I wish I could say I'll miss him.
The steady-as-a-piston 30 saves a season? The structure he's brought to the Red Sox bullpen over the last six years? His goofiness? His general likeability? Yeah, I'll miss all that. And while this may get me kicked out of the Purists' Circle, I'll even miss those crashing opening notes of "I'm Shipping Up To Boston", which the Fenway audio crew would have playing within seconds of the third out in the bottom of the eighth.
Here's what I won't miss about Jonathan Papelbon:
The interminable delays as he stood there on the rubber, staring in, his cap pulled down to eyebrow level, shaking off his catcher, shaking him off, shaking him off, until finally the poor sap would call time and trot out there for a three-second conversation. (I could never figure it. What can you say in three seconds other than "Fastball" or "cutter" or "slider"? How was that not one of the signs?) The just-as-interminable number of foul balls, as hitters managed to spoil one pitch after another. Which would, inevitably, lead to baserunners, sometimes more than one. He would succeed (far) more often than not, but those soul-draining, enthusiasm-sucking, 26-pitches-in-24-minutes innings . . . they'd take something out of you.
I'm not much for form over content, generally, but there was something about Papelbon's lack of artistry that just wore on me over the years. He'd drag the game to a halt, right at the time when the tension and excitement should be its peak, and it bothered me. (Let me back in, Purists!) Especially when compared to the android-like efficiency of Mariano Rivera, who could do the same job in one-third the time with one-fourth the number of pitches.
And I've been around long enough to know that -- while you're screwed if you have a bad closer -- you don't need a great one to survive. Some teams use a different one every year, usually for financial reasons, and do just fine. (Hello there, Joe Maddon.) If Ben Cherington declined to match what appears to be an overly generous proposal from the Phillies, I can't say I blame him.
Don't get me wrong; I liked Pap. How could you not? He was the closer in a glorious period in Red Sox history, and I'll always remember him fondly.
But not having to watch him night after night anymore . . . not shedding any tears over that.