Jonathan Papelbon walks in winning run, chalks it all up to bad luck

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Jonathan Papelbon, the game’s highest paid reliever, gave up three runs on four hits and two walks to blow a 3-1 lead and take a loss against the Rangers on Wednesday. But at least he was willing to shoulder the blame for it.

Well, no, that’s really not what happened at all.

“The whole inning was kind of just one of those innings. You get a cue ball down the third base line. Then you get a double-play ball, which you think is the game-ending double play. It’s not,” Papelbon said. “My whole focus was get a ground ball, get a double play and get us out of the inning.”

Said potential double-play ball — which wasn’t exactly a soft roller — came with the infield drawn well in because the bases were loaded. And the bases were loaded because Papelbon pretty much stunk up the joint. Not only was his fastball a hittable 91 mph, but he was missing with it all over the place. He ended up walking Shin-Soo Choo to end the game on a pitch that wasn’t even close.

Here’s his strike zone plot from BrooksBaseball.net:

source:

That’s just not good. At one point, he nearly hit Donnie Murphy in the head with a splitter or slider that was meant to be low and outside.

It was the second straight game in which the Phillies’ bullpen came up short. Papelbon did pitch a scoreless frame in the season-opening win Monday, but with his velocity in decline and his command clearly not there yet, more shaky outings are likely on the way.

 

MLB executive: Bruce Maxwell’s kneeling may keep him from finding work, not his arrest

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In September 2017, former Athletics catcher Bruce Maxwell became the first major league player to kneel during the national anthem, joining the handfuls of NFL players who had been doing the same to protest police brutality and racial inequality. Maxwell’s effort was laudable, but he got into trouble a month later when he was arrested for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and disorderly conduct. Maxwell allegedly pointed a gun at a food delivery person.

Maxwell, 27, played sparingly for the Athletics in 2018 and then was designated for assignment at the beginning of September. He officially became a free agent on November 2 and has had trouble finding work in the month-plus since.

Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that Maxwell fired his agent, Matt Sosnick on Thursday because he’s still jobless. According to an unnamed MLB executive Slusser spoke to, “It’s the kneeling thing that might keep him from getting another job, not the arrest. Owners aren’t going to want to deal with that whole anthem issue.”

That makes a lot of since since abusive players haven’t had too much trouble finding new work otherwise. Addison Russell, Jeurys Familia, and José Reyes, among others have either stayed with their teams or quickly found new work. Given the relatively weak catching market, had Maxwell only had the assault charge, there is no doubt he would have been signed to be a backup catcher somewhere.

In the NFL, Colin Kaepernick — who popularized kneeling during the anthem — has remained unsigned even though teams have opted to sign and start clearly inferior quarterbacks like Mark Sanchez, Josh McCown, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jay Cutler, Matt Barkley, and Sam Bradford, among many others. Team owners tend to run conservative in terms of politics, so they may not like the protest to begin with, then there is the public blowback to signing such a player as those who dislike such protesting make up a slight majority in the U.S., according to various polls including one done by the Washington Post.

It’s worth noting that Maxwell has a career .240/.314/.347 triple-slash line in 412 plate appearances. We’re not talking about J.T. Realmuto or Buster Posey here. That being said, there have been 15 other catchers to have put up a lower aggregate OPS since 2016 (min. 400 PA). One of those players, Derek Norris (.600 OPS since 2016), signed a minor league contract with the Tigers just three months after being suspended by Major League Baseball for violating its domestic violence policy. Makes you think.