Wednesday, September 19, 2007

What the Hell was Francona Thinking?

Pick a term of your choice to describe last night's game in Toronto.

Excruciating. Infuriating. Nauseating. Unacceptable.

Anyone of them will do.

This latest godawful Red Sox loss can once again be laid at the feet of one Terry Francona. Now listen, I am NO Tito basher. I happen to like Francona, as I think he's the best Red Sox manager since Dick Williams. I think he knows how to handle players, and especially the media, which in Boston is no easy thing. He also knows how to handle a bullpen. But twice, TWICE, in the last five days, he has cost the Red Sox a ballgame with his terrible mishandling of the bullpen. And both times in the eighth inning.

I agreed with him bringing in Eric Gagne last night. They got him to be a big time setup man and sometime closer. With Hideki Okajima's struggles, it was time to move Gagne back to eighth, as he had pitched well recently. He got the first two outs relatively easy, but then the roof fell in. AGAIN.

A walk. A single. Another walk. Another walk to force in a run. A double to drive in two (and a man gunned down at home to finally end the disaster).

And where is manager Francona? Sitting on the bench with his head up his ass hoping and praying Gagne wouldn't fail.

But he did. AGAIN. And once again, no one was backing up a reliever while the game was being lost, just like Friday night. Jonathan Papelbon was shown while the carnage was unfolding holding a baseball in the pen, and he wasn't warming up. Hey, if Gagne had pitched a clean inning, who was coming in to the ninth, Santa Claus? No, Papelbon. So why wasn't he backing up Gagne? He last pitched during Friday's travesty, so there was no reason not to use him in the eighth to save this game. None at all.

Finally, when Gagne walked in the tying run, Bryan Corey (Bryan Corey?) was seen warming up in a hurry. But it was too late, as Gagne gave away yet another game, this time a two-run double to Russ Adams. Gagne threw 32 pitches, only 13 for strikes. Totally absymal.

It was another horrible display of managing by Francona. He let Gagne give another away. There should have been SOMEONE throwing in the pen when Gagne walked the second hitter to load up the bases. He was clearly rattled and couldn't find the plate. I'm anxious to read his excuses in the Boston papers why he let Gagne hand the Blue Jays a victory.

And now I can draw only one conclusion about Gagne, and I rarely say this about a Red Sox player: he's a choker. Have you noticed that he's been doing better in those situations that Francona brings him into, like those ninth innings when the Sox are down, but with the game on the line, he folds like a cheap suit? If he's not hurt, then he's one big choke artist. The July 31 trade from Texas has proven to be one of the worst moves the Sox have made in recent memory, as Gagne is a complete and total failure in Boston.

More and more, I believe the Sox should leave Gagne off the postseason roster. Right now I'd rather have Kyle Snyder on the roster than Gagne. He simply cannot be trusted with a lead late in a game. He's either a garbage time pitcher, or completely useless. And if he were to have a problem with that move, tell him to take a hike and find other employment in 2008. (He's blowing millions with his tank jobs over the past couple of months. Good luck finding big money anywhere.) I simply don't want to see this jackass with a ball in his hand in a clutch situation ever again this season. The Sox simply cannot take the chance with him.

While Gagne and Francona are mostly to blame for the latest travesty, the Red Sox offense is also to blame as well. They left plenty of runners on base last night, including men in scoring position three times. Once again, squandered opportunities come home to haunt the Red Sox.

Clay Buchholz goes in the series finale on Wednesday night. The kid will try to save their bacon and get a little dignity back. But this team has no one to blame but themselves if they let this division lead go flying out the window. They can't keep giving games away like they did last night. Granted the "real" magic number for the Red Sox is four (over Detroit, not New York), as that will put them into the playoffs this season for sure. Some feel that just getting the Wild Card is fine, but there is a psychological edge to getting the division crown. Plus, you want some momentum to carry you into October. Stumbling in is no good omen.

So no more excuses. No more stupid, idiotic decisions costing the team games.

Time to prove to everyone that you guys belong in the playoffs. Ten games left. Get Manny Ramirez back in the lineup. Time to get off your dead asses, score runs, pitch well and win some games.

Is that too much to ask?


Michael Leggett said...

Armando Benitez has taken over the Body of Eric Gagne':

Make that Mel Rojas;

2 Nights of losing my cool

Dave said...

