Jonathan Papelbon has only been in a Phillies uniform for a little over a year, but he is already the most vocal presence in a veteran clubhouse. And he apparently has the gravitas to call out a room full of established ballplayers, Cy Young and MVP winners alike.
Just before the Phillies began their 2013 exhibition schedule in Clearwater, Papelbon questioned the leadership core of a team that underachieved a year earlier. In Papelbon's season with the Phils, the team went 81-81, missing the postseason for the first time in six seasons.
"It was an all-around leadership void, from A to Z," Papelbon said.
Papelbon's comments were somewhat curious since the Phillies clubhouse is one populated with the likes of Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Roy Halladay, among others. Then again, three of those four players missed significant time with injuries in 2012.
Thus, the void.
"(There were) a lot of moving parts, a lot of new parts coming in," Rollins said after playing three innings of the five-inning intrasquad game. "Regulars not being around together, the bonds that forms when everybody's together. We didn't have that unfortunately. …You can have a lead singer, but without a man playing the guitar and drums, it's a different band."
Papelbon signed a four-year, $50 million contract before the 2012 season. It was the richest contract for a relief pitcher in the history of the game.
Even though the injuries to Halladay, Howard and Utley made an impact, the struggles of the bullpen were difficult to overcome, too. While calling out his team, Papelbon took ownership of the lack of leadership, too.
"As far as the bullpen goes, I lacked a lot of leadership last year," Papelbon said. "I could have stepped up and done some things different to help lead them and maybe the bumps and bruises wouldn't have been so bad for our bullpen. I intend to make that change this year and I hope that other guys on this team feel the same way I do."
Papelbon thinks a healthy Phillies team will translate into one with a better identity in 2013.
"It was just a clubhouse that didn't have an identity and didn't have leadership, I felt," he said. "That's not to put the blame on any one person or any one coach. That's just the way it was. The ways things unfolded. … I'm not saying it was one particular person. Granted we did have a lot of injuries and that does affect how leadership plays a part on teams. Hopefully this year that will change. I think it will."