Monday, July 18, 2005

OK, I almost wrote this last night, but I was too pissed off. I'm a bit calmer now.

What was Terry Francona thinking?

The Sox lost to the Yankees again last night, 5-3. Once again, it was the way they lost more than the actual loss that has me up in arms.

Let's set the stage. The Sox are down 5-1 in the bottom of the 9th. Manny leads off against Tom Gordon and blasts one over the Monster to knock a run off the lead. Millar follows this with a walk and in comes Mariano Riviera to shut things down.

But things don't go quite right for the Yankee closer. Trot Nixon grounds one to rookie 2nd baseman Robinson Cano, who tosses a double play ball into left field. Now it's 1st and 3rd, nobody out. Varitek pinch hits for Mirabelli and singles, driving in Millar. Mueller bloops a single to right, loading the bases. Red Sox Nation is in a frenzy, including me in my family room.

Now, up comes the .199 hitting Alex Cora. He had come in for Bellhorn earlier in the game after Bellhorn had hurt his thumb diving for a ground ball. Cora has never faced Riviera, maybe the greatest closer ever. Fortunately, the Sox have one of the great professional hitters of the last two decades, John Olerud, sitting in the dugout. So he's coming up to face Riviera, right?

Sorry, not tonight. Thank you for playing.

Whaaat?!?! You have got to be kidding me. I'm shouting at the TV, "Where the [bleep] is Olerud? How can you let this guy hit?"

So I settle down a bit and start saying, "Cora, you can do anything but ground into a double play. Strike out, pop out, whatever. And if you do hit into a double play, you damned well better get the run in from 3rd."

Of course, what happens is predictable. Cora grounds to A-Rod, who throws to Posada for the force at home. Posada throws to first, just beating Cora with the throw. Two out. Damon grounds to second. Game over.

So, Terry, the press asks after the game, where the heck was Olerud? Here's the quote from today's Boston Globe:

''Who would take his place at second [if the game went extra innings]?" Francona asked. ''If you have a guy I'll listen."

A reporter suggested Mueller play second, with Millar moving to third base, where he made 28 appearances when he was a Florida Marlin.

''We've talked to Billy," Francona said. ''We're not going to put Bill Mueller at second anymore."

What the hell does that mean? Bill Mueller will refuse to play second base in an emergency situation? Millar won't play third? Doesn't sound like there's much Cowboying Up going on there if that's the case. Olerud gives you a vastly better chance of even getting to the 10th inning than Cora does. If you never get to the 10th inning, it doesn't matter who plays second, third or anywhere else!!!. You lose!

And you know what? Francona would probably counter that if he had done that and the game was lost because of a poor defensive play later on, we would be on him about that. And yeah, a few dopes who called WEEI might have said that. But I think the vast majority of Sox fans would have understood the situation and would have applauded Francona for taking the risk, and would have loved Millar and Mueller for playing out of position in a pinch.

But that's just me.

OK, rant over. Let's see if we can get well against the Devil Rays tonight.


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