Gagne is like Calvin Schiraldi and Dick Drago all rolled into one nice package o' crap.

Jeff Faria said...

Well, Gagne was never a choker BEFORE, so I don't think he has suddenly become one. (Was Beckett a fraud when he first came over? A choker? A has-been? 'Cause no one's complaining NOW.)

But, Gagne clearly has a problem NOW. Francona has to find out if he can pitch during the regular season, 'cause he can't hide him away now and try him out later. Also, he has to rest his key relievers. So Terry has to trot him out there and see what happens. I know, I know, it hasn't been good.

The way things stand, I have to say I don't see Gagne in the post-season. For whatever reason(s), he's looking lost out there.

I don't like the Sox slide, either. But I am not convinced they are not doing the right things at this point. I've lived long enough that I've seen Sox teams blow it plenty of times (since '67, the first time in my life thyey came close to anything). I've seen all the colossal failures, from Cal Koonce (don't ask) to Bill Buckner (who was actually a fine player, aside from a few Twilight Zone seconds in the field).

It looks as if the Sox are doing something beyond just letting the season go into the dumpster. They seem to be assessing their horses to see who they can ride in the playoffs. After all, they ARE going to the postseason one way or another.

OK, Gagne's probably out for the playoffs. It looks like they are trying to find the best batting slot for Ellsbury (please let him bat first). By leaving Manny out of the lineup, they can get a look at Moss now and again, and mainly see if Drew will really come around (jury's still out on that).

I also get the impression they don't WANT potential opponents to see Buchholz, which is probably why we never saw him in the Yankee series.

I'd feel a bit better about things if I saw them cutting back Dice-K's workload further by running him every 6th day. Maybe that's starting now - better late than never, I suppose. I also wish Youk didn't have to bust a hand to get some time off.

Anonymous said...

"It looks as if the Sox are doing something beyond just letting the season go into the dumpster. They seem to be assessing their horses to see who they can ride in the playoffs. After all, they ARE going to the postseason one way or another."

If that's true then they ALL should be fired. Period.

Jeff Faria said...

"If that's true then they ALL should be fired. Period."

I suppose I should just ignore that as hyperbole, but there's just nothing constructive in it. Shall we indeed fire the team with the best record in baseball (at least, tied for same at the moment), to be replaced by - what? The personnel from the second best team? The stock boys at Staples?

I do see the problems. Panicking (at the managerial level, that is - fans can panic if they like, but I tend to be positive and analytical) won't help. Baseball is a slippery sport, and it's easy to slide downhill. That's where I have to appreciate the Yankees' management this year. They never panicked, even when the media (and fans) did. (They spoke with one voice: "They should all be fired, period.") I think Sox' management appreciates the real value of an even keel in rough seas. I've seen teams, including Red Sox teams, that panicked ("choked") during a slump. The slump turns into a slide, recriminations begin, and before you know it you're out of the race.

I do agree with the site administrator: Gagne probably won't be around for the playoffs. He does not seem to be able to work out his problems right now. I do not think he will go exactly unclaimed in this year's free agent market, but he certainly has not helped himself.

The Omnipotent Q said...

I appreciate your take, Mr. Snitch. Obviously you can't fire anyone now. I can see that Francona is looking at everyone to see where they stand. Gagne simply can't be trusted in any close situation, so he's useless. (I'm sure someone will sign him, but he's losing millions with this slump.) Granted the Sox are going to the postseason, especially due to Detroit's fall down the elevator shaft. I like the fact that Schilling and Dice-K are getting extended rests this weekend. It just galls me to see a slump like this when the division is theirs for the taking.

BTW, I remember Cal Koonce with the Mets in 1969...

Michael Leggett said...

Gagne', just 2 Weeks ago, was having pain in his shoulder & was shut down for a week.

Jeff Faria said...

"I remember Cal Koonce with the Mets in 1969..."

Sox picked up Koonce for a while. Saw him blow a lead to Baltimore at Fenway. Same game, Brooks Robinson had three grounders go through his legs. Baltimore won. Until they finally won the series, all my life I just expected the most bizarre things whenever I watched a Sox game. And even the year they won the Series got pretty bizarre, didn't it?

So they lost a 14 game lead. Down to one. Should I be surprised? Not at this point in my life. Does it mean the season's down the drain? No, it just means it ain't over 'til it's over.