Tuesday, July 30, 2013

PHILLIES: Like it or not, Papelbon has a point

July 29, 2013

By Nick Tricome

Before the Detroit Tigers handed the Phillies their eighth consecutive loss on Sunday afternoon, Jonathan Papelbon made opinions known.

"I definitely didn't come here for this," he said to MLB.com's Todd Zolecki.

It's understandable, when he signed a four-year, $50 million contract with the team prior to the 2012 season, he was supposed to help what was a winning team in the five years before, continue to do so.

The Phillies missed the playoffs in 2012 and after a deflating road trip coming back from the All-Star break, it looks like they will be missing October again.

When Zolecki asked him about the direction of the club, Papelbon responded with, "Oh, man. We could be here all day."

However, Papelbon also has an idea on what it will take for the Phillies to get back in the right direction.

"It's going to take, in my opinion, a lot," he told Zolecki. "And in my opinion, I think it's going to have to be something very similar to what the Red Sox went through a couple years ago. From top to bottom."

A member of the Red Sox from 2005 to 2011, Papelbon was referring to Boston's recovery from his last year with the team and a horrible season in 2012.

In 2011, Boston infamously-- to Red Sox fans, that is--finished the season 7-20, after starting September at the top of the American League East.

They were in a race with the Tampa Bay Rays for AL Wild Card spot on the last day of the season. The Red Sox lost on the road to the Baltimore Orioles on a blown save by Papelbon and the Rays came back down 7-0 to the New York Yankees to win on a walk-off homer by Evan Longoria.

Manager Terry Francona and general manager Theo Epstein, who were there when the Red Sox won the World Series in 2004 and 2007, left soon after.

Papelbon, who threw the final pitch of the 2007 World Series, was also on his way out of Boston.

The Red Sox had parted ways with two of the people who helped build and guide two World Series winning teams.

But after 2011, Francona believed the Red Sox were in need of a new voice.

"I think it's time for a new voice here," Francona said when it was announced he was no longer manager of the Red Sox. "I was frustrated with some of my inabilities to get some things done here and after talking to ownership and Theo -- at length, multiple times -- I think it's the right thing to do for the organization and myself."

He was probably right, as the Red Sox finished that season playing uninspired, almost like how the Phillies have played over this past nine-game road trip.

The 2012 season under new manager Bobby Valentine, who would only last a year, was forgettable to put it nicely. 

However, the Red Sox continued to get rid of players who just weren't getting the job done for them anymore in a trade that sent Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez and Josh Beckett to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Now, in 2013, the Red Sox are successful again. They have a 63-43 record and are in first place in the AL East.

Although the Phillies' current situation is not completely similar to the one the Red Sox were in two years ago (their rotation isn't in the clubhouse drinking beer and eating chicken like Boston's did), it is comparable.

At some point during the 2011 season, Francona lost control of his players and his words no longer got through to them.

After this road-trip, where the Phillies lost eight of nine, maybe Charlie Manuel is starting to lose his grip on the team.

Unlike Boston, who was in playoff contention until the very last day, the Phillies' postseason hopes are likely already over and the front office will use the rest of this season to evaluate the roster. That way, they can start making moves now to prep the club for the future.

The point is this, the Red Sox had to move in a different direction after 2011. They stumbled in 2012, but have since recovered nicely.

Now it's time for the Phillies to take a different direction too. 

The run that included five consecutive NL East titles, back-to-back NL pennants and a Word Series championship is at its end.

Charlie Manuel is in the final year of his contract. Although nothing is set in stone just yet, it's probably time to let Ryne Sanderg take over as manager for next season.

Carlos Ruiz and Chase Utley are in the final year of their deals too. They are both players who were a huge part in making this team as successful as they have been in the recent past.

Although the Phillies are working on getting Utley an extension, maybe it's time to let Ruiz walk and let prospect Tommy Joseph develop into the team's new starting catcher.

Jimmy Rollins has one more guaranteed year on his contract, but why not give Freddy Galvis a shot at taking over shortstop.

Ryan Howard has struggled with injury since signing a five-year, $125 million contract extension in 2010. Although a contract that big makes it hard to justify limiting Howard's playing time, maybe the Phillies could at least looking into making Darin Ruf their starting first baseman.

Papelbon is saying that the Phillies have to make changes, like the Red Sox did after their collapse in 2011.

The Phillies have been hovering around the .500 mark and the middle of the NL East standings all season. Inconsistency at the plate, in the bullpen and even in the starting rotation, in some respects, has been a problem throughout 2013, not just since the All-Star break.

With the way the Phillies are looking, like it or not, it's a bit hard to disagree with what Papelbon is saying and he is well aware of the fact that if they do in fact go in a different direction, they may do so without him.

"That's part of the business," Papelbon told Zolecki. "If you want to go in a different direction and I'm not a piece of that puzzle, so be it."

(Image from USA Today)

Agree or disagree with Papelbon's comments? Let me know your thoughts by sending me a tweet @itssnick215.

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