David Ortiz says Red Sox would welcome back Jonathan Papelbon, but why?
The outspoken pro-Donald Trump reliever probably won’t be a good fit on a team filled with black stars
In his last five appearances with the Washington Nationals, Jonathan Papelbon gave up nine runs on nine hits and five walks in 3 1/3 innings. He lost his job as closer and requested (and received) his release from the Washington Nationals last week. The 35-year-old, who once charged and choked out former teammate Bryce Harper for not playing the game The Right Way, now has a swelled-up 4.37 ERA. He has more hits allowed (37) than innings pitched this season (35) and he even had an 11.37 ERA in eight games after the All-Star break.
Even still, Papelbon is coveted by contenders and may sign at any moment. It’s worth asking why a single team in baseball would even employ him.
The Boston Red Sox have been the team connected most to the job rumors. The team’s manager, John Farrell, who was the Red Sox pitching coach when Papelbon last played for the club in 2011, has already said he’s reached out to Papelbon. The Red Sox president, Dave Dombrowski, said he’s already spoken with Papelbon’s agent. And David Ortiz has given his seal of approval:
“I don’t know what happened there at the Nationals, but he was a great guy and we would welcome him back with open arms,” Ortiz told ESPN Deportes Wednesday night. “And we need help in the bullpen. We definitely do.”
There are many layers to unpack, but the first one is this: The Red Sox are overstating Papelbon’s ability to improve their bullpen. On nothing but merit, Papelbon’s ERA and flat fastball would hurt the Red Sox more than it would help.
The problem is, Papelbon comes with much more than mediocre pitches – he also has some potentially hateful baggage. On a team where the stars are almost entirely men of color – Ortiz, Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr., David Price – is Ortiz sure everyone would welcome Papelbon back? Or just him?
When he was with the Nationals and had to apologize for fighting Harper, Papelbon had to be talked out of wearing a T-shirt that read “Obama Can’t Ban These Guns” according to The Washington Post. Post sports columnist Dan Steinberg even reported that Papelbon, on multiple occasions, played a song called Vote For Trump, about the controversial GOP presidential nominee, in the clubhouse.
These are some of the lyrics in the song:
He understands the workin’ man.
Tells a truth that we can understand.
If you don’t like it, you can all just kiss our a–.
He pays his own way, don’t take no crap.
Gonna bring back country, get rid of rap.
And if nothin’ else, we can all thank Donald for that.
Papelbon might actually still be a beloved figure in Boston – he was a part of the 2007 World Series Championship team, after all – and Ortiz might really love him, too. That doesn’t mean Papelbon won’t be getting the side-eye from a whole lot of other people in the locker room. Try playing the song that says it’ll get rid of rap in that clubhouse.
The Red Sox were already in the news recently for a racially insensitive bobblehead. A pro-Donald Trump, anti-fun reliever is really what they want now?
But the Red Sox aren’t the only contenders flirting with the idea of signing Papelbon. So are the Chicago Cubs.
“He is crazy,” Cubs pitcher Jon Lester said on Sunday about his former teammate. “But he’s no crazier than the rest of us. He just gets a bad rap for what happened in the dugout. Knowing Papelbon, I’ve always had good things to say about him as a teammate, how he respects the game and how he goes about his business. People are quick to jump to the conclusions based on one event. I think he’s a great teammate. Like I said, I don’t think he’s any crazier that the rest of us. I think he still has a lot to give.”
Lester’s love aside, if the Red Sox are a bad fit for Papelbon, the Cubs might be even worse. They are young, filled with swag, and constantly having the kind of fun that Papelbon just can’t stand.
— David Ross (@D_Ross3) October 1, 2015
Carl Edwards Jr.: pic.twitter.com/fmV0zNCZL0
— Mark Gonzales (@MDGonzales) October 1, 2015
Once upon time, Papelbon was good enough that teams could overlook his warts and angry outbursts. Now? Dropping him into a locker room, especially one filled with players of color such as the Cubs (Addison Russell, Dexter Fowler, Javier Baez, Jason Heyward, Jorge Soler, Willson Contreras, Miguel Montero) or Red Sox just sounds like a really bad idea.