During the 2011-2012 Phillies offseason, the club was looking to either resign Ryan Madson or go elsewhere. Ryan Madson's asking price was entirely too much, so the Phils went out and brought in the best available closer on the market in Jonathan Papelbon.
Instead of paying $44 million on an arguably unproven closer in Madson, Ruben Amaro Jr. gave a proven Papelbon a four year, $50 million contract. ($50,000,058 to be exact). So from a pure baseball standpoint, it was another great contract move by Rube.
Many fans were confused and actually pretty upset about the move, mainly because Madson was a fan favorite and Papelbon was coming from the hated city of Boston. Even before the season started, the move appeared to be a good gamble, as (we all know) Ryan Madson will miss the entire 2012 season with a torn ligament in his elbow. Call it karma or whatever you'd like, but Tommy John's surgery is no joke.
Yesterday, Paps recorded a save in the first game in a Phils uniform. Of course, the one game is a microscopic sample size, but Papelbon brings an energy and intimidation factor that Phillies fans should be excited about.
In his postgame interview on 94.1 WIP, Papelbon said he enjoys the pressure on him. He enjoys having the ball in his hand with the game on the line. Not many closers are that straight forward about handling pressure like that.
To me, a closer is someone who instills fear into the opposing lineup in the 8th or 9th inning. He's the guy you want on the mound in a one-run game. When the call to the pen is made, teams should have serious doubt in their minds that a comeback is possible.
Let's take a look back at the closers the Phillies have had in recent years:Jose Mesa
From 2001-2003 and a stint in 2007, Jose Mesa held the key to the Phillies bullpen with 112 total saves in the red pinstripes. Mesa had some great stuff and his "hanging arm" delivery was pretty scary, but that was in the Bobby Abreu era, where, with the exception of a few long-time die-hards, the stadium was half filled on any given night.
Then came Billy Wagner, before he bad mouthed Philly fans. I remember going to games and hearing Metallica's "Enter Sandman" blast in the top of the 9th inning, which in my mind all but guaranteed that we had the game in the bag.
After Wagner came Brett Myers and essentially, this is all you need to know. Enter the man who brought us to the promised land, in what was arguably one of the best individual single season performances this city has ever seen.
The Phillies took a big risk on Brad Lidge. And as all the storybooks tell us (and our children's children's children) 2008 was the year of invincibility for Mr. Lidge.
48 saves in 48 opportunities (including the playoffs). We may never see a performance that dominant again that in our lifetimes.
They didn't call him "Lights Out" for nothing. He went a ridiculous 41 for 41 in the regular season and and perfect 7 for 7 in the postseason, which was an obvious piece to the 2008 World Championship.
But without an effective slider, as we witnessed in the past couple years, was he really feared? I know he made the fans consistently sweat bullets (after the magical run) with his tendency to get the first batter on base, and barely make it out of the inning with the save.
As much as we loved Brad, and would always remember him for what he brought us, we knew it was time to move on.
Now let's take a closer look at Ryan Madson, who was handed the 9th inning responsiblities, even though he was unproven. Madson only had 52 career saves, but because he became a fan favorite, there was belief that he could be the guy.
"Mad Dog" certainly played a tremendous role with this Phillies club, but he was shaky at best in the role he inherited.
Jonathan Papelbon has had his ups and downs, but his resume is very impressive. Papelbon has 220 career regular season saves (including yesterday's). In the postseason, "Cinco Ohco" is 7 for 9, including this one. The World Series title with the Sox in 2007 alone should get fans pumped for his presence in Philly.
What I am trying to say here is that Papelbon is a very successful closer in the major leagues. When Papelbon grabs the ball and stares down at the batter, it screams indimidation. The passion he brings to the mound and the clubhouse is something you can't teach.
Hell, he even knows how to butter us up a bit.
Besides the obvious need for small ball and consistency from the offense, a closer that is feared league-wide is exactly what this bullpen needed.
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