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Papelbon blasts Ramírez

Jonathan Papelbon (left) stood by his comments about former teammate Manny Ramirez yesterday. (AP) Jonathan Papelbon (left) stood by his comments about former teammate Manny Ramirez yesterday.
By Amalie Benjamin
Globe Staff / March 13, 2009
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FORT MYERS, Fla. - Jonathan Papelbon isn't sorry he called Manny Ramírez a "cancer" in an Esquire interview this offseason, nor is he backing away from the comments. "I'm not going to sugarcoat anything," he said yesterday.

And he didn't.

"It takes 25 guys on a team to win, not 24, and that was blatantly obvious," Papelbon said after the Red Sox' workout at City of Palms Park. "It doesn't matter who you are - you could be Babe Ruth - if you're not in that same cubbyhole with the rest of the guys going to war with you, you're all going to die. That almost happened."

But then Ramírez was traded for Jason Bay, and the new left fielder arrived without any baggage.

"It was bad enough to where we weren't winning games [with Ramírez]," Papelbon said, emphasizing he was not speaking for his teammates. "We weren't doing our job. When it comes down to that, we've got to find a cure. Jason Bay was our cure. It's that simple. We've got a team with one guy, we're not winning games. He leaves, a new guy comes in, and then we start winning games.

"That's pretty much putting the writing on the wall, if you ask me."

The Sox closer's brief comments about Ramírez exploded yesterday when the Esquire article was posted on the magazine's website.

"Manny was tough for us," Papelbon told Esquire during an interview in mid-January. "You have somebody like him, you know at any point in the ballgame, he can dictate the outcome of the game. And for him not to be on the same page as the rest of the team was a killer, man! It just takes one guy to bring an entire team down, and that's exactly what was happening.

"Once we saw that, we weren't afraid to get rid of him. It's like cancer. That's what he was. Cancer. He had to go. But that was the only scenario that was going to work. That was it for us. And after, you could feel it in the air in the clubhouse. We got Jason Bay - Johnny Ballgame, plays the game right, plays through broken knees, runs out every ground ball - and it was like a breath of fresh air, man! Awesome! No question."

Yesterday Papelbon said it was not frustrating to see Ramírez succeed with the Dodgers. Fact was, Papelbon was excited when the trade came through. He knew the "ship was sinking." Heading into the July 31 trade deadline, the Sox had lost eight of 12. They won 10 of 13 after Aug. 1.

"I was excited because I knew he didn't want to be there," Papelbon said. "I wasn't excited that he was leaving because I know how good of a player he can be when he wants to be a good player. If you don't want to be a good player, you're not going to be good. If you want to sit out games against certain pitchers or you want to sit out because you don't feel like [it] for whatever reason, I mean, you've got guys like [Dustin] Pedroia that are playing with a broken wrist and guys like Mikey [Lowell] that are trying to make it through hips that need surgery. You've got [Josh] Beckett with a bad back, everybody in the bullpen that's picking up extra innings that's breaking down. All kind of extra stuff that we're pushing through.

"When 25 or so guys are pushing through and one guy is not, that creates a problem. A problem was created and we weren't winning games, so we had to do something. It is what it is. Yeah, we lost a great player, but we started winning games. So what's more important?"

Ramírez brushed off Papelbon's comments, telling MLB.com, "I'm here, not there anymore. I moved on."

And manager Terry Francona wasn't interested in discussing Papelbon's opinions. Francona said if he has something to say to Papelbon, he will do it behind closed doors.

"It doesn't make sense to talk about stuff like that," Francona said. "We did what we thought was the right thing for our team [in trading Ramírez] and we'll continue to do that."

Nick Cafardo of the Globe staff contributed to this report; Amalie Benjamin can be reached at abenjamin@globe.com.

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