In this day and age, you can't really be a professional athlete without a certain level of confidence that can sometimes be confused with cocksureness (and if you're wondering, that is an actual word). It's important if not critical to believe that you are unstoppable or unbeatable as an athlete. You lose that edge and you are dead. And in few positions in sport is it more important to have this exalted self-image than the position of closer on a baseball team. So I guess I should not be too surprised that two of the successful new guys on the block in the relief circuit have come out recently and sounded like a couple of arrogant cocksuckers. But that's just what Jonathan Papelbon and Joba Chamberlain have come out and done.
At this point, I almost expect it from Papelbon. He's not the sharpest tool in the shed to begin with and he was getting a little big for his britches last year even before his post-season success... and dance moves... and drunken Letterman appearance. He started this year by bitching about his contract situation (he wasn't arb-eligible and wanted a new deal rather than a re-up of his old deal). The request wasn't unreasonable but his reasoning for why he deserved the new deal was a wee bit presumptuous:
Last year, Papelbon was paid $425,500. He finished the season with 37 saves in 40 opportunities and a 1.85 earned-run average.So because Papelbon is the heir apparent to Mariano River--the Greatest Of All-Time--he feels it necessary to set the path for future Papelbons that follow in his footsteps. A latter day Curt Flood or Jackie Robinson, if you will. Hey Jon, why don't you just worry about missing bats and leading your suddenly susceptible 2008 Red Sox bullpen. You can deal with your groundbreaking salary demands after you've maybe completed your third full season in the Majors. But while Papelbon sounds like a prick with a bit of an ego problem, at least he's pitched an entire season.
Mariano Rivera, the dominant closer for the New York Yankees, signed a three-year, $45 million after last season, his 13th.
Papelbon’s 37 saves were tied for sixth in the American League. He wants to establish a salary standard for future outstanding closers.
“I feel a certain obligation not only to myself and my family to make the money that I deserve but for the game of baseball.” Papelbon said. “Mariano Rivera has been doing it for the past 10 years and with me coming up behind him I feel a certain obligation to do the same.”
Joba Chamberlain has appeared in 21 regular season games in his career. That's a '2' followed by a '1'. If you listen to sports talk radio in NYC or read the papers, you'd think this kid's been leading the Yanks to glory since the Polk administration (Michael Kay, during a recent Yanks broadcast, said that it feels like Joba's been leading the way in the Yanks' bullpen "for years."). He is 22 years-old and though he is perhaps the 3rd most popular player on this Yanks' team, he hasn't done shit. Yet recently when asked about how he is handling the
"It's unfair to my team to not bring 110 percent every time I go out," Chamberlain said. "It's going to be a topic of conversation, that's fine because I am Joba Chamberlain. I am going to be who I am and if I didn't show that, I'm not being fair to my teammates. I'm letting them down because I'm not being the person that I am."Ummm... huh? "...because I am Joba Chamberlain." His explanation for why this has become a controversy is that it's been blown out of proportion because of his big name status? Are you fucking serious? YOU'RE A FUCKING MIDDLE RELIEVER! You're Scot Shields or a less valuable version of Pat Neshek. You're George Sherrill or Mike Timlin. You'll be lucky to string as many good years together as Scott Linebrink or Brendan Donnelly. You are the single most replaceable position in professional sports you fucking cocksucker. Get the fuck over yourself. Now I understand why Joe Girardi had to sit down with you at the beginning of the year to deflate your head. Good grief.
Now, with all this being said, if these two guys put together another couple years like they have they will have earned their place in the game and will be able to say pretty much whatever they want. And considering their starts and their popularity amongst their fans, I'll try and not hold their feet to the fire if they get a little overconfident at times. I mean, these guys are treated like latter day deities amongst their respective fan bases. Just give me 5 years of consistent service and then maybe I'll look the other way when you start likening yourself to Keith Hernandez.