Leaving the Nest
Any other DC comics fans out there? If there are, they will remember that there came a time in the life of Dick Grayson, the first Robin, when he grew up, and went out into the world, and left the sheltering darkness of the Batcave. He was no longer a sidekick, he was his own superhero, Nightwing.
I feel like that's what we're watching right now, with our own pitching superhero. Only better. Because, while on his own, Nightwing was a pretty lame superhero, Jonathan is anything but lame. Tonight, for the second time in 4 days, I watched him go out there and scare the shit out of three major league hitters. He made the usually dignified Michael Young look silly. He gave Miguel Tejada, no slouch in the offensive department, fits, sending him back to the dugout shaking his head. Last year he was pretty unflappable, especially for rookie; this year he has iceblood running through those veins. Until he gets the job done, and then he lets loose with the passion that has endeared him to the rest of Red Sox Nation. It's like if Dick Grayson has grown up to become another Batman. (In the coolness factor alone.)
Last year, it was a rare and wonderful pleasure when we were on the good end of a 2-1 game. We've now won two of them within the space of the first week. Apart from Wake's awful Tuesday outing, we've had our starters give us a strong 7 innings in each of the first 5 games.( Yes, even with the shaky 7th, the rest of Matty's outing last night was highly pleasing.) Josh Beckett may indeed have a rather large head ( which I feel for, having a big melon myself), but he also has a pair of very large cojones, and seeing him pump his fist or playfully talk with Manny in the dugout, I like him already. And Wake will come around, as good knuckleballers inevitably do. Watching our rotation perform as it's capable of gives me warm fuzzies. It makes me ALMOST not miss String Bean. ( Almost.)
The only slightly worrying thing is that our bullpen still seems a little thin towards the end there, and Seanez just flatout sucked last night. However, Foulkie's looking better, Timlin looked like Timlin tonight, and we've got the closest thing to a sure thing in the ninth that we've had in a year or so. And there's Hansen and Lil' Manny percolating in the minors, if needed. So, in all, very optimistic.
Some fans say they like baseball for the hitting, and there's all that bullshit about "Chicks dig the long ball". I won't deny that watching Papi hit one out is one of the sweetest things in the world. But I'll tell you, there's nothing like the rush I got watching Jonathan mow down the middle of the Orioles lineup tonight without breaking a sweat. You don't last very long, I think, as a baseball fan, if you don't on some level enjoy watching good pitching. It gets you up on your feet, it gets your blood pumping, and when a pitcher is hitting his spots, you feel it viscerally like nothing else.
Which is what makes Papelbon's coming of age so incredibly satisfying. A very good, possibly great young pitcher coming into his own. Nothing like it.