The Red Sox—suddenly behaving like a small-market franchise on the cheap—made a huge mistake by letting Jonathan Papelbon go. This is 'strike two' in the first at-bat for new GM Ben Cherington (strike one being the painfully weak field of managerial candidates he has assembled).
God knows, Papelbon had his bad moments (notably the blown saves in the '09 post-season and the final game of Black September), but, on balance, he was the best closer in Red Sox history. Doing a head-to-head comparison to Mariano's first six years shows only a sliver of difference between the two. In his six years as full-time closer for Boston, he averaged 36.5 saves. Are we going to get that kind of consistency from Madson, Bell, Nathan, Bard or (God forbid!) Jenks? Not bloody likely.
In the one stat that, in our mind, is most salient for relievers, Papelbon gave up 107 fewer hits than innings pitched. And was there anyone who—when in the zone—was more dominant in the ninth inning? (See Papelbon's career stats here).
The Red Sox may very well regret Veterans Day 2011 as the daythey didn't even make an offer to a home-grown guy who delivered for them over six years. So, who's Liverpool playing today?