Well, after hearing all sorts of vague and innuendo-laden quotes from Sawx personnel since last July, someone finally came out and said what most people suspected... Manny Ramirez is a "cancer." And not a moment too soon, apparently, for a city starved for some kind of Sawx spice for an otherwise bland and quiet spring training this year.
Here's Jonathan Papelbon on Manny from the April issue of Esquire (as reported by the Boston Globe):
"It just takes one guy to bring an entire team down, and that's exactly what was happening," Papelbon is quoted as saying in the interview with Esquire's Chris Jones. "Once we saw that, we weren't afraid to get rid of him. It's like cancer. That what he was. Cancer. He had to go. . . . [That] was the only scenario that was going to work."
It probably shouldn't come as a surprise that it was Papelbon who went on record with this type of comment. With Curt Schilling now moving on to his next career - radio commentator and baseball's unofficial quasi-conscience - Papelbon would seem to be the most likely candidate to step up as the new go-to quote source for the Sawx.
What does come as a bit of a surprise is that there hasn't been a swift response from the Sawx brass to rebuke or refute the comments. The Sawx have been so careful not to come out and say what everyone long suspected (and what Paps confirmed in his inimitable style): Manny was a distraction to his teammates not for his play on the field, but his conduct off the field and in the locker room.
The Sawx have gone to great lengths to distance themselves from the "25 players, 25 cabs" era and other tawdry reputations that dogged this team in the '80s & '90s. For the most part, they have been successful in creating a culture where players are professional, team-oriented and all pointed in one direction with minimal distractions. The No. 1 word you hear thrown around when people discuss the Sawx in the national media is "professional" - and the team's stars (Pedroia, Ortiz, Youkilis, Beckett, etc.) all embody that. They show up, work hard, play hard and generally keep low profiles.
Except, apparently for Papelbon. Personally, I like Papelpon - he clearly has the right mindset for his job as closer and loves competing. He speaks his mind, isn't afraid to be himself, and generally entertains both on the the field and off.
His comments, though, might be more than his bosses on Yawkey Way can stomach and could bring the "wrong" kind of attention to a team that has generally been flying way below the radar this spring.
Nevertheless, the Boston sports media FINALLY has a story to run with, and we finally have something interesting to talk about this spring besides Lugo vs. Lowrie.
I say keep talking, Paps - we can use some more spice this Spring. Not sure if Mssrs. Epstein, Henry and Lucchino feel the same.