Papelbon: Collapse 'snuck up on everybody'

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Papelbon: Collapse 'snuck up on everybody'

By Phil Perry
CSNNE.com

As it turns out, the Red Sox's September collapse was as sudden and surprising to the players in the clubhouse as it was to the rest of the world. According to Jonathan Papelbon, there were locker room issues that never got resolved, and before they knew it, they were at home, watching playoff baseball instead of taking part in it.

"I think it just snuck up on us," Papelbon told WEEI.com's Rob Bradford. "It snuck up on Tito. I think it snuck up on GM Theo Epstein. I think it snuck up on the players, and I think it snuck up on the leaders in that Red Sox clubhouse that had been there for the past six, seven, eight years.

"That's why I feel like it's kind of hard to point a finger on somebody. But just as quick as it snuck on Tito, with the team being kind of out of sorts, I think it snuck up on the players and the general manager. It snuck up on everybody."

The fact that the Red Sox jettisoned their manager was equally unnerving for the Red Sox's closer.

"I wouldn't say surprised. That's a bad word to use. I would say more like shocked," said Papelbon about Francona's departure. "The shock value increased and the realization that, you know, if I come back to Boston next year I was more like, is this really happening? I wasn't surprised. It's hard to be surprised in Boston because every little whisper people try to run with it. It's hard to be surprised."

Apparently, though, when it comes to the most headline-worthy locker room problem plaguing the 2011 Red Sox, there were no whispers of drinking in the clubhouse during games because Papelbon said never heard anything about it.

"I have no idea about that," Papelbon said. "I'm getting ready from the first inning. I come in from batting practice, and when I get done with BP, I get my pregame meal and do what I need to, and then I start getting ready for the game. As far as starting pitchers drinking in the clubhouse, I would have never seen it because I'm worried about the Jonathan Papelbon-type things. I 'm not worried about if I need to go find out what the starting pitchers are doing. You see what I'm saying? So from 6 o'clock to 7 o'clock I'm trying to get locked in. From 7 o'clock on, I'm in my routine to go get ready. So, no, it was a shock to me. I had no clue.

"I think everybody in Major League Baseball is their own entity," he added. "So I don't get how people can say, 'You know this didn't work with that.' I think that I'm my own entity. And if I show up to work and bust my ass to put myself in position to do my job I put myself in position to do my job. If I could put myself in a position to be successful every day, then that's all you can ask from every guy in that clubhouse. And I can't answer that for each person. I don't know if they're doing what they feel like they need to be doing to be successful. That's their personal approach."

When asked at what point the Red Sox seemed to be spiriling downward, Papelbon said, "When we were in Tampa Bay, middle of September. When we went there, we lost."

That's when David Ortiz took matters into his own hands and called a team meeting. It wasn't enough to snap the Red Sox out of their funk, but it was something.

"You could see the things kind of like, the team kind of unraveling a bit, and I know David could kind of see that, you know, the frustration. So he called a team meeting," Papelbon remembered. "I'm not going to tell you what the team meeting was about. It was just like, 'Hey, let's get our act together. I'm one of the leaders, and this is what we have got to do to succeed. This is what we can't do to fail.'

"I think that not to say it (earlier) isn't David's fault by any means because he didn't know the timing of the whole Jason Varitek, Tim Wakefield and myself and Dustin and some of the guys that had been in the clubhouse for a little while, had we said, 'Hey, let's get these guys together, let's get our team together, and kind of re-evaluate our plans for the end of the season if it was two weeks earlier, we might not be sitting on the phone taking about this. This is all hindsight. Nobody knows."

McAdam: Prospects of a Papelbon-Red Sox reunion dimming

McAdam: Prospects of a Papelbon-Red Sox reunion dimming

BOSTON -- Until next Wednesday, major league teams can add to their rosters and have the new additions still be eligible for postseason play.

But don't expect the Red Sox to do any serious upgrading.

The bullpen could sorely use some reinforcements, but the difficulty of obtaining help at this time of year -- when players changing teams must first clear waivers -- is problematic.

Asked recently the odds of the Sox making a deal to bolster the team's relief group, an industry source reponded: "Pretty slim.''

The source went on to say that any relievers of value have been routinely "blocked'' -- i.e., claimed by a team before being pulled back by the original club.

The few relievers who have successfully cleared waivers -- including Oakland's Ryan Madson and Chicago's David Robertson -- are those with multiyear commitments that extend beyond this season.

And just because the likes of Madson and Robertson have cleared waivers doesn't guarantee they're necessarily available. At this time of the year, teams routinely send their players through waivers to provide them with flexibilty and to determine the level of interest for deals in the off-season.

In the case of Robertson, the Red Sox would be taking on $25 million in future salary for 2017 and 2018 for a pitcher who would not be serving as their closer. The Sox control Craig Kimbrel for two more seasons, with a guaranteed contract for 2017 and a team option for 2018.

One major-league executive noted that teams are often reluctant to take on a reliever with a multiyear contract, since the existence of a future commitment could restrict a team in terms of usage.

Better to have a player on an expiring deal, the executive suggested, with no worries about future obligations.

It's still possible that the Sox could acquire Jonathan Papelbon, whose case has gone cold in the past week. Only 10 days ago, reports had Papelbon ready to sign within 24 hours with one of the handful of clubs expressing an interest in him.

But since then, Papelbon hasn't been heard from. One source indicated that Papelbon's interest in signing elsewhere may be impacted by a family situation.

Whatever the reason, the longer Papelbon goes without signing somewhere, the tougher it is to imagine him having much impact. 

Papelbon last pitched for the Washington Nationals on Aug. 6, three weeks ago. He would need some time on a minor-league assignment in order to be major league-ready for the final month.

And while Papelbon would enjoy returning to the familiarity of Boston, he's not close to the same pitcher that he was when he left after 2011. Indeed, Papelbon isn't even the same pitcher he was in his final two seasons with the Philadelphia Phillies.

The Red Sox, reduced to matching up night after night in the eighth inning, would still welcome him back. But there are other options to upgrade a porous bullpen, options that would seem to make the odds of a Papebon-Red Sox reunion negligible.