Cover Boy

1190921274Those are the eyes of Jonathan Papelbon gracing the cover of this week’s Sports Illustrated, and who wouldn’t be at least a little intimidated by having to hit against that? Tom Verducci, who is the best baseball writer working in traditional print media by far, has the story of our uber-closer reclaiming his role, and it goes without saying that it’s a must-read.

See, Papelbon is more wolf than sheep. “On the mound with the ball in his hand and the game on the line,” says Boston bullpen coach Gary Tuck, “he is pure rage.”

Blue eyes ablaze, ferocity broadcast from his face, Papelbon looks like a man who’s armed and has malicious intent, which, given an extraordinary and unique fastball that he swears is a gift from God, is at least partly true.

The print product is also a worthy buy if for no other reason than the classic Walter Iooss, Jr. photography that accompanies the piece. (There’s also a nice story on Boston College quarterback Matt Ryan, who is criminally underappreciated in this town).

There is one quote, in particular, that stands out:

“This [role] suits him,” says Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling. “He’s not exactly a charter member of Mensa, so he can just go right after people with two pitches.

Not quite sure what old G-38 means by that since Papelbon has never struck me as particularly dumb, but in baseball having a simple approach is often best. Maybe that’s what Schilling meant, or maybe his Mensa application was similarily denied. As for the old SI Cover Jinx, allow the Physics Forum to put you at ease. Fair warning: It’s a little dry.