Are you ready for a little more closer talk?
Lots and lots of Papelbon here this week, and the folks seem to be divided. Some are with me (Papelbon is a terrific pitcher but no closer is worth $13-15 million a year) but I was surprised how many emailers were comfortable with the prospect of losing the best closer in franchise history. Well, when you’ve got a proven commodity like Daniel Bard I guess it’s okay to be cavalier. He’s been getting it done forever, right?
Not just Papelbon in the last bag of the summer, as we debate Mayday vs. The Bloody Sock for the Senate and I take another shot at the Pink Hats. Plus I learn some horrifying news about Nicole Kidman but find a silver lining with the help of an old friend.
To the ‘bag we go (and, as always, feel free to email away to email@example.com)…
Think the Yankees end up with Papelbon, Kirk? Rivera should be gone by 2011, right?
Come on, you and I know the Yankees are going to sign Papelbon. It’ll work out perfectly. Rivera goes and Papelbon comes in to close. Bet they pay him a dollar less a year than Rivera made to keep the old school Yankees fan happy, but I bet it happens.
A: We’ve heard this before, of course. Why not? I guess it’s possible. I do think that it would have been the kind of move the Yankees would have made when George still had his fastball. But I bet the new regime (Hal and Cashman) will never pay a closer not named Mariano Rivera anything near $15 million a season. Sure, they’ll overspend to get the guys they want, but it’ll be for starting pitching or a power bat (see 2008 offseason).
Plus I’m not so sure Rivera will be done after 2011. He had the best season of his career in 2008 and is having another terrific year (.907 WHIP, 1.83 ERA) in 2009. It really did seem that after a mediocre (by his standard) 2007 season (worst marks as a closer in WHIP, hits per nine innings and ERA+) that the end might be in sight, but I think he has re-established himself as the best in closer in the game. This is getting into the highest of high cotton, but I think Rivera has to be considered an all-time top ten Yankee, right?
1. Babe Ruth
2. Lou Gehrig
3. Mickey Mantle
4. Joe D
5. Yogi Berra
6. Derek Jeter
8. Whitey Ford
9. Bernie Williams
10. Bill Dickey
Seems about right, no? Maybe I should have Whitey a little higher, but that’s about it. A great career, unmatched for a closer. (I think Honus Wagner and Rivera are the only no-argument best players ever at their position. Sorry, forgot about Ruth.) Rivera is 39 years old. Papelbon would need to keep up his current level of production until 2020 to even have an argument. Think that’s going to happen?
"We’ll give Mariano Rivera top postseason billing based on the volume of work, but no one else gets a better seat than Papelbon."
Wow, you're willing to admit that Mariano, who has saved five times the post-season games Paps has, is better? You're willing to go out on a limb and stipulate that Mo's SO/BB ratio in the postseason (5.8) is better than Paps (3.7)? You're a big enough man to give Mo the four World Series rings to Pap's one?
Wow. Your magnanimity and lack of bias knows no bounds. Clearly, Mo's postseason advantage is sheer *volume*.
If Papelbon continues pitching like he did from 06-08 for another, say, 15 years, it'll start to become difficult to tell him apart from Mariano in October. The '09 season so far can't make a fan particularly optimistic.
A: I don’t know about lack of bias, Hnice. I spent most of last week defending my claim that Jim Rice couldn’t hold Derek Jeter’s jock, so I think it’s tough to suggest I’m in the bag for the Red Sox. I write one semi-positive column on a Red Sox player and suddenly I’m the love child of Dennis Drinkwater and Cyn Donnelly.
Papelbon has pitched 25 innings in his postseason career and allowed no earned runs. There is no doubt that he has a long way to go to reach Rivera status (117.2 innings pitched with a 0.77 ERA), but I think it’s already fair to put him at number two on the playoff closer list. Who’s been better?
Eck: 3.00 ERA, 1.056 WHIP
Fingers: 2.35 ERA, 1.169 WHIP
Gossage: 2.87 ERA, .837 WHIP
Papelbon: 0.00 ERA, .640 WHIP
True, Papelbon is still in the first act of his career. He could give up six runs in two innings during this postseason and never throw a playoff pitch again. Who knows? But right now I think only Rivera ranks above him.
