When he’s not blasting Tupac and grinding his teeth, Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon (above) allows Esquire’s Chris Jones into his inner sanctum (where Pap’s puppy continues to chew up cherished artifacts — don’t let Lucchino read this article) and unloads on a somewhat prominent former teammate.
œThe beautiful thing about our team is, we don™t let anybody get above the team. He (Manny Ramirez) wasn™t on the same train as the rest of us. And here Papelbon starts banging his kitchen table for emphasis, the punctuation marks in his sentences changing: œHe was on a different train! And you saw what happened with that. We got rid of him, and we moved on without him. That comes from the manager, and it comes from guys like Jason Varitek and Tim Wakefield and David Ortiz. Nobody is ever going to be allowed to do that. Even a guy like me, just heading into my fourth year in the big leagues ” if David Ortiz gets a little, you know ” I™ll tell him what™s up! I™m not afraid to do that. I™m not afraid to put him in his place, because I think everybody needs that. And if somebody does it to me, I understand that. I most certainly understand that. Varitek tells me all the time, ˜Just shut up. Do what you™re supposed to do.™ So Manny was tough for us. You have somebody like him, you know at any point in the ball game, he can dictate the outcome of the game. And for him not to be on the same page as the rest of the team was a killer, man! It just takes one guy to bring an entire team down, and that™s exactly what was happening. Once we saw that, we weren™t afraid to get rid of him. It™s like cancer. That™s what he was. Cancer. He had to go. It sucked, but that was the only scenario that was going to work. That was it for us. And after, you could feel it in the air in the clubhouse. We got Jason Bay ” Johnny Ballgame, plays the game right, plays through broken knees, runs out every ground ball ” and it was like a breath of fresh air, man! Awesome! No question.
I would certainly agree with Papelbon that Ramirez is capable of dictating the outcome of a game, though perhaps not in the way the closer intended. I don’t doubt that Jason Bay is the greatest dude/teammate of all time, but the last time anyone checked, his social skills and work ethic hadn’t resulted in a single World Series ring.