Jonathan Papelbon: Darling of the blogs.

That seems to be the consensus, even among those heathens who insist the Boston Red Sox are the second coming of the gremlin running around in George Steinbrenner's head.

Why?

He's wacky!

He's zany!

He says stupid stuff! And he doesn't care!

Take, for example, this rumor, which became wildly popular yesterday in the blogosphere. Now, maybe it's me, but if this wasn't a story about someone baseball fans in general have come to adore for being completely out of his tree, there would be at least some backlash. After all, it does strike me as something that upset at least some fans, considering there are real naked people involved in the photographs mentioned.

By and large, though, the rumor -- which still hasn't been verified, by the way -- has been chalked up to Paps being Paps, much like the time he and the boys signed some dude's fake leg. "God bless America," said one commenter on Ballhype.com in response to the entry.

This whole thing leads to a pretty basic point: To a large portion of America, Papelbon's postseason greatness -- and antics -- are his first day-to-day introduction to baseball fans the world over. Because while sure, everybody knew Papelbon was dominant enough to make the All-Star team, how many Marlins fans were aware of his general off-field insanity -- especially if they didn't read blogs? How many Brewers fans would know that he regularly does stuff like invent a pitch called "the slutter?"

For a large portion of America, then, it would stand to reason that this week is Papelbon's coming out party. He has been placed on a national stage for the first extended period of time in his career, and he has responded brilliantly, pitching with brilliance while amazing with eccentricity.

I'm not really sure where I'm going with this, other than it'll be interesting to see if the exposure and his ability to grab the spotlight will lead to anything longterm. Aetna spokesman? Coca-Cola pitchman? Underwear model? This could quickly just become the World of El Cinco Ocho, and we'll all just be living in it.

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