Most decent batters can gear up for the fastball and get a hit, as has been the case this year. To make this long comment even longer, I'll say that Pap's demand for money is all based on his 2006-2007 seasons, and his true test will be longevity. In these days when closers come out of the woodwork for a year throwing nothing but fire, and then get lit up when batters figure them out, a guy like Mo is even more impressive. I think next year will be Pap's hardest test yet, and will determine his payday.
A: Yup, totally agree that if Papelbon had put up 2009 numbers in 2006 and 2007 he probably would’ve already signed a fairly reasonable long-term deal by now. You know, somewhere between eight and ten million bucks a year (more than I’d ever pay for 60 innings worth of work, but you get the point), fitting nicely in the neighborhood of the second group of elite closers (non-Nathan, K-Rod and Rivera division). But his numbers in 2006 and 2007 were so strong that they buried any chance of securing Papelbon long-term, not dissimilar to Ryan Howard, who could play 20 years, hit 600 home runs and never have a year as good as his 2006 season. He’s been an All-Star level player since, but he’s making 18 mil a year based on what he did three years ago. Take that season out of his career and he’s a 12-15 million dollar player.
Really? Saito? Maybe you haven't heard but he needed Tommy John last year and instead of having the surgery he "rehabbed." His ligament is shredded so as you're seeing this year, he's only available one out of every three days, at the most. Last I checked you might need a more reliable closer when you're talking about closing out wins for the Boston Red Sox...we're not talking the Kansas City Royals here.
Additionally, Papelbon's demise hasn't just been this year...you can spout off all of the stats you want, but the real proof is the eye test. Do you ever feel REALLY comfortable when he comes in to close a game? I don't. Trade him this offseason, get a bat to help this aging lineup, Wagner closes in '10, Bard takes over in '11.
A: I guess I was always okay with wrestlers being from “Parts Unknown,” but I never understood the “weight unknown” part of it. The Missing Link couldn’t stand on a scale for five seconds? He was really that nuts? I’m not buying it. And some guys were from Parts Unknown but did have an announced weight. Maybe Howard Finkel was just screwing with me.
Fair on Saito, but I guess my larger point was that I don’t think it would be terribly difficult to find 70-80 percent of the 2009 Papelbon in 2010, 2012 or whenever he leaves. Take a look at the 2009 leaders in saves. You’ve got guys like Ryan Franklin, Huston Street, Brian Wilson and David Aardsma in the top ten. Would you rather pay K-Rod (3.05 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 28 saves) $9 million or Fernando Rodney (3.28 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 29 saves) just under $3 million? That’s why I thought signing Brad Lidge to that deal (three years, $37.5 million) was such a dopey move by the Phillies. Lidge is the kind of guy on whom you buy low, hope it works out, and then sell as high as possible. Is anyone shocked that he’s been awful this year? Watch, the Phillies will dump him somewhere next year (probably eating half the salary) and he’ll be great for a year or so.
And I know what you mean about the “eye test,” but I’ll stick with stats. And the stats tell me this: Papelbon isn’t the closer he was in 2006 and 2007, but if I told you that Daniel Bard would eventually develop into the Papelbon of 2009 any Red Sox fan should sign for that in a flash. I know he hasn’t been untouchable this season, but he’s still holding opponents to a .340 slugging percentage. Yes, the walks are up. Yes, he relies on that fastball way too much (Steve Stone referred to him as a “one-pitch pitcher” the other night and I found myself nodding in agreement). And I think he has already had the best season of his career. I would never sign him to a huge deal. But again, he will be missed when he’s gone. Not having to worry about the ninth inning is a nice thing.
I’m a big fan of the bag (like the movie callouts, though I hated Zodiac) and I have to give you props on predicting a dim-witted Red Sox closer as the next Senator of Massachusetts in last week’s mailbag. Almost got it right (http://www.examiner.com/x-14650-Entertainment-Examiner~y2009m8d27-Will-Ted-Danson-run-for-Ted-Kennedys-Senate-seat).
