Here's some unsolicited advice for Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon:
Most closers get in trouble about three hours into a game. Papelbon's trouble, though, seems to occur before and after the closer's moment of truth.
Papelbon found out what happens when you say something stupid, and say it at a place where you can get in the back side like a great white shark.
Papelbon said this when asked who should close the All-Star game:
"If I was managing the team, I would close. I'm not managing the team, so it don't matter. I think we've both earned that right. Us by winning the World Series — having the opportunity of having our manager there, and our team being represented. And, no, by Mariano, what he's done to this role in Yankee Stadium."
We enjoy and often laud Papelbon's candor and competitive nature ... but saying that at Yankee Stadium!
Curt Schilling's oft-played 2004 WEEI sound-bite fits real well here.
"That's a stupid, idiotic comment to make," snapped Schilling.
Somebody, probably Sox manager Terry Francona, got to him and Papelbon changed course within the hour.
While in his hotel in New York the day before All-Star game, Papelbon jokingly grabbed a reporter's tape recorder and said:
"This is Jonathan Papelbon, closer of the Boston Red Sox. Mariano Rivera will be closing the 2008 All-Star game in Yankee Stadium. I'm making a statement right now, saying I don't want it, I want him to have it. I said all that earlier, but that's the way I feel about it."
Too late. The damage had been done.
If it had been in Milwaukee or Tampa, the story wouldn't have amounted to much.
This, though, was in New York, in relation to the final All-Star game before Yankee Stadium is imploded.
The day of the game, Papelbon's wife, who is expecting the couple's first child in December, apparently was on the receiving end of some horrible insults during the two-hour All-Star game parade in Manhattan.
"My wife told me she didn't feel safe. My wife just didn't feel comfortable, man, and she's pregnant with a (expletive) little baby ... It kind of (ticks) you off when your family gets involved, when you've got a (expletive) wife who's pregnant and doesn't feel safe riding in a red-carpet event."
Before anybody says "it's a New York thing," think again.
This is a New York-Boston thing. We all know if the shoe was on the other foot, Mariano Rivera's wife would have been bristling every bit as much in downtown Boston.
The point is Papelbon needs to think. This was a no-brainer. Rivera is the greatest closer who ever lived — period. He is playing at home — period.
No question who would have got ball if it had mattered in the ninth inning.
This is not the first time Papelbon spoke out of turn. During contract negotiations in February and early March, he was outspoken in his desire to get more than what the collective bargaining agreement bargained for.
Because of time served, or really lack thereof, he was at the beck and call of the Red Sox, who were at liberty to give him the standard renewal with a few bonuses.
The good news for Papelbon was he signed the biggest contract ever for a closer who wasn't eligible for salary arbitration, breaking Rivera's record by $25,000. The bad news is it's still just $775,000, although that's almost double what the Sox had to pay him.
"It's a tough situation for me right now," Papelbon said in March. "I feel like with me being at the top of my position, I feel like that (salary) standard needs to be set and I'm the one to set that standard and I don't think that the Red Sox are really necessarily seeing eye to eye with me on that subject right now."
Technically, he's right. But in reality, this is the system. Young stars make peanuts compared to their output for the first four of five years. Then they break the bank.
Kevin Youkilis is a perfect example. This is his fifth season. He'll make $3 million this season, which is probably $5 million less than if he were a free agent. Next season, though, that number will increase to about $8 million after arbitration.
The 27-year-old Papelbon's time and contract will come. Through 2008, the 38-year-old Rivera will have been paid $99.5 million by the Yankees ... $98 million more than Papelbon.
Papelbon is Rivera in diapers. Papelbon got his 100th career save just before the All-Star break. Rivera has 500, if you include the postseason.
So for now, there is no comparison.
True, Papelbon saved three games against the Rockies in last year's World Series. And he is on a path to being special.
But until he becomes special, even close to Rivera, he best mind his P's and Q's and pitch. His arm is a lot more effective than his mouth.
E-mail Bill Burt at email@example.com.