Saturday, November 12, 2011

So Long To The Greatest Closer In Red Sox History.

On July 31st, 2005 Jonathan Papelbon made his first appearance in a Boston Red Sox uniform. The game was at home against the Minnesota Twins. Papelbon started the game against Brad Radke. He allowed 2 runs through 5.1 innings and struck out 7. The Sox would take the lead on a Manny Ramirez hit in the bottom of the 8th, he was pinch hitting in the game. Curt Schilling would close the door for a 4-3 Boston win.

Papelbon started 2 more games that season, and appeared in 14 more. The Red Sox were swept in three games by The Chicago White Sox, who would go on to win the World Series.

In 2006 Boston as a whole had a step back season, despite many of the top players having career years. David Ortiz hit 54 home runs. Kevin Youkilis took over as the teams full time starting first baseman. Jonathan Papelbon, 25 years old, had 35 saves and an ERA of 0.91. The Red Sox were out of the Playoffs, but they were excited about the progress their young players had mad... and more importantly the progress they would make within the next season.

2007 would mark the year of Red Sox dominance. The team was now rebuilt from the World Series team of only 2 years earlier. While Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz still struck fear in the eyes of every pitcher in baseball, young gun Dustin Pedroia took the league by storm. Jon Lester had survived cancer and was a full time major leaguer. Jacoby Ellsbury had all the fans begging for him to earn the starting Playoff job after only 33 regular season games. Then there was Papelbon... 37 saves, 13 strikeouts per 9 innings, and an ERA of 1.85, and that wasn't even the half of it.

Those 2007 Playoffs were Papelbon's swan song. At the end of it he had a World Series title, and through 14.2 career playoff innings had yet to give up a single earned run. He was flat out dominant, not to mention entertaining.

Over the next 4 years the Red Sox and Papelbon would fail to live up to the lofty expectations, but Papelbon was hardly the fatal flaw. He obviously fell short of the insane bar set by himself. After the 2007 WS victory Jonathan pitched in 12.1 Playoff innings. In those games he allowed 3 earned runs, stuck out 14, and had an ERA of 2.19. Papelbon was unable to duplicate his early postseason success, but he was still consistently one of the league's top closers.

Papelbon leaves Boston as the Red Sox' career saves leader with 219, only Bob Stanley and Tim Wakefield have pitched in more games, and 4 of his 5 consecutive 30+ save seasons rank in the top 10 for most saves in a single year.

Jonathan Papelbon may have been a partying, loud-mouthed, money-hungry, psycho... but he was THE greatest closer this town has ever, and possibly will ever see.

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