2011 is shaping up to be the Year of the Goodbye, I guess. It’s just a lot to take in and deal with at once. I have confidence in Ben, but it just seems like he keeps adding to his workload rather than making some definitive decisions. I’m sure we’ll see those soon, but it would be nice to halt the farewell train. I think we’ve had enough.
The Phillies called Paps but then seemed to agree to terms with Ryan Madson. The good news was that we could have still sign him; the bad news was that Paps was now salivating over Madson’s brand-new four-year, forty-plus-million-dollar theoretical contract. The bright side in was that he’s represented by Seth and Sam Levinson. Can you imagine if Paps of all people were represented by Scott Boras? That would be absolutely hellish. Ben made contact with Paps’s camp, but he didn’t expect them to give him any time to match an offer from another club if the offer was to Paps’s liking.
And it was. Congratulations, Paps. You have just set the record for closer compensation. He has accepted an offer from the Phillies for a four-year, fifty-million-dollar deal including a fifth-year vesting option. Ben wasn’t going to match that, and the Levinsons knew it. They knew Ben’s dislike of deals for closers longer than three years, and they certainly knew Ben’s dislike for dishing out that kind of money. We may all rest assured that the only reason why Ben felt comfortable letting Paps go is that there are other options out there, and good ones. This is not me trying to justify our new leadership and make myself feel better. This is fact. Ryan Madson, Francisco Cordero, Francisco Rodriguez, Heath Bell, Joe Nathan (a risky move, but it’s been about a year since his Tommy John surgery, so this should be the time when his command returns), and, oh, yeah, Daniel Bard all make the list. Not too shabby. Not too shabby at all. Ben and I can agree on the fact that Daniel Bard probably shouldn’t be closing just yet. He was very clearly built to be one of the best closers in the game, but I personally would give it another year or two and bring in a veteran closer first. Ideally, during that year or two, Bard would see significant pitching time in the ninth inning throughout the season to groom him for that role. While the one-two punch of Bard in the eighth and a lights-out closer in the ninth would be impossible to resist, when the time comes we’ll face the choice of having to find a reliable set-up man, which arguably may be more difficult, or having to let Bard walk away. One could make the case that we’re seeing something like Bard walking away now with Paps. Quite frankly, I don’t like it, and I don’t want to do it more than once. Regarding Bard specifically, you don’t let a one-hundred-mile-per-hour fastball walk out that door. You just don’t.
What will infuriate me is if Ben feels compelled to offer more than three years to one of these other closers because Paps basically just revolutionized the closer market overnight. If other teams will be ready to provide that fourth year, Ben will be out of luck. All the reports of drama and all the rebuilding to be done this year aren’t exactly helping our cause; Paps is eager to go to the Phillies for several reasons, not the least of which I imagine is that, if you thought he wreaked havoc on AL hitters, he’s going to be the prophet of pitching in the NL, and it looks like the Phillies are a team that could potentially win, despite the fact that everyone said that about them, just as they were saying it about us, earlier this year only to watch them flame out in the playoffs.
And now, the tribute.
Paps started his career here. He came up through our system and even won a cow-milking contest when he was with the Lowell Spinners. He played our game both on and off the field because his personality was one-of-a-kind. He was always a dependable notable quotable, but it was much more than that. He was a leader and a force in the clubhouse. He was crazy and insane, but only in the best of ways. He was a Boston baseball guy. He lived the baseball experience here, embraced it wholly, and took it to the absolute extreme. He did the jig en route to the championship and redefined “I’m Shipping Up To Boston” by The Dropkick Murphys. I don’t think he’ll have as much fun anywhere else as he did here. Seriously, all you had to do was hear those two drumbeats that start the song in the eighth or ninth inning and you know that you can sit back, relax, and enjoy the winning that will obviously ensue with Paps on the mound. Granted, it technically wasn’t always like that. He did blow his share of saves. He didn’t blow many, but it seemed like most of the ones he blew were doozies indeed. He was immediately responsible for our untimely exit from the ’09 playoffs; he blew his save in Game Three of the ALDS, and that was the last playoff game we were in. And he struggled in 2010 with eight blown saves. But looking at the big picture, he more than made up for it. He attacked the closing job with remarkable intensity; that stare of his could strike fear into the heart of any hitter. In his career, he has an ERA of 2.33 and a WHIP of 1.02. He’s amassed 219 saves and posted 509 strikeouts in 429.1 innings. He’s blown a grand total of only twenty-nine saves, and only three of those came during this past season, compared to thirty-one converted opportunities. And I don’t think any one of us will ever forget Tek jumping into his arms after he closed out Game Four of the 2007 World Series in Denver. Not once in our long and illustrious history had we ever had a mainstay closer as long as we had Paps. He was the best we’d ever seen, and he’s still in his prime. So here’s to you. Here’s to everything you’ve done for us through the years, both the much-needed saves and the much-needed smiles. Here’s to you as a player and as a person, a goofy closer who still showed remarkable leadership in the clubhouse. Here’s an enormous understatement: we’re going to miss you, Paps, and it’s been ridiculously fun.
