Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Papilbaum WinsFan's Choice as Season's Best Closer

He river-danced with giddiness following each clinching victory -- not to mention the World Series parade. But the Red Sox took far more joy in watching Jonathan Papelbon's moves on the mound.
The closer was simply dominant all year long, and he was selected as the Closer of the Year in MLB.com's annual This Year In Baseball Awards.

Papelbon was the man of the people -- as voting was done exclusively by fans at MLB.com.

But this was far more than a popularity contest. Instead, it was the latest tribute to the type of lights-out work Papelbon performed at last call.

In helping the Red Sox to their first American League East title since 1995, Papelbon posted a 1.85 ERA over 59 outings. He converted 37 of 40 save opportunities while striking out 84 batters over 58 1/3 innings.

Nobody seems to thrive more on the adrenaline of playing baseball in Boston than Papelbon.

"No doubt about it," Papelbon said in October. "I think this place, you know, delivers an adrenaline and intensity like none other. As a pitcher, you can either use that to your advantage, or it can hurt you. I think that most of the guys in this clubhouse love that adrenaline, love that intensity and love playing here."

Once the postseason started, Papelbon took his game up another notch. Over seven outings, he didn't give up a run. Papelbon was 4-for-4 in save opportunities.

In fact, three of those saves came during the World Series sweep over the Rockies.

The bigger the moment, the better Papelbon seems to pitch.

"The biggest thing is the adrenaline that the ninth inning and those close, tight situations generate," said Red Sox pitching coach John Farrell. "He's able to most effectively channel those and not allow those to cause him to come out of his delivery and otherwise lose command of his fastball. He thrives on those."

Papelbon has been an All-Star in each of his first two full seasons. Considering that he is 27, Papelbon figures to have a lot more greatness in front of him.

When the Red Sox wrapped up the World Series victory at Colorado, the image of Papelbon throwing his glove high in the air after striking out Seth Smith was indelible.

More than 9.6 million votes were cast by fans around the world. Results will be rolled out daily through Dec. 21. Here is the schedule:

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