It was the comment heard around Clearwater. Jonathan Papelbon put his foot down when it came to addressing some of the problems the Phillies experienced in 2012.
The Phillies’ closer called out the 2012 team early in camp by making it clear that leaders need to step up in 2013.
“It was an all-around leadership void from A to Z,” Papelbon said of the 2012 season. “I put myself in that category. I don’t feel like I took a certain leadership [role] as much as I could have with the guys in the bullpen. And I intend to make that change this year. I hope that other guys on this team feel the same way as I do.”
His teammates have agreed, saying that the injuries and role players the team has been used to having for five division titles being absent hurt the club.
“The bond was broken,” shortstop Jimmy Rollins said. “Now we’re back together. The glue is back together. You can have a lead singer, but without a man playing the guitar and drums, it’s a different band.”
Papelbon addressed the leadership comments further, saying that everyone leads in a different way and that difference is key to the Phillies’ success.
“Everybody on this team can be a key figure,” Papelbon said. “[People are] sitting here trying to pick out one guy, or a guy here, or a guy in the lineup, or a starter, or a closer. That’s just not the way it is. It’s different. Doc’s personality is different than mine. He’s going to lead differently than me. Ryan’s personality is different. Chase’s is different. Everybody takes a certain little part of the equation and makes that equation a success.”
Many people looked at Papelbon’s comments as something of a concern, a player already calling out his teammates just days into camp. But actually listen to what Papelbon is saying.
Leadership wasn’t there last season. Look at the Phillies’ 81-81 record in 2012. Look at how they missed the playoffs. Look at the way they lost games and the way they lacked a response afterwards. That’s what Papelbon is referring to.
What Papelbon is trying to do is set the bar. He wants to be a leader. He wants guys like Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard and Chase Utley to do the same.
Rollins, Howard and Utley have been leaders before. But it’s easy to slip in that department. So what Papelbon is doing is firing guys up. And perhaps he’s even taking a shot at the media, experts and baseball fans in general who want to write the Phillies off in spring training.
It is certainly too early to do that. But what the Phillies need to do is have the leaders they are accustomed to having not only make an impact on and off the field but stay healthy. The heart of the team was gone in June. And when you looked on the field, there was no Roy Halladay, no Chase Utley, no Ryan Howard.
It’s pretty easy to indicate where it all went wrong for the Phillies in 2012. So that’s what they are working to correct in 2013. And they have wasted no time in doing that, if the closer didn’t tell you already.