Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Jonathan Papelbon ≠ Mariano Rivera. Ever.

I'm sorry, what?

Again, but just the second part:

Whose path?

Mariano Rivera's "path" began in Puerto Caimito, Panama playing baseball with makeshift equipment in the streets. He signed with the Yankees for $3,000 and spent 5 years toiling in the minors. Now he's won 5 World Series, is the greatest closer ever and has accomplished it all with a freakish reliance on one pitch. Jonathan Papelbon was a starting pitcher in the minors, has one World Series ring and closes for a team in the AL East, but you lose me after that.

Now, aside from the fact that both guys have three vowels in their last name, what are these amazing off the field similarities?
When you compare the earnings curve of the Yankees' icon and the Red Sox All-Star, there are definite parallels, especially in the way both have worked on one-year deals in the early years of their careers.
Yes. Them and 75% of the other players to reach the Major Leagues. See, there is a process called arbitration, and most players aren't offered multi-year deals that buy out... Nevermind. Maybe I'm nitpicking here, but "off the field" usually refers to a player's life away from baseball, not his contract status with his team.

But continue, Gordon, with these uncanny parallels:
Rivera had two Series rings when he became eligible for arbitration for the first time in 1999 and signed a one-year deal for $4.25 million. He went to an arbitration hearing before the following season, 2000, and lost, receiving a contract for $7.25 million after asking for $9.25 million. His $3 million raise was just $100,000 short of what Papelbon received.
Yes, what a coincidence that Papelbon and Rivera both performed well, went through the same process and got similarly proportioned raises. It's almost as if Papelbon's agent used Rivera as a precedent!

And now for the part where Edes completely submarines his own analogy:
Papelbon has demonstrated that he will not settle for anything less than what he considers fair value for his talents, and the Red Sox may not be willing to pay eight figures for a closer. And unlike the Yankees, the Red Sox have a prospective closer-in-waiting in Daniel Bard.

The last Yankees closer before Rivera was an All-Star named John Wetteland, who was named MVP of the 1996 World Series after saving all four games against the Atlanta Braves. But after the season, the Yankees allowed Wetteland to leave as a free agent because Rivera was in the wings. And we all know how that worked out.
Got that folks? Jonathan Papelbon = Mariano Rivera. Until the last paragraph, wherein Jonathan Papelbon = John Wetteland and Daniel Bard becomes Rivera.

Was Jonathan Papelbon raised in a fishing village in Panama? Did he once work upon a commercial shrimping boat? Is he devoutly religious? Is he fluent in Spanish? Does he own a steakhouse in New Rochelle?

No. Jonathan Papelbon is a blithering ignoramus who picks out names for his kids based on whether they are "badass" or not. He says stupid things without thinking. He's a demonstrative douchebag on the mound. He does not throw a cut fastball. He's part childish buffoon and part ungracious asshole. In short he's the anti-Mo.

Rivera is as distinguished of a player as there is active in baseball. He conducts himself with dignity and class in every facet in his life that is visible to the public. It's nothing short of insulting to Mo to equate him to Papelbon in an way. To do so is to stoop to lazy, hacky journalism. Eventually, someone may follow in Mariano Rivera's "path" to some extent. But that person will not be Jonathan Papelbon.


  1. Jay
    it's a good day.
    Pitchers and cathers report.
    My coffee is hot.
    The family still asleep.
    And some Sawx bashing to start the day.
    Thank you, my good man.
    Thank you.

  2. I agree with you, but man, you're angry. Try the decaf and revel in the fact that Papelbon will never be in Rivera's class. Water off a duck's back and all...

  3. I'm not that angry about it Tad, although I can see why you'd get that impression. I just thought it was a really stupid and cheap way sell an article that was really about Papelbon - by trumpeting a few insignificant similarities with Rivera. In the process of making that point it comes across as angry but I'm really just trying to be empathic.

  4. The fact that this idiotic article was written on ESPNBoston is all I need to know. People should neo better than to compare Mo to anyone. He has no equals. Great work Jay.

  5. Blasphemy, Mr. Edes, BLASPHEMY!

  6. Unfortunately, "stupid and cheap" to sell columns/articles is all the rage. Edes is actually a good reporter (imho), but the "Rivera compared to flavor-of-the-month reliever" never works. The man is just too damn good. In fact, near as I can tell, he has only one flaw ;).

    I wish I could go back in time and tell Rivera that cutters are useless pitches and that he should focus on a nice, well-located, straight fastball.

  7. A quick point about Rivera's cutter: he didn't really discover the pitch until playing catch with Ramiro Mendoza during the '97 season.

    1996 probably remains Rivera's best season, and in that season he got it done with a traditional four seam fastball.

    Clearly Mo's velocity has diminished over the past 15 years, and if he were throwing just a fastball he would have lost his effectiveness a long time ago. But it's worth remembering that perhaps the most dominant season turned in by the most dominant relief pitcher in history happened before he even developed his signature pitch.

  8. Do you think that had anything to do with him being new and "unproven"? Serious question. He was not the closer at the time either, correct? Interesting point, I'm just unsure of the context.

  9. I think that may have played a small roll, but not much of one. Mo pitched 67 innings in '95, without much success, until he sort of caught fire in the ALDS. So there was some past level of exposure.

    He wasn't the closer in '96, but he was the primary set up man, and he logged a now unheard of 107.2 IP exclusively in relief. So there was a fair amount of exposure.

    This is going back a ways, and obviously we don't have Pitch FX data for it, but if I recall he had one of those "rising fastballs" with a lot of late life. It was often described as sort of "sneaky fast", because given Mo's build and delivery one wouldn't expect that sort of gas out of him. '96 still remains his highest K rate, and by a good margin.

  10. This is so awesome (the way you tore into this article, not the article itself). And Mo's steakhouse is pretty good!