Best in (the) Show

Mentioned too little in the hullaballoo surrounding last night’s ALCS clincher was the brilliant managing of Terry Francona over the course of 10 postseason games.  But for one questionable decision last night (letting Oki start the eight, then allowing him to face Cabrera after Sizemore got on base), he has done a flawless job, in both win and loss.  He’s had guys up and ready.  He’s stretched out the arms when necessary. He’s had short leashes when most critical.  Even, like last night with Okajima (and perhaps with Delcarmen in Game 4), his gray-area moves have been utterly defensible.  He’s put his players in the best position to win, and they’ve rewarded him for his faith (and intelligence).  This hasn’t been hunch-playing, either, the moves that pay off and make an average joe look brilliant, jading us all. 

Lord knows that I haven’t always loved Tito’s moves.  And perhaps the treatment of Joe Torre by the Yankees has given me a more benevolent perspective on how to appreciate the tough work of any Major League skipper.  So in a week of managerial turmoil here in the Northeast, we’re proud to say that we root for the team with the best manager in baseball. 

Keep up the great work, Terry.

39 comments… add one
  • “…And perhaps the treatment of Joe Torre by the Yankees has given me a more benevolent perspective on how to appreciate the tough work of any Major League skipper….”
    uh, winning helps too sf

    dc October 22, 2007, 8:51 pm
  • It sure does, dc. But I spoke to my Dad (my constant sounding board for Tito-anger) after Game Four and said that win or lose, I thought Francona had done a brilliant job. I know how I felt then, on the brink of elimination, and nothing changed.

    SF October 22, 2007, 8:54 pm
  • Even though this decision may or may not have been Francona’s, I just wanted to go on the record by saying I take back 100% my criticism of and bewilderment towards the Wakefield start. I’m not saying that doing it the other way couldn’t have worked, but the path the Sox chose and defended worked more perfectly than I could have imagined any option happening.
    So yes, thank you to Francona and the rest of the staff/management. Let’s keep it rolling into the next round!

    FenSheaParkway October 22, 2007, 9:16 pm
  • hindsight is a valuable asset FSP
    sf, again for the record, i like francona too, but winning does make a manager look smarter, ask joe…i won’t be so bold as to allege that you criticized tito unfairly during the season, but many sf’s did…

    dc October 22, 2007, 9:22 pm
  • I am certain I was harsher on Tito than I should have been, but he has also managed differently in the playoffs than he did in the regular season, for obvious (and very good) reasons. I think my biggest fear was that some of his managerial tendencies during the regular season would manifest themselves during the playoffs, and they haven’t. My fears were groundless. Mea Culpa.

    SF October 22, 2007, 9:26 pm
  • “And perhaps the treatment of Joe Torre by the Yankees has given me a more benevolent perspective on how to appreciate the tough work of any Major League skipper.”
    All of this sympathy for Torre is making me sick.

    John - YF (Trisk) October 22, 2007, 10:00 pm
  • yeah, i agree with you on tito…he’s a good manager and a good guy [i think, ’cause i don’t really know him]…just for the sake of the discussion, what stands out as the major thing he’s done differently in the playoffs that restored your faith? [other than not use gagne, much ;) ]

    dc October 22, 2007, 10:01 pm
  • From the post:
    He’s had guys up and ready. He’s stretched out the arms when necessary. He’s had short leashes when most critical.
    All very different from the regular season.

    SF October 22, 2007, 10:11 pm
  • Yup, continuing with Oki made no sense; I was on the verge of tearing my hair out, then Paps shut ’em down. But other than that, and maybe his waiting too long to sub Jacoby for Coco, there hasn’t been much to complain about with Francona in this postseason.
    As with Torre, I do have to wonder how much better (or worse) the Sox would really be with a different manager — and I have to assume that his main strengths are in people management, not in-game decisions, which are generally pretty self-evident.
    Francona is patient and loyal, almost to a fault. That seems to have worked for him in 2004 and this year, conveniently forgetting 2005 and the non-appearance in 2006.
    I think Francona’s decision about Wakefield and Game 4 was likewise pretty simple to make (I supported it, tepidly, at the time). He had confidence that Beckett on full rest was a virtual lock, whereas using him on three days was introducing an uncertainty into the equation. He likewise knew that the Sox with Schilling at Fenway would have a pretty decent shot, especially the way they hit Carmona in Game 2. So he could afford to treat Game 4 with something of a shrug, and cross his fingers that his troops in Fenway for a decisive Game 7 would come through…
    Or maybe he didn’t even think that much about it.