A: You know what’s amazing? This idea makes some sense to me and I have no idea why. I mean, in 1998 I sat in a theatre and heard the audience laugh Danson off the screen in Saving Private Ryan. Now he strikes me as an okay pick for the seat. What happened in those 11 years? I have no clue if he went to college or if he knows anything about health care or Iran or the other 20,000 things a Senator should know about. But he (a) now wears glasses, (b) has let the hair (or toupee) go gray and (c) comes across as a pretty cool guy on Curb Your Enthusiasm. That mixture somehow equals credibility for me. But I’m sure everyone will get blinded by the sex and sizzle of Marty Meehan or Martha Coakley and leave Ted and Mary Steenburgen (still a solid 8.5 at age 56, by the way) wondering what could have been.
Speaking of things I have no idea about, can someone tell me why I’m rooting so hard for Greg Paulus to fail at Syracuse? I know I can’t shake the Duke thing, but I’m surprised at how badly I want this kid to throw 11 picks in his first game and never be seen again. What is this about?
I get that $15 million a year is too much for a closer, but I think you are underrating the importance of an ace in the bullpen. I’d sign Papelbon for $10 million a year for four years. If an average starting pitcher can make $15 million a year then a really good closer should be worth $10 million.
A: Well, no one signs a starter for $15 million with the idea that they’ll get an “average” level of production (unless you mean Derek Lowe with the Braves, in which case you are exactly right). Sometimes it just doesn’t work out.
Let’s be kind and assume Papelbon signs for $12 million a year and averages 70 innings a year over the life of a four-year contract. That’s about 171 grand for each inning pitched. Josh Beckett has averaged 210 innings pitched per season in his career. If he were to be paid the same amount per inning you’d be looking at a four-year deal worth $144 million. Get my point? These closers are hugely overpriced. Yes, I think there is value in having a first-class stopper in the back of the ‘pen. But I just don’t see how the math makes sense, I really don’t.
First, I think you should start awarding the most ridiculous email of the week with a little clown shoes graphic next to it so people know what to expect. You know, like the little fire symbol on a menu to let you know what to expect.
Billy Wagner joins the Sox bullpen and the first thing that pops into my head is "selfish dink." That is just the thumbnail associated with Wagner to me.
I don't often cross sports, it's an apples and oranges kind of thing, but I'll break that rule for this fruit basket. If winning is not one of the most important things to this guy, we've seen that type before so I am not crying over missing out on the pitching version of Mike Lansing. I was wishing someone would explain to Lansing 2.0 that Trevor Hoffman has 60 more saves than Mo Rivera, but Hoffman will eventually be a sixth-inning trivia question while Mo is immortal. Any time I see a guy with zero championships on his resume who does not seem interested in playing for one I have zero interest in them. Then this backward redneck does something inadvertently intelligent by waiving the no-trade to play the remainder of the year in Boston. Now my world is upside down. Billy, how dare you do something out of character after I have already passed judgment and unfairly labeled you! Stay tuned: same Pap time, same Pap channel for some enthralling tractor talk between the once and current closers.
Beyond that, I knew you'd be eating s**t-burgers as soon as you made the Jeter comment, and I don't want to be the contrarian to temper all the hate mail.....but how disingenuous can we be as Boston fans?
1. Do you really believe Jeter will be passed over for the Hall of Fame for 15 years and make it by a slim margin in his final year of eligibility?
2. Did you believe Nomar Garciaparra was a better player than Jeter until Jeter crashed into the stands with Nomie sulking on the bench?
If you answer those two questions honestly then you know any argument you make that insinuates Jeter is NOT a better player than Rice is a lost cause because you in fact don't believe it yourself. You also admitted to convincing yourself once that an inferior player was better based on laundry alone. You just never had a Jeter-into-the-stands moment with Rice so that you could conceptualize the difference.
You are likely of the camp that Manny Ramirez was an above-average left-fielder. You are not alone. Yankees fans are on an A.J. Burnett over Josh Beckett kick lately because A.J. has better regular season numbers over the last four seasons than Josh. I didn't even bother to look them up. We have four years of seeing both guys in the AL East and I know which guy I'd put my money on when it matters. If there is any justice, the "Manny is a good fielder" folks will meet the "A.J. Burnett over Beckett" folks in the park for a good old-fashioned rock fight. That sounds like a win-win to me.
