"I feel like I needed to be in a bullet-proof car," said Papelbon, who was so upset during his session with the media that he used more than a dozen profanities over the course of four minutes. "My wife is pregnant and she's getting her life threatened. It's stupid."
During Monday's All-Star media day, Papelbon told reporters that it was in his competitive nature to want to close the final All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium, even if Yankees closer Mariano Rivera was the popular choice. Papelbon said during the same interview that he would completely understand if manager Terry Francona went to Rivera, considered by many to be the best closer of all time. And later in the day, he told a reporter from The Boston Globe that Rivera should close.
But when Papelbon was eating breakfast on Tuesday at the team hotel, he noticed someone reading a New York Daily News with the back page headline, "PAPELBUM! Red Sox reliever says he, not Mariano, should close tonight's All-Star Game."
Even still, Papelbon didn't realize what it would be like for his wife, Ashley, who is due with the couple's first child on Dec. 31, during a seemingly innocent parade.
"I've said from the very beginning, since two days ago, and talked to Tito about it, I said, 'I want Mariano to close.' I understand what it's about to pay your dues in this game and what it's about to put in your time," said Papelbon. "If you were to ask me, of course I wanted to close. That's my competitive nature. I'm not going to back down from anything. That's not what the ... [newspaper] said. It was an easy headline for that [newspaper].
"That was an easy headline for that [paper] to say, 'Yeah, Papelbon said he wants to close.' Yeah, of course I do," said Papelbon. "That's my competitive nature. But I'm stepping away and saying I don't need to close."
As it turned out, Papelbon didn't close. Instead, Francona went to him in the eighth inning. Papelbon gave up a single, a sacrifice fly and an unearned run in a game that wound up going 15 innings before the American League finally won, 4-3.
"He'll be fine. He'll be fine. I'm not worried about Pap," said Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia.
Clearly, what bothered Papelbon more than the actual story -- and even the headline -- is that his wife's All-Star experience was soured.
"Your family gets involved like that and you're trying to enjoy an experience with your family, and you have a wife who's pregnant who doesn't feel safe riding in a red-carpet event, you know what I mean? How would you feel?" Papelbon said.
Papelbon has often mentioned the awe he has for Rivera, referring to him many times as the "Godfather" of closers.
But clearly those past complimentary comments weren't in the minds of Yankees fans who lined up for the parade.
"That gets written, and I'm riding in the parade today with my wife and she don't feel safe because some [reporter] from the Daily News writes that I want to close the game, and it ain't true," said Papelbon. "See what I'm saying?"
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.