    Hudson October 22, 2007, 10:17 pm
  • well, that’s a pretty common tact in the post-season sf…i thought you might have something else for me, like starting ellsbury, not benching ped or lugo, blah, blah…but ok…not genious, but good use of established managerial philosophy…

    dc October 22, 2007, 10:19 pm
  • DC – I know it could just be hindsight (which may be an inappropriate wording, since I might in fact be blinded by the winning), but I figured I should retract it, given how adamantly and sincerely I distrusted the move before that game.
    Could they have just lucked out after making a dumb move? Sure. But in light of the overall good job the coaching staff has done this series (the crux of this post), I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt since it all came together so spectacularly in the end.
    Really, this is closer to giving myself a get-out-of-jail-free card than to Francona et al.
    Pretty slick of me, eh?

    FenSheaParkway October 22, 2007, 10:21 pm
  • “…Francona is patient and loyal, almost to a fault….”
    that may come back to haunt him hudson, like some folks think it has in some way hurt torre…

    dc October 22, 2007, 10:22 pm
  • you’re smooth FSP ;)

    dc October 22, 2007, 10:24 pm
  • Man Decides To Sell His Yankee Fandom
    Yankee fan cries foul – on eBay
    The winner picks the team he will be loyal to from here on out –”even the — gulp — Red Sox or Mets” he says – and the winner “can check in with me any time and ask me where my new team is in the standings, starting rotation, what the next week’s schedule is. I’m a man of my word and this will be my tea

    Yf October 23, 2007, 11:02 am
  • Bring Gagne into a tie game against the Indians — which he blew in spectacular fashion – in Game 2 was insane. That was not flawless, nor is Francona. Loyalty can be to a fault.

    truth October 23, 2007, 11:15 am
  • > which he blew in spectacular fashion
    I don’t know if it was spectacular; the game was still tied when Francona pulled him. Sure, the runs were his in the box score, but Gagne wasn’t the one that delivered the pitch for a single and the wild pitch that put them across.

    attackgerbil October 23, 2007, 11:31 am
  • Francona managed well, but if Dice-K did not squirm out of that 5th inning, which was a very close shave, he gets attacked for staying with him. You can say that this is moot because Dice-K did get out of it and so Francona is proved right, but the point here, which I think we all know, is that the line between being an idiot and being a genius is as non-existent as one less well-placed pitch by Dice-K, a third base coach that sends a runner, an accurate call on a Kenny Lofton slide, etc, etc, etc.
    To be clear, I think Francona did well this series and I am glad to see some revision in the atacks on him for starting Wakefield (though I don’t expect Pete to come around on this issue). But best manager in the game?? Seems a bit hyperbolic to me.
    Just like Torre in the late 90’s, patience and loyalty work out great when you have the best in the game – for instance, an ace that pitches like the best in the game every time he takes the mound in October. Otherwise, they become liabilities as you start relying on guys who are on the downsides of their career arcs.

    IronHorse (yf) October 23, 2007, 11:41 am
  • I’m no fan of Gagne, but I too was more than a little surprised at how fully he took the blame for that game. 1 H 1 BB 1 K is not a “spectacularly” bad line – just poor. Lopez and Lester put the game out of reach. But really, the way that inning unfolded, it might have been one of those times when the other team was just ready to pound the ball, no matter who was pitching. We were left relying on Gagne et al. after Schilling exited early and the offense couldn’t get the go-ahead late in the game. Plenty of blame (if you want to call it that) to go around there.

    FenSheaParkway October 23, 2007, 11:42 am
  • An issue I haven’t heard discussed yet is what happens to the Sox lineup in the away games…
    Can this offense produce if Youkilis isn’t in the lineup? Because obviously, Papi has to play 1st base. Right?
    Can Lowell play short?

    Hudson October 23, 2007, 11:45 am
  • I’m sure Lowell could play short if he had to. But the only way that’s going to happen is if Lugo and Cora (is he on the roster?) go catch a concert at Red Rocks and take some bad mushrooms. It’s just too drastic a move to take an established starter and play him out of position like that.

