It has been a week since Jonathan Papelbon advised Philadelphia Phillies' manager Ryne Sandberg that he wouldn't be available to pitch against the New York Mets. The Phillies' subsequent late-inning loss to their division rival on April 11 then created an expected fan firestorm. However, an interesting caveat was later added to this unusual story that questioned whether Papelbon's claimed physical issues weren't the real reason behind his self-benching.
Howard Eskin began his career in Philadelphia radio many decades ago. His legendary style, which he developed on FM and AM stations in the city, was later copied by many sports talk show hosts. Regardless of one's opinion of this sports broadcaster, there can be no honest denial that he has been and remains a factor in the Philadelphia sports' scene.
It must be noted that Eskin helped this author, early in his career, when he was working in the front office of the Phillies' Triple-A team that was formerly located in Scranton. Helping to establish easy access to Mike Schmidt was appreciated and proved to be meaningful professionally. Eskin, who was working as the lead sports' anchor at Fox-29 in Philadelphia at the time (and is again now), didn't have to be helpful, but he was. That was reflective of his character.
Yes, Eskin's on-air, or on-screen, personality is apparent. But, we are talking about show business my friends and that's part of his intended style. Listeners and viewers are drawn to his work and that proves that he's effective.
Eskin stated last week on Twitter and again on his Saturday morning radio show this weekend, that sources advised him that Papelbon had been out late last Saturday night (April 10). The implication was that certain liquid-related activities created a cloudy feeling in Papelbon's head and stomach region the next day (April 11), rather than physical soreness in the closer's arm.
Papelbon has been and remains one of the most durable relievers in the game. He hasn't appeared on the disabled list in his 10-year career, which speaks highly of his hardcore approach. That positive factor does cause one to wonder how many other times (if ever) he had made himself unavailable when he pitched for the Boston Red Sox, or when he's been wearing red pinstripes?
Number 58's personality can be taken in a number of way's. If a fan favors him, then he's harmlessly goofy. If a fan disdains him, then he's abrasive. In either case, neither fan can deny his career statistics: 544 appearances, 1.034 WHIP, 2.39 ERA, 297 saves (twenty-sixth all-time) and five All-Star appearances. He has been and remains effective in a very hard job, like him, or not.
Eskin has many long-standing sources who are directly connected to Philadelphia's sports teams. That access led to him making a specific statement about Papelbon that he hadn't made at any point in the reliever's two-plus Phillies' years. Eskin is one the hardest working, if not the hardest working, sports journalists in Philadelphia. He's not a cheerleader, nor should any claimed journalist be, and he goes for the hard truth in every story.
Many businesses often cover for their VIP personnel. Have the Phillies done the same?