Former Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon has harsh words for Ruben Amaro Jr.
Glancing at the Philadelphia Phillies franchise leaders of various statistics — such as home runs (Mike Schmidt), wins (Steve Carlton), and earned run average (Grover Cleveland Alexander) — there are some legendary baseball names.
Then you check the column for saves — which did not become an official stat until 1969 — and are reminded of some of the gloomier recent seasons in Phillies history. Having pitched in parts of four seasons in red pinstripes from 2012 to 2015, Jonathan Papelbon is the organization’s all-time saves leader with 123. The six-time All-Star and 2007 World Series champion also leads the Boston Red Sox in the category with 219.
Papelbon had pitched seven seasons in “Beantown” before leaving to join the Phillies on a record deal for relievers — four years, $50 million. In a recent interview with Audacy’s “The Bradfo Sho” podcast, the Louisiana native described his mindset in wanting to move to the City of Brotherly Love:
"“I went to Philadelphia because they were the ones that wanted me the most and I thought I was going to go there and win two more championships, at least.”"
Papelbon went on to cite Phillies stars on the roster — including Roy Halladay, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, Cole Hamels, and Cliff Lee — who were coming off of a disappointing 2011 National League Division Series defeat to the eventual-champion St. Louis Cardinals.
Papelbon followed with some pretty harsh words for Ruben Amaro Jr., who took over as general manager for Hall of Fame executive Pat Gillick after the 2008 World Series championship season:
"“You look at what we had … Ruben Amaro [Jr.] was handed the keys to a Lamborghini and crashed it.”"
Papelbon was signed to be the next great Phillies postseason closer after Brad Lidge, and he never got that opportunity. Eventually, the Phillies sold off most of the aforementioned pieces, including Papelbon, who was traded to the Washington Nationals in July 2015 for Nick Pivetta.
"“Then, we get to the point where it’s like, ‘Okay, well that’s gone, and everybody knew that at some point, we were going to be complete sellers and this is all gone.'”"
Coincidentally, the Phillies later dealt Pivetta to Boston, where Papelbon played for more than half of his 12-season career.
While Papelbon is the Phillies franchise saves leader, a Wall of Fame ceremony to celebrate his achievement is far from certain — with his less-than-ideal public perception being among the factors. Papelbon’s latest comments about Amaro Jr. certainly do not help the cause. Neither did his dugout confrontation with current Phillies star Bryce Harper while they were Nationals teammates.
Hector Neris was on track to perhaps break Papelbon’s record — with 84 saves across parts of eight seasons — but he joined the Houston Astros in free agency this past offseason.