    FenSheaParkway October 23, 2007, 11:52 am
  • I have been trying to assess Tito independent of the results (a hard task, if near impossible, obviously), and what I found over the last ten games were almost NO actions that came even remotely close to being headscratchers. In fact, there were probably only two or three gray-area decisions in all ten of these games, the Oki-in-the-eighth one in Game 7 (though with a three run lead it was certainly of less risk than in a tighter ballgame), the Delcarmen-for-Wake yank in Game 4, and maybe the Dice-K slowish hook in Game 7. And the moves were all absolutely defensible, whether they ended up working or not (in one case, it failed miserably). He has managed brilliantly, putting the players in a position to execute, as a fan that is all I want from a manager.
    And that’s almost all I have ever asked of a manager: make the moves that put players in the best position, then leave it to the players. It may be, in someone’s opinion, hyperbole to call Tito the “best”, but it’s also cliche to say that the line between “genius and idiot” is a hairline. It’s simply not true.
    Francona has done a masterful job setting the team up.

    SF October 23, 2007, 11:54 am
  • // It’s just too drastic a move to take an established starter and play him out of position like that. //
    True, and I doubt Francona would do it.
    On the other hand, having Lugo in the lineup instead of Youkilis is “drastic” in its own right.
    Francona’s managing skills will be tested somewhat by the no-DH games in Colorado, since pinch-hitting and pinch-running and pitching change decisions will be more complicated.
    Luckily Youks and Cora can both play two positions, Ellsbury can play pretty much all the outfield positions if necessary, and Crisp/Lugo/Ellsbury all have speed.

    Hudson October 23, 2007, 11:58 am
  • // Oki-in-the-eighth one in Game 7 //
    This one was particularly odd, given that Oki has had tired arm problems this year. Yeah, the Sox had some days off to look forward to, but there was really no justification for sending him out for a third inning, and it did not work at all.

    Hudson October 23, 2007, 12:01 pm
  • Yeah, the Sox had some days off to look forward to, but there was really no justification for sending him out for a third inning, and it did not work at all.
    No, there was some justification in having him face Sizemore, whose power numbers in ’07 were lower againt lefties and whose career numbers against lefties are significantly poorer than those against righties, in a one-run ballgame. The odd thing for me was leaving him in to face Cabrera, a switch hitter, after Sizemore got on.

    SF October 23, 2007, 12:05 pm
  • I don’t know about Lugo-in, Youk-out being “drastic”. Ill-advised, maybe. What I meant about Lowell playing short being drastic is that it just hasn’t been done all year. Not just Terry, but no manager would upend his lineup just because his DH is taken away from him. The Sox have had to deal with this before, just like every AL team does. You just deal with it. No need to do something like make your 3B play SS for three games. I mean, why not make him bat 8th while we’re at it!

    FenSheaParkway October 23, 2007, 12:08 pm
  • Hey, sorry to hijack, but I was wondering:
    If the Sox win this, are there any of you guys that went out and spend a ton of dough on new couches and stuff, and are about to get them for free if the Sox win?
    I can’t remember the store, but I do remember we talked about it here..

    Brad October 23, 2007, 12:23 pm
  • // No need to do something like make your 3B play SS for three games. //
    One could just as easily say, “No need to do something like take your hottest bat out of the lineup for three games.”
    Again, I doubt Tito would even consider it. But I suspect that Lowell could fill in for Lugo at short a lot more easily than Lugo can make up for Youkilis’s bat in the lineup.
    (And that’s not even mentioning that Lugo came perilously close to becoming the new Bill Buckner in Game 7.)

    Hudson October 23, 2007, 1:00 pm
  • Lowell could definitely provide enough SS ability to justify the offensive increase that getting Youk in there would give. I’m afraid that isn’t really the point though. I think most managers handle interleague assuming they’ll lose a good bat, rather than risk upsetting things by dumping a guy who started in 147 games during the regular season.
    I used to imagine the Cubs traveling to an AL park, letting Zambrano hit for himself, and DHing one of their many hitless fielders. But that doesn’t happen, and probably for a similar reason.

    FenSheaParkway October 23, 2007, 1:27 pm
  • // rather than risk upsetting things by dumping a guy who started in 147 games during the regular season. //
    Again, while I agree it is unlikely Francona would make this move, it seems you’re only looking at half the equation.
    After all, how many games did Youks start this season?

