Proven closer or not: Papelbon is as good as gone

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FOX’s Jon Paul Morosi has a column up today in which he argues that the Red Sox have to bring Jonathan Papelbon back next year.  His reasoning: he’s a Proven Closer! Sure, Daniel Bard may be good, but he’s never pitched the ninth inning!  If you let Papelbon go and Bard closes, who pitches the eighth?!

It’s nothing we haven’t read before when closer controversies arise. Closing is different and special and mysterious yadda, yadda yadda. I got tired of ripping that stuff a few years ago so I’ll refrain from doing it again. I’ll just note that when the best closer of all time moved from starting to being a setup man to being a closer for a championship team without any previous closing experience, I’d say that the concept of the Proven Closer is pretty much garbage. At least if you don’t think the Yankees should have kept John Wetteland around a few more years. 

The most striking thing about it, though, is that the piece has only one brief mention of the most salient fact regarding Jonathan Papelbon and 2011: his eight figure salary.  And he’ll get it if the Sox want to bring him back, because he’s arbitration-eligible and arbitration does not lower salaries for guys like Papelbon. It raises them. He makes $9.35 million this year. He got a $3 million raise last year. You figure out how expensive he’s going to be in 2011.

Sure, some teams are happy to pay $12 million for a shaky closer who splits time as a setup man, but the Red Sox aren’t that kind of team. Barring Daniel Bard getting run over by a streetcar*, I’d bet my son that Papelbon gets non-tendered or otherwise shipped out this winter.

*Yes, this is my second “run over by a streetcar” reference today. I just woke up with the idea in my head for some reason. 

Aaron Judge was involved in a weird play in the fourth inning

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Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge found himself front-and-center in a weird play in the bottom of the fourth inning during Game 4 of the ALCS on Tuesday evening. Judge drew a walk to lead off the frame. After Didi Gregorius lined out, Gary Sanchez flied out to shallow right-center.

Judge must have thought the ball had a high probability of falling in for a hit, so he was past the second base bag around the time he realized his mistake. He retraced his steps, running back to first base. Reddick’s throw hopped a couple of times but first base umpire Jerry Meals called Judge out on the tag-up play.

Manager Joe Girardi requested a review and the call was overturned: Judge was safe. However, Astros manager A.J. Hinch wanted to challenge that Judge did not re-touch second base on his way back. Rather than issuing a formal challenge, the Astros had to appeal the play by having starter Lance McCullers throw to second base, at which point second base umpire Jim Reynolds would issue a ruling. McCullers was a bit hasty, though, and made his appeal throw before Greg Bird stepped into the batter’s box. Reynolds told McCullers that he had to wait. So, McCullers again made his appeal throw.

This time, Judge was running and he was simply tagged out at second base for the final out of the inning. No need for a review.

As Ken Rosenthal explained on the FS1 broadcast, the Yankees were trying to “beat the police.” They knew Judge would have been ruled out — replays clearly showed he never re-touched the base — so they had nothing to lose by sending Judge. If he was safe, the Astros would no longer be able to appeal the play. If he’s out, then it’s the same outcome they would have had anyway.