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:

Nutt's Assistants Join Ole Miss Staff

Houston Nutt has reached back into Arkansas to find coaches to help him in his new job at Mississippi.

Nutt told The Morning News of Springdale that three of his longtime assistants -- offensive line coach Mike Markuson, tight ends coach James Shibest and safeties coach Chris Vaughn -- will join him at Ole Miss.

The Clarion-Ledger of Jackson, Miss., reports that at least two others -- offensive coordinator David Lee and defensive line coach Tracy Rocker -- also will follow him to Oxford next season.

Nutt said every one of his Arkansas assistants will continue to coach the Razorbacks through the bowl game.

Miles Latest Statement on Talks with Michigan

BATON ROUGE -- LSU football coach Les Miles issued the following statement on Tuesday regarding the conversation he had with Michigan last week:

“I had a conversation with Michigan last week that covered a wide range of topics. I was doing nothing more than helping them with their search for a football coach, just as any loyal alumnus might do. It was nothing more than that.

“I’m not a candidate for that job and I will not be a candidate for the job. I was only assisting them in their search for a coach. I have a great job at a wonderful place, a place that my family calls home. It’s time that Michigan goes on with their search for a football coach. I’ll say it again, I’m going to be the coach at LSU next season.”