So long Jonathan not Jon

Photo courtesy of Kelly O'Connor and used with permission

As I often do when the subject is emotionally fueled, I wrote three different openings for this entry before I got the feel for what I wanted to write.

I’ve often said that as amazing as 2004 was, 2007 was more fun for me.  2004 was full of anxiety and nail biting and when it was all over I sat, alone, watching the rolling rally on television crying (and sneezing….I was sick that day no doubt from the previous two weeks of no sleep) and just taking it all in.

In 2007, I told my boss I was going to the parade (and he was great enough to not question it at all) and I spent the day with two equally excited friends (KellyO and Cindy…along with Steve!) and had more fun than I thought possible at a parade.  It was party, party, party with a lot of thank yous thrown in. That is what I want to focus on today. This evening Kelly O’Connor has been posting photos from the night the Red Sox clinched the division on her Twitter and Facebook pages as a way of saying goodbye to Jonathan Papelbon.

In all my years of watching the Red Sox I can’t remember a night that was more fun to watch (and I wasn’t even there in person) than the night they clinched the division.  Realizing they were letting the fans stay at Fenway after the game to watch the Orioles/Yankees game (a reminder: The Yankees needed to lose that game for the Red Sox to clinch.  They were beating the Orioles going into the 9th inning and Mariano Rivera blew the lead and the Orioles ended up winning in the tenth on a Melvin Mora bunt single.), I kept switching from the O’s/Yanks game to NESN because I wanted to watch the celebration. It’s difficult to explain that while the Red Sox clinching the division in 2007 wasn’t as important or exciting as their winning the ALCS and World Series in 2004…it was a whole lot of fun the likes we really hadn’t experienced as Red Sox fans and Papelbon was a huge reason for that.

Now, of course Papelbon is a pretty damn good pitcher and any team would be better with him on it and I will miss that feeling I’d get when he took the mound at Fenway and if I had my druthers he’d still be with the team.  But I’m not dwelling on any of that.  Right now, I’m mourning the loss of a pitcher who, more often than not, got the job done in a manner that could sometimes leave you breathless while also being one of the more entertaining guys on the team.

“Mourning” might be the wrong word. I’ve prepared myself for this moment for a while.  It’s a bit like what went on with Pedro Martinez.  I knew Papelbon was going to follow the money (and who could blame him?) and as I mentioned the other day, as long as he went to a team not in the AL East nor a team I dislike, I’d be okay with it.  So I’m happy that he isn’t in the AL East yet sorry that he’s going to the Phillies (although if ever there was a team or fan base I think his personality will fit it with, it’s Philadelphia).  So while I’m not exactly mourning, I’m definitely feeling the hurt of losing Paps.  I would like the Red Sox to stop subtracting and get going with the addition (although I should say, I’m pleased the Red Sox didn’t sink into Paps what the Phillies are).

The entry title refers to Papelbon’s first start in the Majors.  You all remember it…a Sunday in 2005 when we all thought Manny Ramirez was getting traded.  Before the game (or after, I forget now) a reporter asked him if he preferred being called Jon or Jonathan and he told the reporters that he preferred to be called “Jonathan”.  (Prior to being asked, he was usually referred to as “Jon”.) It always stuck with me even though it’s such a little thing because the Papelbon we know now wouldn’t have waited to be asked, he would have  just told the reporters.

In my life away from baseball, I try to embrace change.  Hell, who really has a choice, right?  So that’s what I ‘m trying to do with the Red Sox. I’m trying to embrace the changes we’ve already gone through and the ones we’ll be experiencing soon.  I’m trying.

It isn’t easy.

Leaving out any considerations about the length and cost of his contract and who the closer will be for the Red Sox in 2012, the bottom line is I will genuinely miss Papelbon being a member of the Red Sox and being “ours”.  Seeing him as one of “theirs” won’t be easy.

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