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Red Sox

Roche: Papelbon Era Over

A blog by WBZ-TV's Dan Roche
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Jonathan Papelbon #58 of the Boston Red Sox pitches against the Oakland Athletics at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on April 20, 2011 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Jonathan Papelbon #58 of the Boston Red Sox pitches against the Oakland Athletics at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on April 20, 2011 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

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BOSTON (CBS) – It’s been hard for Red Sox fans to watch since September 1st.

First, the biggest collapse in MLB history in the form of a 7-20 September as they’re ousted from postseason play on the final night of the regular season.

We then hear of beer, fried chicken, and some poor conditioning on the part of the players in the Sox clubhouse as they collapsed.

Then, we watch as Terry Francona departs which means that arguably the best manager in the history of the franchise will no longer be in the dugout on a nightly basis.

Next up, the man who was the chief architect of two World Series titles Theo Epstein takes off for the Chicago Cubs to try to break another curse.

And, now we watch as the greatest closer in the history of the franchise is leaving too….as Jonathan Papelbon takes off for greener pastures in Philly in the form of 4 years and 50-million dollars.

Ouch.

Lots of work for Ben Cherington to do.

In listening to Cherington talk on Friday about Papelbon’s departure, it was pretty clear that Ben wasn’t interested in bringing back Pap on a 4 year deal or for that much money.

Interesting.

I look at Papelbon and I see a closer that has been among the elite in the game ever since he entered the league in 2005. His regular season numbers have been consistent and his postseason numbers have been record-setting(25 scoreless innings to start his play-off career).

Minus, Mariano Rivera, Papelbon has arguably been the best closer in the game.

And so, he’s being paid like that. His AAV of 12.5-million dollars will be second only to Rivera. The Red Sox simply felt that at his age(31 to start 2012) that he wouldn’t be worth it. Better off to use the resources somewhere else.

I think that’s a risky thing to do if you’re the Red Sox for a one big reason:

1) Boston is a tough place to close in. We’ve seen it before. Closer-by-committee failed miserably when Theo tried to introduce it here. Daniel Bard has struggled when given the opportunities(only 5-for-20) as have others. Pap had that special mentality to put bad outings behind you. And, Papelbon did it in the postseason…and even tougher assignment. Yes, he blew his save against the Angels in Game Three of the 2009 ALDS, but the Sox were destined to lose that series any way, in my opinion.

Papelbon also had to close in the shadow of Mariano Rivera of the Yankees, not an easy thing to do. Yet, he embraced it. He talked with Rivera about the closer role and found out how to be great at it.

So, now we get to see how Ben Cherington reacts to what is sure to tick off many Red Sox fans. Personally, I’m intrigued to watch this whole off-season and 2012 season unfold. I think Ben deserves a chance to put together a team.

Will he find a capable replacement? He should be able to. The free agent market has some interesting names from Joe Nathan to Heath Bell to Ryan Madson.

And, finally…on a personal note….Pap will be missed. He was refreshing and always an interesting quote. From his Cinco Ocho split personality to Mr Fantasy Baseball to his unfiltered opinions….I loved him. He always took responsibility after a blown save and never hid. And, most importantly, he was as great a closer as you’ll ever get a chance to watch…and easily the best I’ve ever seen in a Red Sox uniform, especially over a long period of time.

So thanks Pap, and good luck. I appreciate the ride.

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