- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
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DT: This is definitely it. I promise this is my last Olympics.
Just Keep Talking
JONATHAN PAPELBON made an innocuous comment before the All-Star Game about wanting to close, and it got blown up into a silly headline in New York that led to his being booed wildly at the game. I hope the experience doesn't make the Red Sox' closer clam up. He's an athlete that's fun to talk to.
I RECENTLY ASKED HIM about his younger brother Josh, who is also a closer, in the Red Sox farm system. In short, Josh is after his older brother's job. Jonathan told me that the competition between them goes way back: When they were kids, to help them settle their differences, he said, "My father had to buy us a trampoline and 12-ounce boxing gloves." So who won the trampoline fights? "There's never been a situation where he's gotten the best of me," Jonathan said. "Did you knock him out?" I asked. "Oh yeah," he said. "Knocked him out cold."
O.K., SO HE'S A TOUGH GUY. Well, if so, he just doesn't look the part out there on the mound. I joked that instead of being such a baby face, maybe he should grow some facial hair, like other closers do. He said, "I think I'll leave the mustache to Giambi. But I might bring back the [Dennis] Eckersley hair (right), how about that?" I like it. "Or," he said, "maybe I can bring back the mullet." No, Jonathan, don't do that.
DOWN THE STRETCH, the Red Sox will have to fight off rivals ancient (the Yankees) and new (the Rays). I asked him which team the Sox would be more likely to brawl with. Instead of deflecting the question like most guys would, he made a pick: the Rays. "We had that little thing in the first half with Coco and Shields. [Coco Crisp and James Shields started a June 5 brawl; eight players were suspended.] Those things don't really dissipate too easily." Dissipate? The guy's got a vocabulary, too. Here's hoping he continues to use it.
The Last Should Be First
THE REAL problem with the "debate" over whether Papelbon or Mariano Rivera should close in the All-Star Game was that it was completely misguided: As this year's 15-inning epic proved, closers should start in the Midsummer Classic. The late innings should belong to starting pitchers—guys who can easily go an extra inning (or two or three) if need be. It's better than having position players like David Wright and J.D. Drew take the mound, as almost happened this year, with home field advantage for the World Series on the line.
THE FINE PRINT: Big change at the Tour de France this year: The leader gets a yellow specimen cup.
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