A daily accumulation of history and present as I follow the 2011 year through the baseball season and reflect on the glories and disappointments of the greatest game on Earth.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Terry Francona

While I watched a little bit of the Giants vs. the Dodgers on Thursday, I hadn't really gotten to truly sit down and watch baseball until last night. Unfortunately, being a Boston fan, my worst fears were realized as the Red Sox pitching was taken to the woodshed like a red-headed stepchild on a Sunday afternoon. Wacky Lackey let up 9 runs in less than 4 innings to a Texas team that just slams the ball around with total disregard for whatever pre-season rank that the team that they are playing against is supposed to have. Sure, Nelson Cruz, Josh Hamilton, Ian Kinsler, Adrian Beltre, and Michael Young (not playing yesterday) can really drive the ball, but Elvis Andrus was even 3 for 5. Yorvit Torrealba had a home run, and before it was done, the game was 12-3, though Jacoby Ellsbury had his first long ball since 2009 (he was out all of 2010).
And in the end, the decisions of Terry Francona ALWAYS come back to haunt the team. In the 4th inning, he walked Hamilton to load the bases for Beltre, and WHAM! (an excellent expression of onomatopoeia if ever there was one), grand slam and the Ballpark at Arlington is screaming and it's a celebration that Kool and the Gang would be proud of (because they are celebrating good times in Texas - it's not like the days of 3 and done in the division series against the Yankees as Juan Gone and Pudge aren't enough against the Yankees in da Bronx and there are no Texas pitchers who can withstand whatever onslaught is brought out against them.
This Texas team is for real, and Boston, while only 2 games in, is suffering from what I knew they would - a better pitching staff on paper than in reality.
The night before, Jon Lester gave up 3 home runs for the first time in his career. Mike Napoli and Kinsler each had one, and Nelson Cruz hit the first of his two home runs, so he's off to another sick OPS early season - as long as he doesn't get hurt.
Today is Clay Bucholz, who does have an upside, but as the week progresses, we get to wonder which Josh Beckett we'll see. I don't know if I believe in him. I do know that I have from time to time, but I don't go into the game easy - it's not as bad as the Daisuke adventure experience that sees a pitcher able to throw 150 pitches a game - mainly because he throws so many damn outside pitches that do result in walks or near walks. It's also not the knuckle ball of Tim Wakefield that baffles some hitters and leaves others (Cruz) to deposit it far behind the outfield wall. It's a pitcher who has been figured out and injured and beaten. For all of the heroics, there are too many questions.
And for that, it's hard to have a leader who sits calm in the dugout doing what Theo tells him. A man who is still around because Curt Schilling wanted him there and he's still there because Boston happened to win it all in 2004 and 2007, much the same was as Ozzie Guillen is because he won for the first time since 1919 when he took his title in 2005.
Sure, it's nice to see Big Sluggi hit a home run in both his first and second game so we don't have to wait forever for him to get started offensively. Sure, he hit a home run last year on April 23rd, but he was sub Mendoza until May 10. The year before, his first home run came May 20th, but he didn't press so hard and he was over Mendoza for good on April 20th. A notoriously slow starter, David Ortiz has seen better days, and once again, he's someone whose personality exceeds his current abilities. But that said, people not named Terry Francona are wising up to it. he's also looking pathetic in striking out (twice already - it's not the league lead - 5 - but it's not a good sign when he can't see how over the plate his called whiffs are). Jay Z for one is not putting up with the Sluggster stealing his intellectual property.
And this is not to say that David Ortiz wasn't once the hero, but it is saying that he didn't deserve an All Star appearance last year - hell, he didn't deserve a thank you contract in 2011. He needs to retire to greener pastures and get on with phase 2 of his adult life.
But that would involve a certain manager who can't make his own decision benching him.
And if that manager can't keep big name pitchers who have seen better days not getting huge contracts and not getting new life blood into the Boston pitching staff, you can bet that it's going to be a long season.

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