Tag Archives: Jonathan Papelbon

Papelbon Switches to Sanka

So much for January being a slow news month.

A source close to Fenway Pastoral confirmed today that Red Sox reliever and longtime Dunkin’ Donuts coffee pitchman Jonathan Papelbon has unofficially switched to the instant decaf alternative, Sanka.

Known to go entire relief appearances without blinking his eyes even once, Pap’s close friends cited health reasons for the change. Papelbon, who suffers from occasional migraine headaches, would like to cut his caffeine intake as part of his New Year’s resolution—the other parts presumably being an $11 million salary and some improvement in his ever-diminishing K/BB rate.

The news had executives at Boston ad agency Hill Holiday scrambling as it likely jeopardizes the firm’s much anticipated 2011 campaign, “Drink Dunkin’ Iced Coffee or else Jonathan Papelbon Will Sit On Your Face and Fart.”

Said one key employee working the account, “We’re not too worried yet, but ‘Drink Dunkin’ Iced Coffee or else Bobby Jenks Will Sit On Your Face and Fart’ doesn’t quite have the same ring to it.”

Red Sox executives sounded equally surprised and frustrated by Pap’s change of heart.

“One of the reasons we upgraded the bullpen bathroom facilities this offseason is because of all the coffee Jonathan was making his teammates drink out there,” said one front office source. “Caffeine is a natural diuretic.”

Closer-in-waiting Daniel Bard, meanwhile, spat out his Folgers upon hearing the news.

Fenway Pastoral will have more on this story as it develops.

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Scouts: Papelbon Is Tipping His Pitches

Several major league scouts confided in Fenway Pastoral earlier this week that Red Sox reliever Jon Papelbon’s struggles this season are due to his tipping pitches during key moments of games.

Three respected industry scouts were consistent in identifying the problems:

–       When Papelbon purses his lips into what looks like a puckered swollen anus, he plans to throw his 91-MPH fastball with little or no movement.

–       When Papelbon rolls his eyes up into the tops of their sockets and tilts the bill of his cap downward to glare at the hitter? That’s prelude to his 92-MPH fastball with little or no movement.

–       When Papelbon takes a deep breath, squints his eyes, puckers his lips and takes a sip of a Dunkin’ Donuts Dark Roast iced coffee, hitters brace themselves for his 93-MPH fastball with little or no movement.

No consensus has been reached as to when the pitch tipping may have begun, but two of the three scouts providing the information for this story believe the practice started sometime last season. The numbers seem to back up the claims as Papelbon’s K/9 rate in 2010 (6.75) is well below his career average (10.22). Meanwhile, swing-and-miss rates against Papelbon have steadily fallen since his epic 2007 season in which batters whiffed at nearly 18% of his offerings.

“Hitters are swinging and missing at only 11% of his pitches this year,” explained one scout. “Hitters see him balloon-knotting his mouth before his windup and know they can just tee off.”

On Baseball: Francona off base in mocking Papelbon for lacking Rhodes Scholarship

Red Sox manager Terry Francona crossed the lines of decency earlier this week by offhandedly and irresponsibly characterizing Jonathan Papelbon’s comments about the Billy Wagner acquisition as misunderstood by the media partly because he is “not a Rhodes Scholar to begin with.”

Let us disregard for a moment the damning fact that the 28-year-old Papelbon is no longer eligible to obtain the prestigious scholarship, which is awarded to students between the ages of 18 and 24. Leaving aside this key rule, the preparation and application process alone for becoming a Rhodes Scholar is tedious, time-consuming and uber-competitive. It is next to impossible to expect that a top-tier high school athlete, as Papelbon was at Bishop Kenny High School in Jacksonville, Fla., could have set aside the time required to apply for such an elite academic scholarship.

Worldwide, there have only been roughly 7,000 Rhodes Scholarships doled out over the 100-plus years since the award was established in 1904 after the death of Oxford visionary Cecil Rhodes. By contrast, there are only a few hundred baseball players on planet Earth with the skill set and mental makeup of Jonathan Papelbon.

Sure, out of the 4,000 or so Rhodes Scholars still alive today, there may be a handful who could rear back and throw a fastball in the mid-90s MPH range. But how many of them have the ability to mix in breaking pitches and come into Major League Baseball games to record outs in save situations?