    Hudson October 23, 2007, 1:36 pm
  • My theory on Francona — because it does seem like he’s a different manager in the postseason — is that during the regular season, he knows he’s got a team that can make the playoffs as long as everyone’s healthy and happy, no matter who the manager is. So he focuses on keeping them healthy and happy. trusting his vets. Letting his starters work out of jams. Giving days off sometimess maddeningly liberally.
    Then, in the playoffs, when it’s do or die and every game matters, he ratchets it up. Quick hooks for struggling starters, etc.
    Francona mght see his responsibility as not really to get to the playoffs. it’s Epstein’s job to build a team good enough to get to October. I wonder if Francona feels his task is mainly to make sure the team wins once it gets there.

    Paul SF October 23, 2007, 1:55 pm
  • // he knows he’s got a team that can make the playoffs as long as everyone’s healthy and happy, no matter who the manager is. //
    This theory works… only if you omit one of his four years in Boston (2006).
    My final word on my Lowell-for-Lugo Hail Mary Unicorn Fantasy: Someone who has played 145+ games for Boston is going to get “dumped” for three games, no matter how you slice it.
    If the choice were between Papi, Youks and Julio Lugo, my obvious choice would be JLug, even though it would mean playing Lowell out of position. It could at least be tried in the first Denver game, to see how he does.
    Knowing that almost surely won’t happen, at least Youks may get some pinchhitting opportunities in those games… And if the Sox have a small lead late, with Ortiz having batted in the 7th or 8th, he will likely be a defensive substitution at first.
    Just seems like a potentially tough loss to the lineup, far tougher than losing Lugo’s glove at short.
    Anyway… Half of me thinks this will be another 7-game white knuckler, the other half thinks the Sox may shock the Rockies in 4 or 5. Colorado has not hit that well in the postseason, they’ve been cooling off for 8 days, and they barely squeaked past the Phillies thanks to a phantom touch of home plate; while the Sox have Josh Beckett, Schilling, Papelbon, MannyOrtez, and a ton of other playoff veterans, plus home field advantage.
    I like our chances.

    Hudson October 23, 2007, 2:17 pm
  • Hudson- as long we are talking unicorns and leprechauns, if Youk were to play third, wasn’t Lowell a second baseman while in college? His b-r page doesn’t say, but he played nine games at second for the Marlins a couple years ago. And Pedroia his whole life before being moved to second because of Hanley. Just a thought.

    attackgerbil October 23, 2007, 2:54 pm
  • Hey, Tito played Minky at second in ’04 a couple of times late in the season, but that’s different from the playoffs. I imagine Youk will simply sit until needed as a PH, unless Dusty gets slotted in at short (which is a longshot).

    SF October 23, 2007, 2:59 pm
  • oops ..”Pedroia was at shortstop his whole”..

    attackgerbil October 23, 2007, 3:02 pm
  • I honestly wonder how much Tito has learned by watching Sox history. He probably pulled Dice-K an inning early. But better that than leaving him out there an inning too long.
    Does JElls gets the Series starts? Or does Tito go back to Coco?
    Meanwhile, anyone else notice how much balls were bouncing off the field. I really do wonder if they let it dry out for the two ground ball pitchers.

    Pete October 23, 2007, 3:34 pm
  • i’m with gerb about bookmarking all this “tito-love”…i’ve said it before, and i’ll say it again, the managers get way more credit than they deserve for winning, and way more of the blame when they lose…tito’s a good manager, and [ugh] i like him, but it’s hardly a “masterful” job to manage that lineup and that pitching staff, especially when they’re this hot…right now you guys are hitting [30-5 against cleveland in the last 3 games] and beckett is unhittable right now…exactly how is tito’s managing skills making that difference?…does he get credit for saving gagne for a “high leverage” situation like a 10 run sox lead?…you’re giddy about winning, and i don’t blame you, but let’s not get carried away…

    dc October 23, 2007, 9:44 pm
  • He probably pulled Dice-K an inning early.

    SF October 23, 2007, 10:18 pm
  • dc:
    I don’t give credit to Tito for “winning”, the players do that. I give credit to Tito for putting his players in great positions to execute, for altering his managing style, and for doing so smartly and sensibly during the playoffs. That’s a great skill, and some managers do not have it.
    Tito does.

    SF October 23, 2007, 10:20 pm
  • “…That’s a great skill, and some managers do not have it….”
    …apparently torre hasn’t had “it” since 2000…

    dc October 23, 2007, 10:58 pm

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