Saturday, October 13, 2007

Josh Beckett is Not Remotely Interested in Being Average

Sox 10, Smiling Racists 3. The game was the fun kind of boring once Mike Lowell doubled Youk and Papi in - not too much suspense but Beckett's big-time performance and the offensive attack (all starters managed a hit) kept my attention without keeping me riveted.

I'll take that every night.

Two big stories emerge from the game: Beckett and the Papi/Manny Show.

Tom Verducci has a great slurp-job on Josh Beckett up at SI.com that I'm not going to compete with; you want the historical skinny on Beckett, check it out.

Here's what I think about Beckett: in the context of Red Sox pitchers, he's not as dominant as Clemens and he's not as dazzling as Pedro, but he's quickly, efficiently making the case that he's a better big game pitcher than either of them. Clemens' post-season failures are well-documented, and Petey was great so long as he didn't have to face the Yankees, but Beckett is something different. With Clemens I waited for something bad to happen and with Petey it was the same when the Sox played the Yanks. Both guys inspired confidence in the regular season but they weren't able to translate that into the playoffs.

The post-game didn't change things. Clemens always seemed on the verge of going crackers and always had an excuse (hamstring, usually). Pedro always seemed like the game was an interlude in the crazy-ass party that was his life. Beckett? Focused. He's not interested in whatever games the media wants to play, he's not interested in patting himself on the back, he doesn't come across like he's on his way to the bars. Heck, he doesn't even sound like he's having fun; it's business and he's completely locked in.

One of the most overused phrases in baseball is "professional hitter," which always gets slapped on guys like Matt Stairs and Harold Baines but Papi and Manny were professional hitters all night. They displayed the kind of discipline that makes them who they are as hitters - they make you come to them, make you throw the pitch they want to hit. If you don't give in to them, they'll take the walk, get on base, and let the guys behind them do the damage.

Hell, Manny picked up two RBIs on the night on bases loaded walks after getting down 0-2 in both counts. If I'm a Cleveland fan, I'm screaming "Throw a strike!" at my television set during those at-bats.

10-for-10.

Manny and Papi came up ten times on the night and they reached base all ten times.

People love to overstate things come playoff time but it's just one game. Cleveland's still going to throw Sabathia and Carmona three more times in this series (if it goes 7) so Friday was a great start. But anyone thinking this series is over is just wrong.

Hard to have a better opening game, though.

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