Friday, March 9, 2012

Former Red Sox Closer Lights A Papelbon-fire

What is it about becoming a member of the Phillies that gets certain players to say things to rile opposing fanbases?  It began so innocently five years ago when Jimmy Rollins proclaimed the Phillies the team to beat in the NL East.  Then Cole Hamels called the Mets chokers after the Phillies won the World Series in 2008.  Now one of the newest members of the Phillies has made a comment that is sure to get the attention of his former fans.

On Thursday, Phillies' closer Jonathan Papelbon told a Philadelphia radio station that his new team's fans "tend to know the game a little better" than Red Sox fans.  He also went on to say that fans in Boston are "a little bit more hysterical when it comes to the game of baseball".

Oh, really?  I believe now would be a good time for me to respond to Papelbon's comments by quoting the great philosopher, Jules Winnfield, when I say "Well, allow me to retort".

Prior to 2007, Phillies fans stayed away from the ballpark in droves.  When Citizens Bank Park opened in 2004, the Phillies averaged 40,125 patrons per home date.  The luster of the new ballpark faded quickly, as attendance plummeted in CBP's second year, with an average of 32,905 fans showing up to see a decent Phillies team finish 88-74.  The 88 victories represented the highest total for a Phillies club since the 1993 National League pennant-winning team.  It was the Phillies' most successful season in 12 years, and home attendance DROPPED by 20%.

Although the Mets ran away with the NL East title in 2006, the Phillies competed for the wild card until the final week of the season.  They fell short in their quest, but not by much, finishing three games behind the playoff-bound Los Angeles Dodgers.  Despite contending for a playoff spot all year, the average attendance for a Phillies' home game in 2006 was 33,356.  Contention brought in an extra 451 fans per game compared to the 2005 team.

Meanwhile, Boston's Fenway Park, which doesn't even have a capacity of 40,000, has drawn over 30,000 fans per game in every season since 1999.  The last time the Red Sox failed to draw over 2,000,000 fans in a non-strike-shortened season was in 1985, which was the same year Jonathan Papelbon turned five.

Of course, Phillies fans, according to Papelbon, know the game better than Red Sox fans do.  That explains why they didn't start showing up to games until after the Phillies actually won something in 2007, which Papelbon would know nothing about since he was too busy winning a World Series in Boston for those "not-as-knowledgeable" Red Sox fans.

Also, how would Papelbon know anything about what Phillies fans are like?  As a member of the Red Sox, he pitched a total of 4⅔ innings at Citizens Bank Park.  He actually pitched very well in Philadelphia, allowing no runs on one hit in five appearances against the Phillies, which means he probably heard a lot of boos from the Philly Phaithful.  Again, this clearly shows the superiority of Phillies fans over Red Sox fans when it comes to knowledge of the game, doesn't it?  When in doubt, just boo.

In 2008, Brad Lidge went 41-for-41 in save opportunities for the Phillies.  The following season, he suffered from a Jekyll and Hyde-like transformation, causing him to pitch like a post-1984 Doug Sisk.  Phillies fans shared their knowledge of four-letter words with Lidge once their post-championship hangover ended.  Is that the "knowledge" Papelbon is referring to?

I understand that Jonathan Papelbon wants his new fanbase to like him.  What player on a new team wouldn't?  But to slap the faces of his former fans with a statement that just isn't true - well, actually, we'd expect that more from a Phillies fan and not a Phillie.  Then again, maybe Papelbon is just trying to fit in with his big-mouthed teammates.

Perhaps Red Sox fan (and Studious Metsimus reader) Chris Giordano said it best when he said, "Maybe Papelbon should take it out on Red Sox management.  The fans had nothing to do with the Red Sox not re-signing him."

The Red Sox weren't aggressive in their pursuit of Papelbon.  The Phillies were.  If Papelbon had a problem with the way his former team went about the negotiating process, that's between him and the front office.  His displeasure should not bring his former fans into the mix.

Simply stated, Red Sox fans know their baseball.  They're passionate about it in a way that Papelbon will more than likely never see in Philadelphia.  Phillies fans will only come out for a winner.  Red Sox fans come out for the Red Sox.  Papelbon better hope the Phillies continue to win division titles during his four years there.  If not, the only sounds he'll be hearing at Citizens Bank Park will be coming from the crickets.  But then again, he probably already has "knowledge" of that.

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