Come Off the Ledge

Today we will discuss Bobby Jones and Terry Francona.
First off, Bobby Jones was the last man in the bullpen – Ramiro Mendoza was unavailable due to tightness, the Boston Globe reports. Secondly, even if he wasn’t, you need a fresh man to hold down the fort should we score a run or two.
Bobby Jones was clearly gassed. He threw 2 innings the previous game and was on his second inning this game. In his first game with the Red Sox, he gave up a tater to Bigbie, his first batter. However, he settled down and breezed through the game. He came in in extra innings (the tenth) last night after all the other relievers had paved the way to him. Tim Wakefield had come out after 5 1/3 innings (which should be the true issue here – why? Our bullpen got really taxed because of that), so the bullpen had been used. Jones got through the first inning okay but hit a wall in his last inning. He was the last man out of the pen for a reason – he had pitched two innings the night before and needed the most rest. But Tito had no other choice.
“That kid was in a tough position,” said Francona. “He was going to stay out there. He was our last pitcher tonight.”
The umpire very clearly squeezed him on at least six strikes, according to the general Red Sox fan consensus. I peg the squeezing at about nine balls. Three Orioles were very clearly out on strikeouts (Segui, Matos, Bigbie) but they turned into walks. Some Sox fans advocated just grooving a pitch down the middle. Yeah, really smart move. Now THAT would have looked good for Varitek and Jones (78 pitches the last two days), who would have been shipped out for grooving a pitch like that.
“I don’t know how I let the last one go. I swung at the first two, which were about the same height,” Bigbie said. “I just figured I’d take my chances.”
The fact of the matter is that Jones is not going to be released for this. You cannot hold him at fault. Also keep in mind that we have no long-man in the ‘pen as Arroyo is now in the rotation.
The good thing is that we have a lefty that can go 2-3 innings on a good day. The bullpen went seven innings before it gave up a run. That’s rather impressive. The real thing at fault here, not Jones, is the offense. They left 41 men on base all series and scored 18 runs, most of them in their 10-3 drubbing. Our bottom three hitters went a combined 6 for 42 in this series. Trot and Nomar will certainly be welcomed.
If you want Bobby Jones sent down, I assume you also want Mark Bellhorn cut? Oh god, Jason Varitek has a .167 average, get him out of here! Keith Foulke’s spring training stats were UNACCEPTABLE. Trade him!
Things change. Give Jones a chance, considering the conditions he was working under.
Now that I’ve defended Bobby Jones, who did more than he could, after being very clearly on fumes, let’s move to Terry Francona, who I will also be defending. Before I do that, however, let me say I totally disagree with Francona’s decision to pinch-run for Manny Ramirez with Gabe Kapler when on third base in the 11th inning.
We have had four games so far. That is not enough to call Francona another Grady Little. The fact of the matter is that Francona impressed the Sox brass in his interviews. He showed a commitment to using statistics and also to be a hard-liner with Sox players. He has had four games. Four games to manage this team. Sometimes it takes a team, manager, or player to play forty games before they come together. Yeah, forty games is a lot, but certainly more reasonable than four. Give Francona April. Give him the benefit of the doubt in April, THEN jump on him.
Francona has managed in the majors before, whereas Little had not. There’s difference number one. Difference number two is that he is on good terms with the Sox brass and is willing to do what they want, unlike Little. Given those differences, how can you compare Francona to Little? Nobody is perfect, gentlemen. Nobody is perfect. The problem with Sox fans is that everyone has to be immaculate. Not going to happen.
I still believe in Francona and believe he has a lot to offer.
Come off the ledge, stop blaming people left and right, and just enjoy the game. Enjoy it, don’t obsess over every little detail as Sox fans have been known to do. Enjoy the green of the grass, the white of the uniform, the pine tar (remember Mike Lansing?), the white ball, the “streee-rike!” call of the umpire. Enjoy the game. Loss or no loss, life will go on.
A little factoid for you people:

The Red Sox placed right-handed reliever Ramiro Mendoza on the 15-day disabled list Friday with tendinitis in his right shoulder and called up pitcher Mark Malaska from Triple-A Pawtucket to fill his roster spot. Manager Terry Francona said Mendoza had complained of soreness in his shoulder before Thursday’s game in Baltimore. His absence forced Francona to keep Bobby Jones on the mound for two innings. Jones walked four batters in the 13th inning, giving Baltimore a 3-2 win.

(courtesy of the AP)