From the Archive: April 23, 2007
there are disadvantages to growing older, of course. there's less hair on my head than there used to be, for instance. and more hair other places. but I can gruffly use phrases like 'in all my years of such and such...' in a variety of contexts. in this case, I can even glibly refer to my 21 years of watching baseball, and expect the fact to command some sort of respect on its own.
so that being said, I don't think that in my 21 years of watching baseball i've seen a pitcher with such an explosive fastball as papelbon has. he really gets an elevation on the pitch that no one else has that i've ever seen. and that splitter- tonight clocking at 90 mph- is just absurd. (though damon put on an impressive at bat, almost taking the splitter for a hit the other way). and papelbon knows how to pitch- after walking abreu- who himself was just barely able to check his swing and lay off a high rising fastball on the 3-2 count- it is tempting to try and come back with a first pitch fastball to get ahead. that's what a-rod, the potential go ahead run, was thinking, and who then was rewarded by waiving at the first pitch slider- 83 mph- at the knees. this was a pitch papelbon hadn't yet used in the outing; there's just no way anyone could have seen that coming.
and that first outing of his, geezum crow- the 5 out save in texas- wow. striking out michael young- one of the league's top hitters- on 3 pitches; two fastballs up and in, and then freezing him with a fastball painting the outside corner at the knees for the called third strike.
and of course he's got a made for tv punim what with that wwf stare down.
now lots of closer have a short run of dominance, but few really last. and papelbon's fastball, as great as it is, may not ultimately measure up to mariano's cutter, which must be considered the single greatest pitch of all time, as he's a hall of famer who only throws the one pitch. but papelbon really has a chance to be historically great, and he's just so much fun to watch.
this weekend was great theater; so many dramatic moments. yes, the sox swept, but I hardly think this is reason to write off the yanks. They had two minor league starters going- no wang, mussina, or pavano, and posada and matsui were out, and damon had a day off, and is banged up, and we barely won each game. and the yankees hit well off our three aces; both dice k and beckett had their worst starts of the year, and schilling pretty much matched his stinker from opening day. so yeah, great theater, and it is always great to humiliate those jerks, but this thing ain't over, as i'm sure they probably say when at a loss for a more eloquent way to put it.