The fact of the matter is that very few Rhodes Scholars would be able to both locate high-velocity fastballs–and throw plus-sliders with the requisite controlled movement–to present a serious challenge to professional hitters because they would have dedicated their formative years to intense intellectual development in pursuit of degree courses at Oxford University.

Moreover, Rhodes studies may not officially begin until after an undergraduate degree is completed. In Papelbon’s case, this means he would not have been eligible to begin his education at Oxford until spring 2003, when he officially matriculated from Mississippi State College (an institution that boasts just one Rhodes Scholarship winner, awarded in 1911). By that time, Pap would have had just about 17 months to complete a Rhodes application before turning 24 years old and losing eligibility. As it were, that year and a half was spent fine-tuning his fastball and developing a slider and change-up while playing for the Red Sox’ Class-A affiliates in Lowell and Sarasota.

Between mandatory team workouts, spring training, the regular season, offseason conditioning, in-season weight work, side sessions, long tossing and maintaining a healthy athlete’s diet, Papelbon would have been lucky to simply read the text of the Rhodes Scholar application, let alone actually fill the thing out and begin studies under the Oxford University degree program–the rigors and geographical limitations of which would have undoubtedly stunted his rapid development into a top pitcher in the Red Sox farm system.

Theoretically, even if Papelbon were to consider playing a sport while studying in Cambridge, England’s baseball equivalent (cricket) could never be seriously viewed as a viable alternative to playing the American past-time. Single at bats in cricket have been known to last several hours and would severely limit Papelbon’s availability to pitch in following matches due to his prior shoulder problems and innings restrictions that have since been imposed on the All-Star closer.

Red Sox players face enough unrealistic pressure from the media and fan base without Francona tightening the vice of scrutiny a few extra notches. OK, so Jonathan Papelbon ain’t no Rhodes Scholar. And he never will be unless Oxford University were to suddenly relax its stringent guidelines for admission. But surely he need not be belittled with these facts any more than Francona need be harassed for never becoming an astronaut.

Local man is bored with Heidi Watney

CARVER, Mass.–Heavy rains recently transformed the rectangular plots of Francis Flynn’s cranberry bogs into dark, murky pools of standing water. The cloud cover above is so heavy that Flynn is forced to use a flashlight in mid-afternoon as he checks the engine of one of his tractors–one of several with a hanging Red Sox logo painted onto the front end. There is not much the cranberry harvester can do on rainy days aside from taking refuge in the dryness of his storage shed.
 
With summer’s dog days on the nearby horizon, the rainfall keeps his bogs nourished and healthy. The Red Sox are in first place and it should be a good year for cranberries. Yet Flynn still sighs as he organizes his shed’s tool rack.
 
“I wish I knew what was going on with Heidi. I’m bored with her,” Flynn says, shaking his head. “Last year, every time she was on camera felt like some momentous event. Lately, though? I’ve got to admit she hasn’t been doing it for me.”
 
After expressing strong hopesfor Watney’s sophomore season as NESN’s on-field personality in March, Flynn’s feelings toward the blond-haired reporter have cooled considerably.
 
“Yeah, of course I still think she’s attractive. It’s just seeing her two or three times a game? Every night, all summer long? I never thought I’d say this, but I’m looking forward to the All-Star Break next week. Will Erin Andrews be covering the Home Run Derby for ESPN again?”
 
Flynn is unable to pinpoint exactly what spawned his boredom, but offers some hard criticism of Watney’s wardrobe choices thus far in 2009.
 
“She’s wearing scarves and long sleeves on 70-degree days at the ballpark. That’s just plain wrong,” he said. “And there’s that one blue shirt that she wears about once or twice a week. I wish NESN had a rule where once Heidi wears something on air, it gets thrown away after the broadcast.”
 
Watney’s unchanging hair styling has also miffed Flynn over the first half of the 2009 season.
 
“She wears it the same way every night. I say curl it or put it in a ponytail or braid it or just do something different with it. She’s so stubborn. You know what it reminds me of? Papelbon’s insistence on throwing sliders lately. Maybe both of them have lost something off their fastballs…” 
 
Flynn measures his response carefully when asked if he would prefer Watney be replaced or temporarily spelled by colleague Kathryn Tappen.
 
