Philadelphia Phillies’ closer Jonathan Papelbon recently stated that he “feel[s] like we’re [The Phillies] going to contend.” Earlier in spring training, Papelbon jokingly wore a t-shirt with “Fan Favorite” across the front of the shirt.
These types of comments and signs of jubilance have become the norm from Papelbon this spring training down in Clearwater, Florida. Papelbon seems to be nothing but optimistic going into the 2015 regular season, and he continues to give off positive vibes regarding the future of the Phillies’ organization.
However, although comments such as these should be expected out of a veteran closer like Papelbon, it is fair to say that the majority of Phillies fans are probably taken aback by his new-found appreciation for Philadelphia. Last year, Papelbon was booed again and again during his entrances to the mound at Citizens Bank Park. Those boos were well deserved, as Papelbon has been anything but classy since the Phillies began their descent into the depths of the National League.
It began back in 2013, when the Phillies were stuck in an eight-game losing streak while sitting seven games under .500. Papelbon angrily said to the media that he “didn’t come [to Philadelphia] for this.” Philadelphia fans, being some of the more passionate fans in sports, did not take a liking to this comment. Then, entering the 2014 season, Papelbon began to share his desire to be traded to another organization, one that would contend. Again, the boos continued, and this time Papelbon encouraged it.
Papelbon stated that he hoped Phillies fans would continue booing him and that the only part that disappointed him was that only half the crowd was booing him rather than the entire crowd.
Yet, as we enter spring training this year, just months after Papelbon’s hate for the city and team seemed ever so apparent, he is talking about how he believes that the Phillies can make a run. And, let it be clear, the Phillies projections for this coming year are set to be just as bad, if not worse, than last year’s season.
So, what brings about all the positive light shining from Papelbon this spring training? Is it that Papelbon has dropped his egotistical attitude and changed for the better, or is it due to ulterior motives? In all honesty, it is unlikely that Papelbon has changed his character this late into his career. The change in his approach is probably a result of one thing and one thing only: a better shot of being traded.
There is no doubt that Papelbon is still a top-tier closer, as he has posted an ERA under 3.00 his past three seasons with the Phillies. However, no team wants a player who is a detriment to the clubhouse and a detriment to the light in which a team is shown. By improving his attitude towards the fans and media, he stands a better chance of attracting interest from other teams.
So yes, it is still the same-old Jonathan Papelbon, and yes, he is still trying to get traded away from Philadelphia. He seems to be sporting a disguise to strengthen his opportunities of joining a club that he actually feels is a contender.