Ben has also been in contact with the camps of Papi, Wake, and Tek. I don’t think that I’d be able to watch any of those guys playing for another team. It would be too surreal. Like I said, one is quite enough, thank you.
Supposedly we’re interested in a two-year deal with Carlos Beltran. He’s made it clear that he only wants to play in the National League and that he refuses to DH, but we’ve been attached to Beltran in the media for a long time. But wait; the plot thickens. We haven’t even called Beltran yet; instead, we’ve called Grady Sizemore and Michael Cuddyer.
There are also rumors that we’re interested in Mark Buehrle. This is the first time in his career that he’s a free agent, and competition for him is stiff. Supposedly we were also on hand to observe the workout of Yoenis Cespedes, who defected from Cuba to the Dominican Republic. Supposedly he’s amazing, and he’s going to set off a major cash fight. Think Aroldis Chapman.
Mike Maddux has withdrawn his candidacy due to “personal reasons.” That’s in quotes because he’s still on the Cubs’ list. Obviously. This should not surprise anybody. We added Blue Jays first base coach Torey Lovullo and Detroit third base coach Gene Lamont. If the names sound familiar, that’s because they are. Lovullo manage the PawSox before going to Toronto, and Lamont was our third base coach in 2001. And that, supposedly, is going to be it for candidates. Our list and the Cubs’ list share three candidates: Alomar, Mackanin, and Sveum. I think it’s fairly obvious that Maddux is going to Chicago. Incidentally, throughout this process, I’ve been having this thought: Theo’s relationship with Larry was shaky but ultimately productive. It was shaky because Theo basically wanted his own job plus Larry’s job. He wanted more control over baseball operations; he didn’t want to be just the general manager, which is why he’s not the Cubs’ general manager. Theo brought in Jed Hoyer to be the Cubs’ general manager, and it will be interesting to see if Theo actually restricts himself to his higher role and doesn’t conduct himself with Hoyer the same way that Larry conducted himself with Theo. If he doesn’t, Hoyer may take issue. Oh, the potential irony.
Gonzalez will appear on the cover of this “MLB 12 The Show.” Pedroia did it in 2009. Heady company.
On Wednesday, MLB Network aired a two-hour special on the Buckner game. John McNamara insists that, after the seventh inning, Roger Clemens told him that he was done because of a cut on his finger; Clemens maintains that McNamara pinch-hit for him and the cut on his finger was not an obstruction to continuing to perform. Whatever it was that really happened destroyed their relationship. McNamara also stated that he went with Buckner, who was obviously not fit to field, because he was the best first baseman on the roster; he didn’t go with Dave Stapleton because he supposedly had earned the nickname “Shaky.” But Bruce Hurst said that he never heard anyone call Stapleton shaky. Honestly, the whole thing was just the epitome of devastation, drama or no drama, and what I would personally like to avoid is similar devastation in the future and similar subsequent drama.
Tito is interviewing with the Cards. Jerry Remy was surprised; he, and I think most of us, naturally assumed that Tito would take some time off before jumping right back into it.
In other news, the Pats dropped a very close one to the Giants, 24-20. Oh, and we released Albert Haynesworth. It’s not like we all didn’t see that coming when the signing was made. The B’s played the Islanders, Oilers, and Sabres this week and beat all of them by almost the exact same score: the Isles and Sabres by 6-2 and the Oilers by 6-3.