontational attitude and willingness to speak his mind didn’t necessarily go over that well with some of his teammates.
"I was a new guy coming into the Philadelphia clubhouse. Coming into a new clubhouse, you tend to watch more than you speak. I will say this, I came from a clubhouse where it was in your face, it was, ‘This is how we’re going to do it. We’re going to yell at each other and when we don’t do what we’re expected of, we’re going to let you know.’ That’s kind of the way I was groomed into being a baseball player,” Papelbon said. “Then I go to Philadelphia and it wasn’t necessarily that way, and I know that I’ve gotten a bad rap, some of the guys will say I’m not a good clubhouse guy because I’ll get upset and I’ll say something, but I’ve always said what’s on my mind. I don’t think I’ve ever shied away from my beliefs. But I think some of it reporters in Philly maybe take a little bit different because I was used to saying that, hey, this is how I feel, we’re not winning and I’m not happy."
I have gotten the impression that in recent years the Phillies’ clubhouse was fine when things were going well, but not necessarily well-equipped to handle adversity. Veteran players like Roy Halladay and Chase Utley are regarded as being among the hardest workers in the game, but they seemed to be “lead by example” guys rather than the types who would get into the face of a teammate who wasn’t doing his job.
Even in the team’s better days, there were indications that the Phillies clubhouse might have been a bit complacent. Throughout his tenure, former manager Charlie Manuel dropped a few hints that he’d like to see a little more fire from some players.
On the other hand, if the Phillies’ problems the past two seasons were due to clubhouse issues, then why were they so successful before Papelbon’s arrival? The “poor chemistry” didn’t keep them from winning 102 games in 2011. I think that injuries, a lack of quality depth, and disappointing performances from veterans were far more instrumental in the team missing the playoffs the past two seasons.
One thing seems clear: If Papelbon is this unhappy with life as a Phillie, then it’s another indication that signing him to a free agent deal was a huge mistake. It’s no wonder that both sides seem anxious to have this mistake rectified as quickly as possible.