“It’s not that I don’t think she can do it…I think she’s done a good job working the Bruins games and all that,” he says. “But it just seems like she’s a poor man’s Heidi. If I’m sick of Heidi, what’s Kathryn Tappen going to add at this point?”
 
The possibility of teaming both of them together briefly intrigues the pensive Flynn.
 
“You know, maybe. Heidi’s in a rut. The Sox’ bats are in a rut…It’s drastic, but maybe that’s what we need,” Flynn says. “A shake up of the lineup, so to speak.”
 
Still, the cranberry bogger hints at a clear departure from the ethnic diversity NESN once boasted. The Filipino-born and Canadian-reared Hazel Mae, former SportsDesk anchor, left the station last year and has since landed a gig with MLB Network.
 
“After Hazel left, they basically replaced her with some white guy who gives in-game updates,” laments Flynn. “I think I was less upset when Theo tried to replace Pedro Martinez with Matt Clement. You mean to tell me there haven’t been any other female Asian or Spanish television reporters looking for a job over the last year?”
 
A thunder shower moves through the area and drizzle gives way to a steady downpour. Flynn puts on his red rain jacket and fastens its hood around his head as he exits his tool shed. As the rain becomes heavier, Flynn realizes he has left the window to his tractor open and the driver’s side has become flooded with incoming rainwater. Cursing like a longshoreman, he angrily slams the door after rolling up the window.
 
“I hate to say it,” Flynn says as he peers up at the sky, “But I think Heidi’s time may be up.”

Boston Police reportedly used money slated for mounted unit to buy Papelbon replica jerseys

BOSTON–The debate over the possible disbandment of the Boston Police Department’s 11-horse mounted patrol unit took an unusual turn earlier today with news that funds for the brigade may have been misappropriated toward the purchase of limited-edition Jonathan Papelbon No. 58 jerseys for cops. 

According to sources inside the BPD, hundreds of expensive, hand-stitched replica jerseys of the popular Red Sox closer were purchased using funds earmarked for the embattled mounted unit.

With the city’s stricken budget, cops all over the city were given the jerseys as a non-monetary bonus this past spring, said the source. “The whole thing is kind of blowing up in their faces now. The BPD obviously didn’t think shutting down the mounted unit this year would wind up generating such strong protests from city residents.”

As of this writing, the BPD planned to disband the unit at the end of June as a cost-cutting measure.

“It is a blatant lie to suggest they don’t have the resources to keep the unit up and running,” says a department member speaking on the condition of anonymity. “Take a look around the city some time. Those Papelbon jerseys are everywhere and they aren’t cheap.”

The jerseys given to Boston police have a minimal retail value of over $175 each, with some pricier styles containing limited edition patches commemorating the team’s 2007 World Series Championship. 

Meanwhile, City Hall held a hearing on Tuesday afternoon to discuss the mounted unit’s fate. According to attendees of the hearing, several off-duty Boston police officers made statements while wearing Papelbon jerseys, including one officer decked out in a special edition green jersey.

“Yeah, I don’t know if they bought those things themselves, but it certainly seems like a heck of a coincidence considering there wasn’t a game at Fenway [Tuesday night]. Now all of a sudden they don’t have the resources available for a mounted unit anymore?” said Francis Crawley of the Back Bay Neighborhood Watch Coalition. “Those horses leave big piles of dung all over the place, but it’d be a shame if they shut down the entire operation because these guys couldn’t just buy a $20 Papelbon T-shirt like everyone else.”

For their part, BPD spokesmen would neither confirm nor deny authorizing purchases of Papelbon jerseys. However, several sources insinuated that team apparel is obtained for plain-clothes cops when needed.

“As a safety measure, our undercover officers occasionally utilize popular clothing and team gear as a way to camouflage themselves in the style of a certain demographic,” said one spokesperson. “It’s possible Papelbon jerseys have been worn by some of our men as a means of blending into atmospheres in which uniformed officers would be met with hostility.”

City council members approached about the story declined to comment. However, several councillors appeared to be wearing semi-transparent white dress shirts which revealed outlines of No. 58 Papelbon jerseys being worn as undershirts.