Jonathan Papelbon blew a 2-1 lead in the ninth in yesterday’s Phillies-Nationals game. And he did take responsibility for not making the right pitches to Jayson Werth who singled in the tying run. But he also called out his entire team and, it seems, coaching staff, for playing poor fundamental baseball.
Jim Salisbury has the story at CSNPhilly.com. First, Papelbon questioned Ryan Howard’s positioning in the ninth when Denard Span reached on an infield single:
“I was thinking on a 3-1 count our infield would be back and I was expecting to turn around and run to first base and catch a underhand throw,” Papelbon said.
So he was surprised Howard was even with the bag?
“Yeah,” he said.
Then he expounded on fundamental baseball:
“Everything from the pitchers making the correct pitches, to pitchers backing up the right bases, to the outfield moving on counts, to the infield moving on counts. Everything that goes into every pre-pitch. We’ve got to do better.
“I’m not pointing fingers at anyone. It’s a team effort here. To be able to win and be in the forefront of the playoff race, you have to play good fundamental baseball and do the little things, and the little things are before the pitches are thrown. There’s 150 pitches thrown by our pitchers and before every one of those we have to make sure we’re putting ourselves in a position to be the best we can before each pitch.
“I’m seeing some of the same mistakes. I think for us we have to make the fundamental plays were supposed to make.”
He’s not wrong on the merits. The Phillies have been playing quite poorly. But it’s pretty unusual for a team’s closer to be the one talking about this. Normally it’s the manager or a position player who is viewed as a team leader who says stuff like this. Then again, Papelbon has previously called out the Phillies clubhouse for suffering from a lack of leadership, so maybe he feels like he’s filling a vacuum here.
Any comment Charlie Manuel? Ryne Sandberg?