April 6, 2006

The Right Man For The Job

Terry Francona had it all mapped out before the game. If Josh Beckett pitched seven innings, he'd go with Mike Timlin in the 8th and Jonathan Papelbon in the 9th. He also explained his decision to Keith Foulke. And that's exactly how things turned out.

I fully expected to see Foulke in the 9th. In the SoSH Game Thread, I said I'd eat my shoes if we didn't see Keith. ... Errr, those laces were a little chewy.

Afterwards, everyone said all the right things. Francona noted that with an off-day today,
we didn't want to not use a guy that's throwing as good as anybody ... in a game of consequence. You don't want to waste him. I told Foulkie that was what I was going to do. ... This is by no means an indictment of Foulke. But it's so hard in April to get wins, I don't think Foulke is ready to be the guy we need. I think he'll get there. ... [W]e've got to win and I think we did it right. I can live with myself. Sometimes you just have to do what you think is right.
Francona said "that I could be throwing the ball better ... He's not Keith Foulke's dad. He's not going to do what's best for me. He's going to do what's best for the team. The kid's been throwing the ball great. ... The Sox won. That's always my first concern. ... I tell you guys all the time -- I'm a bullpen guy. I don't wake up in the morning and go to the grocery store and tell everybody I'm a closer. ... I have to prove myself to Terry, the 24 other guys in here, to the front office.
Tony Massarotti, Herald:
Terry Francona is playing for keeps. ... If Foulke is going to close again for the Red Sox, he is going to have to win his job back. Papelbon was a better pitcher last fall and he is a better pitcher now. And the manager of the Red Sox isn't about to start blowing games in April so that he can rebuild the confidence of a man coming off the worst year of his career.
What few writers seem to understand is that this is exactly what the "closer by committee" idea is all about. Assess the situation -- whether it is the 6th inning or the 9th -- and use the best pitcher available for that situation. One night that pitcher might be Papelbon, the next day it might be Foulke ... hell, it might be Rudy Seanez. But that's it.

If Francona decides that the game could be decided in the 7th and he needs to shut down the other team's rally, then he should go with his best arm, and not save that guy for the "closer's" spot in the 9th. A lesser pitcher might have given the game away by then. Last night's pre-game thinking and decision shows me that Francona might be ready to put this plan into effect.

EE Update: Errors from Derek Jeter and Robinson Cano and another crappy bullpen performance helped Oakland beat the Yankees for the second straight night. ... Capt. Intangibles: "Everyone keeps talking about our offense, but that doesn't win games; pitching and defense does." Well, that's going to be a problem. The Yankees defense is poor and their pitching staff is either old, unlikely to repeat their surprising 2005 performances, or just plain bad.

Yesterday, BP's Will Carroll wrote: "There have been whispers from some in Yankee camp that [Carl] Pavano will likely need surgery, almost certainly season-ending and perhaps career-ending." ... Today, however, Carroll downplays the whispers. Still, Pavano "has looked terrible this spring in one new regard -- he appears winded and out of shape, as early as the first inning of his start. Whether this is conditioning or pain that's showing is unclear; what is clear is that the Yankees shouldn't have much expectation of a positive contribution from last year's big signing."


Eric said...

Shaughnessy called the move "Belichickian" yesterday, which I think is basically saying the same thing. If the new bullpen is truly deep enough and Francona can manage a closer by committee (i.e., if yesterday's game was any indication), I'm really liking where this is going.

Jack Marshall said...

My thought exactly, Eric. Having two closers, one for a mid-game crisis and the other for the 9th was the original idea behind Bill James' bullpen committee concept. To Moron Manager Grady, it just meant arbitrarily taking turns. Tito could probably make it work.