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From the Hart: Samuel 2.0?

This is a blog of, about and for all things Patriots.

But generally in many ways one New England professional sports team is inextricably connected to the next. That's why yesterday's news that free agent Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon was signing with the Phillies immediately had me thinking about the Patriots.

The first thing I thought of when news broke that Papelbon had reached a lucrative four-year deal with Philadelphia was Asante Samuel. To me, the comparison between the two players' rise to stardom in New England and running to Philly for the money is striking.

Both Samuel and Papelbon were home-grown draft picks who turned into stars.

Both became All Star/Pro Bowl caliber players. Neither, though, would be considered truly elite. While Samuel was a proven playmaker, he certainly wasn't Champ Bailey or Darrelle Revis. Likewise, while Papelpon may be the best closer the Red Sox ever had, he certainly isn't in Mariano Rivera's league.

Both players spent their entire careers honestly speaking about their desire to reach free agency and cash in with big money. Papelbon didn't have a tattoo about wanting to get rich like Samuel did, but he might as well have.

Both players found the money they sought, somewhat quickly in free agency, in the City of Brotherly Love.

Here's where I think the comparison really gets interesting. After Samuel left, the Patriots have spent years trying to find a similar talent in the secondary to replace the interception machine. They've used high draft picks and free agent dollars to try to replace the type of playmaking ability that Samuel brought to the back end. They didn't want to go the extra mile, the extra dollars, to keep Samuel and it has seemingly cost the New England defense in the long run.

The Red Sox didn't want to go the extra mile, the extra dollars or contract years, to keep Papelbon. Will they spend the next few years wishing they had? Will they spend the next few years trying to develop a new closer or throwing lesser money at lesser talents?

Both Samuel and Papelbon had proved to be elite players in New England/Boston uniforms. They'd proven they could handle the city, the media and everything else that comes with playing Boston sports.

In some ways the Patriots proved they could not replace Samuel's playmaking ability on the field in recent years.

Will the Red Sox prove the same thing at closer, one of the most important positions on a baseball team?

Only time will tell if the Samuel/Papelbon comparison plays through right to the end.

What do you think of this comparison? Is it an apt one? Let us know with a comment below!

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