Just because Papelbon would not rule out pitching some day for the (gulp) Yankees, he emphasized that his strong desire is to remain in Boston and that donning pinstripes isn't any kind of recurring fantasy.
"I said I would go to any team I felt was best for my situation, whether it's the Yankees or whoever," said Papelbon. "But the thing that you have to understand is that's three years away. OK?"
Papelbon made it clear he doesn't mind going year-to-year on contract renewals with the Red Sox.
"I'm in a situation here where I'm playing for the best general manager [Theo Epstein] and manager [Terry Francona] in the game of baseball," Papelbon said. "And I've got a World Series ring here. Do I want go play anywhere else? Hell no. What's going to happen down the road? What's going to happen next year or whenever? The whole thing is, I don't want to play anywhere unless I'm happy, and I'm happy playing here."
Johnny Damon, a beloved figure during his four years in Boston, is now vilified in Red Sox Nation. Perhaps the biggest reason for that is that he once vowed in an interview that he would never play for the Yankees. Once Damon became a free agent, he did just that.
As far as Papelbon is concerned, he is candid about not knowing what the future might hold.
"This is where I want to play," said Papelbon. "But I also understand there's a business side of things. Sometimes that doesn't work out. Sometimes you can't play in a city for 10, 15 years. I may not be as lucky as [Tim Wakefield]. I may not be able to be in that situation. It kind of [upsets] me today, because it made it seem like I want to go play for [the Yankees], which is nowhere even close. Nowhere even in the ballpark of what I want to do."
Papelbon was clearly concerned about how his comments with Sirius/XM satellite radio would be construed -- not just by fans, but by his bosses.
"I just think that when people hear something -- what I said or people read something that I said -- sometimes they can only see certain things, and I want to make that clear that I don't want to go play for the Yankees," Papelbon said. "Believe me, I've got a ring here, and I'm playing for a manager and a general manager that's going to protect me, and I'm playing for the best team in baseball. I've been on a team the past three years that's been in first place more than any other team out there, so why would I want to go anywhere else? Right? You see what I'm getting at."
Interestingly, Papelbon doesn't feel a pressing need for his agents to discuss a long-term deal with the Red Sox this winter. Last offseason, Papelbon and the Sox avoided arbitration, agreeing to a one-year, $6.25 million deal.
"It doesn't matter, because, like I said, I'll sign eight one-year deals in a row," said Papelbon. "It's not about the money, man. It's not about going and playing for money, because if it was, guess what, I wouldn't be closing right now. I'd be starting. You know, I know I said what I said and I'm not going to deny that, but I think at times, fans may [say] that or fans might [say], 'I don't want to play here,' but that's not even [the case]. Or my general manager or manager might think that I'm not happy here and that's nowhere even close."
Since breaking in with the Red Sox during the stretch run of 2005, Papelbon has had nothing but success. He would like to continue that run as long as possible.
"Do I want to be with the Red Sox for as long as I can? Of course," said Papelbon. "There's no question about it, because I know my family is happy, and I'm playing for a manager and a general manager that I know is going to protect me, and for me, that's all that matters."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.