A: Gotta send the emails before Thursday, Jake. But this actually works out well, because from what I read and heard on WEEI a week or so ago this is exactly what most Red Sox fans thought about Billy Wagner. A hick. An ingrate. Selfish. Doesn’t want to win. The bullpen is stacked, how can we find work for this guy?
Now it’s a week later, and after two (admittedly) impressive appearances you’d think Wagner has been pitching for the Sox since 1992. Can we give Wagner, I don’t know, a month before we anoint him? The guy has pitched FOUR INNINGS in the last 400 days. You know if Wagner shows up next Tuesday with a stiff elbow or sore shoulder (obviously a real possibility) we’ll go right back to where we were a week ago. I mean, is this really where we are? Two innings and we’re sold?
(This is probably the best place for this quick anecdote. I was taking the Green Line to Kenmore for Sox/Yankees a week ago Friday. Three girls, maybe 20 years old, were sitting across from me. They each (brace for the shock) wore a Pink Hat and an Ellsbury shirt. And they spent the better part of 10 minutes yelling at a father and son who had the gall to wear Yankees’ shirts. All the greatest hits, you’ve heard them a million times. And as it always seems to be with a crew like this, the (a) least attractive and (b) most drunk member of the gang took on the lead role in tormenting. And she decided to get to her feet for the summation, a 90-second meditation on Johnny Damon and a life spent deep in the closet. And I swear to God this is true, there was maybe a five-second gap before she turned to a man behind her and asked sweetly, “Is this the stop for The Fenway Stadium?” Look, I don’t ask that you know who Harry Hooper is, or even Jim Lonborg, but can we all agree that correctly identifying Fenway Park is sort of a must for legitimate fan status?)
"But that’s sort of like saying Nicole Kidman’s scene sans clothes in 'Eyes Wide Shut' is her worst."
Dude, it was a body double. Poor analogy.
PS: I agree completely, Paps won't sign a long-term deal here.
A: Don’t tell me that, Michael. Can you just let me live in a world where body doubles do not exist? If I’m watching “Eyes Wide Shut” I have to think it’s Kidman getting the Pitino treatment from that sailor, not some 22-year-old stripper from Saugus making 18 bucks an hour. Totally ruins the moment. Thanks a lot. Sometimes I hate this mailbag. At least I’m secure in the knowledge that there was no body double for Halle Berry in “Monster’s Ball.” No kidding, I have watched “the” scene in that movie about 25,000 times, or 24,998 more times than my wedding video. If there were ever a reason for an expert to give testimony in court regarding that scene I would have to be the man for the job, I think. Now if they had brought in Kate Beckinsale as Billy Bob Thornton’s body double for those two minutes and forty-eight seconds I would have been okay with the process.
Seriously, did I just read that Curt Schilling is considering a run for the Senate? I thought it had to be a joke. But what do you think would get more laughs: a Republican believing he has a shot at winning the seat, or the sight of Curt Schilling collecting signatures at the local dump?
Oklahoma (originally from your hometown of Winchester)
A: I could make the cheap “It would be nice to see Schilling elected so he could continue his history of getting the truth out in the Halls of Congress” joke but I won’t do that.
All kidding aside, I don’t think Schilling will wind up seeking the GOP nomination (I have no inside information, this is just a guess). What’s the point for him? He’s no dummy, I’m sure he knows a Republican will get slapped around in an election. And this isn’t a knock on Schilling, because there is nothing in Martha Coakley or Joe Kennedy’s history to suggest that they’d do a better job as a Senator. But the voters of Massachusetts will not let Teddy K’s seat go to a Republican, no matter how many playoff games a candidate might have won with his Achilles tendon falling off. But I hope I’m wrong and he gives it a shot, if only because the Equal Opportunity Provision might lead to my lifelong dream – a Ted Danson mailbag.
Kirk Minihane is a columnist for WEEI.com and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org