Saturday, October 01, 2005

Hail Francona

So, the loyalists of Red Sox Nation are already looking for a scapegoat, and the regular season hasn't even finished. Last season the Red Sox entered the post-season via the Wild Card and it's there for the taking again.

Let's examine where we realistically are, and why. First, eyes go upstairs to management. Theo Epstein acquired David Wells and Matt Clement to try to replace Pedro, who insisted on leaving and Derek Lowe, who simply had to go. Wells and Clement combined for 28 wins, Pedro and Lowe, last time I checked had 26, although does Derek landing a newscaster count extra? The fourth outfield was a self-centered jerk in his contract year, and brought Chad Bradford, who's hardly a keeper, but is still better than what they had. Wade Miller was Wade (DL) Miller. You take chances, they don't always work.

What strings can Terry Francona pull? Jason Varitek was a must and Varitek's leadership and steadiness go underappreciated. Mirabelli doesn't hit much but gets kudos for handling Wakefield. It's not Wake today and funeral tomorrow.

As for the infield, none of the infielders hit ten homers, Graffanino came at the right time, Edgar Renteria isn't el busto, and the combination of Mueller and Millar add character and a character, but far too little offense for a team dreaming of championships. A whole infield of .280 hitters with 9 homers and 70 RBI isn't terrible, provided they play great defense. The defense wasn't great.

As for the outfield, scream all you want about Manny, he hits and provides absolutely critical protection for David Ortiz. Damon was outstanding offensively, plays hurt, and yes, he's a self-proclaimed idiot. Was this his career year, or does he have his best years ahead of him? I'd be betting against that. Trot Nixon continues to be plagued by injuries and is still a hardnosed platoon player, who must be ahead in the count to hit (look it up).

Ortiz is a wonder, and we can only hope that underneath his calm exterior and passion for the game, that he's the Red Sox version of Tom Brady.

So you want to blame Francona? For not having his ace or his (should have been World Series MVP) closer, for lacking solid infield defense, and for putting in relievers who couldn't consistently deliver? For not winning every day with the Arroyos and Wade Millers of the world? For not stealing bases with a station-to-station lineup?

Okay, like all managers Francona is accountable for his staff, but even Dale Sveum has been throwing up stop signs appropriately lately.

The nitwits on talk radio are already stirring up their tar and gathering their feathers, but this is a flawed team with inconsistent starting pitching, an often contemptible bullpen, and generally mediocre defense.

Love yourself, your wife, your family, and your ballclub, but don't confuse them with Redford, Basinger, the Partridges, or the 1966 Dodgers.

The Sox are a very good offensive team, not an outstanding complete team, in a year without great teams, with competitive balance throughout both leagues, and races that are going down to the last day or beyond. Deal with it.

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