The Baseball Desert

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Out with the old...

...and in with the, erm, old, it would seem. Our new closer is in fact our old closer who last year was our new closer. That clear for everyone? The bottom line is that Papelbon - he of the 35 saves and 0.92 ERA in '06 - is going to be closing games for the Red Sox in 2007.

There will continue to be lingering questions from all quarters about his health, his preparation, how he'll be used etc., but, as Beth says:
And as I plodded through debates and conversations this spring over Donnelly vs. Piniero, Tavarez vs. Timlin, the greedy fan in me kind of knew that none of the above were going to cut the mustard as a closer.
Even if you feel that the official line needs to be taken with a pinch of salt, there is a lot to be said for having a guy on the mound who wants to be out there in the ninth inning:
"I felt that there was always that feeling deep down in my heart that I wanted to close," Papelbon said. "For me, it just kept getting at me and getting at me until finally I went to our captain [Jason Varitek] one day and I said, 'Tek, I'm not sleeping good at night. I've got to do something about it. Basically I told him, 'Man, I think I want to close, that's what I want to do.'"
And there are intangible psychological benefits to having him in that role. I've been at Fenway when Papelbon comes in to close a game, and the place goes bananas as he jogs in from the bullpen. Now which would you prefer - the energising feeling that goes through not only the fans but also the rest of the Sox on the field as Papelbon comes into the game, or the deflating, "hang on to your hats" feeling that comes from handing the ball to a guy carrying the title of "Best We Could Do" or "Least Damage Done In Spring Training"? It's not even close.

Tavarez wanted to start, Papelbon wants to close. This way everybody wins. And, hopefully, so will the Red Sox.