"Textbook." Never thought I'd be saying those words about the Sox. For all my life the Sox have never been textbook. Not in the 2004 ALCS. Not even in the 2004 World Series. They are experts in creating that "holy shit" moment. That "Heathcliff Slocum" moment where they teetered on the brink of disaster.
Prior to 2004, the Sox were masters at snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. The proverbial "Michael Dukasises" of Major League Baseball. In 2006, that all changed.
What's different now? Well, Jon Papelbon is the major reason they are different. Mike Lowell, Kevin Youkilis, Coco Crisp, Curt Schilling version 2.0, Alex Gonzalez (who's starting to hit like a madman), Josh Beckett, a focused Manny Ramirez, also make the Sox different. For starters, every one of those guys (yes, even Manny) are the consumate professionals. I'll throw Tim Wakefield, Mike Timlin, Trot Nixon, Doug Mirabelli, and Gabe Kapler in there as well -- only those guys have always been professional and have always been reliable.
So why did I title this post "Textbook?" For one, the Sox -- or maybe I should start calling them the "un-Sox" -- executed against the baseball meaning of textbook last night. In addition to superb pitching (again), and phenomenal fielding (tied the MLB record for errorless game streak last night), there was one point in the 7th, 8th and 9th inning where everything went according to plan. Coco Crisp bunted his way on (monster catch in the 8th to save a run btw). He stole second. AGonz sacraficed him to third. Varitek sacrificed him home. And then Big Papi did what he does best -- he crushed the ball into the bleachers just to make sure the Sox didn't blow this one.
I don't even need to mention the fact that Jon "Money" Papelbon came in to close the door. This kid is all business. I can't opine enough about him. He's a younger version of Mo Rivera (yes, I'm prepared to officially make that statement now). Come to think of it, Jon Papelbon is "textbook".
Come on lucky number 13...