And the manager of the year is…

Oct. 21, 2004, midnight | By Nick Falgout | 16 years, 2 months ago

How Terry Francona (almost) ruined the year

I want you all to do me a huge favor. I want you to halt the wild celebration for a few milliseconds and pretend that the Red Sox hadn't just won the American League Championship Series in Game Seven, having been down three games to none. I want you to pretend that, instead of the Red Sox being up 8-1 in the bottom of the sixth inning with no outs; they were up, say, 3-1. Maybe 4-1, 5-1 max, but you get the picture. What thoughts are running through your head as Pedro Martinez takes the field at the top of the sixth inning instead of Derek Lowe, who's thrown a mere 69 pitches on three days' rest and has a one-hitter going? How about as the Yankees "daddy" Martinez for two runs on three hits? Still feeling all fuzzy inside?

Sure, this may strike you as overly cynical. The Sox were still up 8-3 in reality-ville, and Bellhorn did take the wind out of the Yanks' sails next inning with another clutch homer. But don't be fooled: we have just witnessed one of the worst managerial gaffes in the history of the game.

It just defies any and all logic whatsoever. Derek Lowe, a solid an dependable starter who has established in the past couple of seasons that he can pitch well into the game, has given up a hit, a walk and a run (all in the same inning). Otherwise, he's been perfect. He's thrown 69 pitches. That is a rough average of eleven pitches per inning.

Okay, fine. His arm's a little fatigued and you want to save those valuable eleven pitches for a nobler cause. But why, oh why, oh why would you even remotely consider the possibility of replacing him with, of all the relievers at your disposal, Pedro "THE YANKEES ARE MY DADDY" Martinez?! WHY? Sure, he had a decent enough outing in game five (if giving up four runs cuts the mustard these days). But he's on two days rest. Two. And by Francona's apparent "conservationist" logic, with his team up 8-1 he should have gone to a middle reliever, like Mike Timlin or Alan Embree, both of whom he ended up using anyway. But no. In an attempt to avoid the same fate as the infamous Grady Little (who left… Martinez! In too long during last year's game seven), Francona decides he's going to pull the ol' quick hook on Lowe, and put in the Yankees' son. Fantastic. Pedro proceeded to give the Yankees a nice little two runs, three hits deal, swinging the momentum their way and giving the fans new life. Good freakin' call.

And then, to top things off, in the bottom of the ninth inning, after Francona had settled down and was riding the superb ex-Oriole Mike Timlin, he suddenly gets all skittish. With two outs and two on, Francona makes the inane switch to Alan Embree! Way to show faith in your players, twit. Sure, John Olerud is going to pinch-hit left against your righty, but seriously. He's got a .192 average in the series, and even a three-run homer leaves you up 10-6. Why make switch? Why bring another pitcher into this? Timlin had thrown, what, twenty pitches?

I just don't understand it. The complex and inane moves Francona made during this game and the entire series, pitching-wise, have painted him as a skittish, eager-to-please scaredy-cat. Not the kind of guy you want leading a team in the World Series.

Don't get me wrong (I doubt that's possible at this point). I love the fact that Red Sox won. Even more so that the Yankees lost. I love the fact that the Sox did it under such impossible circumstances, that they've beaten all that history, cleared the skeletons out of the closet, beaten the Bambino. That makes it all the worse: Francona now goes down in the history books as the hero who slew the Yanks. But mistakes like these lose championships, and are inexcusable no matter how many runs your offense tacked on to make it look presentable.

Even still… sparkling cider anyone?

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Nick Falgout. Nick Falgout was bored one day and decided to change his Chips staff information. And now, for a touching song lyric: "I'm a reasonable man, get off my case Get off my case, get off my case." ~ Radiohead, "Packt Like Sardines in a Crushd … More »

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