Exactly what type of vetting process did Philadelphia Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro, Jr. use when he pursued then-Boston Red Sox free agent closer Jonathan Papelbon in the fall of 2011? Because his personality, rather than production, was, is and will likely continue to be a problem.
Where there's smoke there's fire, as the old cliché burns. In this instance, that long-standing rumor about 'Cinco Ocho' has legs and is certainly running rampant this week.
As New York Yankees' fans, who rank with the loudest front-runners in the game, would attest, Mariano Rivera was the greatest closer of all-time. That fact also means that Papelbon's solid career has been overshadowed because of the era that he's pitching through. So, even though the Phillies' current stopper has nearly 300 career saves, he's seen as less than half the baseball man Rivera (652 saves, which ranks first by far) was.
Many Philadelphia media members have been pounding Papelbon since it was learned that he made himself unavailable for Sunday's game against the New York Mets due to 'soreness issues'. Ryne Sandberg seemingly wasn't cool with that decision, as he indicated on Philadelphia radio Monday morning.
Having only thrown a combined 21 pitches in the two prior games, the 10-year veteran put a clear target on his back through that choice. Number 58 had developed a reputation for not being a total team guy throughout his career, so this latest situation surely plays into that game.
Papelbon's response to Howard Eskin's cogent questions before the series-opener against the Los Angeles Angles was ripe. He advised the veteran reporter that he felt it was best for his team and his career if he took that one game off, rather than risk injury.
Papelbon also introduced a strong point that many media members apparently weren't aware of, or didn't claim to remember: He's never been on the disabled list in his career. It's almost always true that the mass media decides what it thinks the news is and then works to bolster that view of reality. Proof of that point can be seen by the number of stories that included Papelbon's career health record prior to his mentioning that issue.
Philadelphia fans have a well-earned reputation. Based upon perception, they're known to be purposefully passionate, or embarrassingly childish.
Money issues aside, Papelbon was and still is an effective closer. His personality does seem abrasive, but he's a reliever and they're known to be unusual creatures. The reason why a certain segment of the fan base and some media members don't like him personally has as much to do with the personalities of those individuals as it does with the right-hander himself. And unless he's traded, he'll be around through at least the end of next season.