2008 ALCS: Second-guessing the second-guessers

Terry Francona is getting a lot of criticism for some of his moves in the 9-8 extra inning loss at Tropicana Field last game. All of Red Sox Nation would have been ecstatic if the Sox had pulled that one out and all but locked up the series, but I don’t think it was poor managing that cost us the game.

One of the main complaints I have heard is that Francona stayed with starter Josh Beckett too long. I think he may have delayed a little too long, but I don’t have a problem with Beckett coming out to work the 5th, after only 73 pitches. Can you blame Francona for wanting to give someone with Beckett’s postseason record a chance to smooth it out, especially with the Sox back in the lead? I think I’m ready to pull him after Carlos Pena’s one out RBI-single; Evan Longoria’s RBI-double could mean the game there.

Beckett insists he’s healthy (but maybe slightly tentative with that oblique), so I think it’s a matter of him being confident enough to really let it fly. His fastball velocity is down, but he’s hitting his spots for the most part. Just trust Jason Varitek and mix it up more, Josh.

I’ve heard criticism about Francona’s bullpen moves in this one, and I do agree he could have done a better job juggling his relievers, but it’s tough to blame a manager too much in an extra-inning game. Everyone is on Tito for bringing in Mike Timlin, and saying that Timlin is undeserving of a spot on this roster. Personally, I’d have rather carried David Aardsma, but he don’t fully know his health situation (he was struggling to come back from an injury for the last month or so of the season). Timlin actually didn’t pitch that badly, and both unintentional walks benefitted from a couple of questionable ball calls by home plate umpire Sam Holbrook.

My point is, these are small decisions that could have affected the outcome of the game IN HINDSIGHT. But there are a lot of other things which could have had a much bigger impact on the outcome, such as if Beckett had made a couple of key pitches, or if one of our guys had gotten on before one of our four home runs. It was a close game, and the Rays played well. They didn’t give up and kept it even until the end; and the Rays do have better bullpen depth, while the Sox have more top-end talent. Coming back here 1-1 is fine with me, and I’m looking forward to the rest of the series.


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