A lot of guys have good stuff. Many of them can be intimidating to a hitter. But it seems fewer and fewer these days have that “give-me-the-f-in-ball-I’m-better-than-any-of-these-guys” aura on the mound. It just so happens two of them play for the Boston Red Sox.
Even the casual fan who has tuned into the playoffs this fall has likely noticed them. Josh Beckett and Jonathan Papelbon. Both are young. Intense. Talented. But it’s that intangible competitiveness combined with an attitude that is part aggression, part confidence and part I-don’t-give-a-f-who-you-are that clearly sets them apart. As a guy who loves baseball, these are the types of guys you yearn to have on your team. And, in my mind, there are very few around the league in recent memory who exude the same presence on the mound.
Roger Clemens, even in his declining years, has always been one. Dontrelle Willis has the competitive fire and the come-after-you mentality but lacks the seemingly violent, predatory demeanor that Beck and Pap take to the hill. Guys like Smoltz, Santana and Rivera (in his prime) have “it” but in a more subtle quiet, calculated killer sort of way. Oswalt, Penny and Peavy have the stuff, but it rarely feels the same as Pap and Beck when they’re on the mound.
Even in the realm of closers, this unique combination of confidence, stuff and borderline-anger is incredibly hard to find. Guys like my favorite team’s closer Billy Wagner sometimes have it…and other times appear as if the ball they’re about to be handed has cooties and grab it with the half-hearted grip of a pitcher who’s already dead. I don’t get to watch a ton of American League games but it seems like K-Rod out in Anaheim and Zumaya in Detroit can also get it from time-to-time.
But Papelbon and Beckett take on an almost omnipotent, machine-like persona when they ascend the bump. Game in and game out. What you love even more is that their attitude only seems to intensify following a setback. Gave up a homerun? Great. Congratulations. Give-me-the-f-in-ball, that was a fluke.
So, how is it Papelbon and Beckett can put together a total package that just screams to the opposition “I’m better than any of you, so deal with it”? It could just possibly be because they are…
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About the Author: Cecilio's Scribe is the founder of The Legend of Cecilio Guante and a generally pessimistic fan of the Mets, Jets, Knicks and Rangers. A fine NYC-based gentlemen who hones his marketing skills as his primary trade by day. Husband, chef, father of a newborn and after-hours blogger by night. Proud alum of the mighty Big Red of Cornell. University. Hot sauce devotee. Staunch protester of the continued wussifcation of American sports. Sometimes I rhyme slow, sometimes I rhyme quick.