CLEARWATER, Fla. - In retrospect, the 2012 Phillies season was doomed from the very start, an idea Jonathan Papelbon is still attempting to comprehend. He cited a lack of leadership as the cause without totally blaming Chase Utley's knees, Ryan Howard's Achilles tendon, or Roy Halladay's shoulder.
"It was an all-around leadership void from A to Z," Papelbon said.
The $50 million closer was asked Friday to explain comments made to the Allentown Morning Call about a lack of leadership. He did not distance himself from the remarks, but said: "I love this clubhouse."
He would not point to one person or a specific incident as the problem.
"I put myself in that category," Papelbon said. "I don't feel like I took a certain leadership [role] as much as I could have with the guys in the bullpen. And I intend to make that change this year. I hope that other guys on this team feel the same way as I do."
When informed of Papelbon's comments, manager Charlie Manuel indicated he had previously talked to his pitcher about his concerns. The manager chalked up Papelbon's remarks to frustration.
"When he came over here, we had just won 102 games," Manuel said. "He thought we were going to hit homers. He thought we were going to pitch shutouts and be in close games. He might have been a little bit disappointed in what he saw because we had injuries and did not play well.
"That's what he was talking about."
Whatever Papelbon was saying, there were few reverberations in a veteran clubhouse. Some laughed when relayed the closer's comments. Others, like Jimmy Rollins, rationalized them.
"The bond was broken," Rollins said. "Now we're back together. The glue is back together. You can have a lead singer, but without a man playing the guitar and drums, it's a different band."
Papelbon said it was not a bad clubhouse in 2012, merely one that did not have an "identity." The Phillies stumbled, especially during a 9-19 June when Halladay, Howard, and Utley were missing.
Both Halladay and Utley have long been viewed as two of the team's most exemplary leaders by example. Papelbon did not put the blame solely on their absences.
"Everybody on this team can be a key figure," he said. "[People are] sitting here trying to pick out one guy, or a guy here, or a guy in the lineup, or a starter, or a closer. That's just not the way it is. It's different. Doc's personality is different than mine. He's going to lead differently than me. Ryan's personality is different. Chase's is different. Everybody takes a certain little part of the equation and makes that equation a success."
Last May, Manuel bemoaned the lack of a "vocal leader" on his team. The manager said Aaron Rowand was the only player during his tenure who fit that label.
With Rowand on the roster, the Phillies were 174-150 (.537) and did not win a postseason game. The Phillies were 465-345 (.574) after Rowand departed and won two pennants.
"But at the same time," Manuel said last May, "we got guys in there - especially when they're playing good - they lead by example, and who they are and their personalities and everything, they can lead that way. But that's kind of how it is."
When Manuel said those words, his clubhouse lacked the presence of Utley and Howard. Later, in June, it worsened when Halladay was missing. Manuel started Ty Wigginton 21 times in June. He started Michael Martinez 13 times and Mike Fontenot nine times. Hector Luna started six June games. John Mayberry Jr. started 18 times.
If anything, the Phillies lacked talent.
For what it's worth, Manuel categorized this year as "one of the best camps we've had since I've been here." Rollins spoke to Papelbon during Thursday's team golf tournament to better understand his thoughts.
"He didn't say anything about this year," Rollins said. "He was talking about last year. He didn't say leadership is. Leadership was."