(AP Photo/Charles Krupa/ESPN.com)
The above is my new favorite moment of the season so far. It's early yet, and so that favorite might change as soon as today, but as Papel-blog's Kelly once commented on this blog, "Every time Jason Varitek pats Papelbon on the head and/or upper back area, I'm pretty sure that God cures the broken leg of a small kitten."
The talk of the fans I know today is Jonathan Papelbon's appearance last night, closing out the second of two games against the Yankees, both of which were complicated by an incorrigible, on-again, off-again rain.
I was watching once again in Brookline, and we all roundly and vociferously cursed FOX for switching to NASCAR with two outs in the top of the ninth and a full count. I know there's such a thing as contractual obligation, but that was absolutely ridiculous. If they were going to switch, they should've switched during the delay, to give people time to, say, figure out where FX is on their cable. By the time we found the game again, Dustin Pedroia was just tossing the ball to Sean Casey for the final out, and having missed even a single heater from Papelbon is something about which I remain bitter today.
Add this to the long list of reasons FOX sucks: we already knew that they weren't competent sports broadcasters (see also, Zelasko, Jeannie and McCarver, Tim), but yesterday they weren't even competent broadcasters, period. It isn't like they didn't have time to plan ahead--the rain was well forecast before and during the game, there was more than one return of the tarp to the field, giving them time to switch, and at any rate, Sox-Yankees games usually run long. Was there any reason to force people to fumble with their remotes with a full count and two outs in the ninth inning of a one-run Red Sox-Yankees game? Is NASCAR really a more valuable TV property for FOX than that?
Okay, I'm over it. Well, I'm really not, but let's get back to Jonathan Papelbon and how much of a complete and total stud he is for blowing 96 miles per hour past Yankees from a wet mound after having to warm up and sit back down twice. With the shape the rest of our bullpen has been in so far this season, I shudder to think what ugliness might have kept those watching FX from returning to their regularly scheduled Terminator 3 yesterday afternoon, had Papelbon not been able to perform.
Similarly, if it weren't for Manny Ramirez swinging the big lumber (and a followup RBI from my emerging binky, Kevin Youkilis), we'd also probably have been looking at a different outcome. While I know the idea of a team is for everyone to take turns contributing, I have to say the continued, shall we say, concentration of contributions coming from some people and not others is killing my April baseball buzz already. Like the Bud commercial says, Leon can't do everything. I'm looking at you, Manny Delcarmen.
Still, thank God for the team's leaders yesterday, including Josh, who pitched a now-forgotten masterful 5 innings before being left in about two batters too long in the sixth, going somewhat pear-shaped, and becoming a footnote to Papelbon. Various talking heads kept saying how his pitching line really didn't match the dominance of his effort in the early innings, but to me "dominant" does not equal 3 runs and just over 6 innings, no matter which way you slice it.
I'd rather say Beckett has looked encouraging in both of his starts so far, both times busting out guns blazing in the early innings, but running out of gas earlier than usual. I think journalists and broadcasters like to use words like "dominant" because it draws eyeballs and ears, but to me, "dominant" isn't accurate, especially if you're talking about the Texas-style all-day-long-country-ass-whupping domination Beckett is capable of laying down, when said about a less-than-seven-inning effort. So chalk this up as the first known instance of me being less sanguine about Josh Beckett than the broadcasters. At least, since 2006.
Meanwhile, between Beckett and Jonathan, it's clear my dad and I ended up at the wrong game this week--we were there in person for Friday night's game, a decent effort by Buchholz in his first-ever start against the Yankees, that wound up being spoiled by Mike Timlin and Jason Giambi, not to mention a strange and frustrating game for the bats, as one by one Red Sox hitters socked the ball deep into the damp night, only to have it directed as if by otherworldly forces into the gloves of Yankees outfielders. About the only one to break on through to the other side was J.D. Drew, who clearly at this point is just trying to taunt me.