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The scene was set late last night. In a big September game with playoff ramifications (of course you wouldn't have known it if you had gone by the pathetic Rays attendance) the Boston Red Sox were behind 5-4 but with two runners on and only one away it seemed as if it was written, the surging Sox were taking this one off the Rays.
Due up was light hitting, defensive wizard Alex Gonzalez. With several sluggers on the bench (Mike Lowell foremost in peoples minds) the world and his dog assumed Sox manager Tito Francona was going to call Gonzo back and have someone else with more pop in their lumber bat in his place.
Instead Gonzo got his at bat and struck out flailing.
Naturally, the keyboard genius managers out there are bashing Tito today for not pulling the trigger and putting Lowell in to bat.
The thing is, imagine Gonzo got a big single in that situation? Tito looks like an absolute genius, right? Instead Gonzo struck out, as did Ellsbury immediately after him. They weren’t facing scrubs, they were facing one of the Rays top relief pitchers. Sometimes Major League players strike out, it happens, look it up.
Francona explained his decision saying Gonzo had been on a tear since coming to Boston (true) and he felt it was the right time to leave him in, get him the feel for a big, tight situation. Brilliant move as far as I am concerned, or, non-move, either way you look at it. Okay, Gonzalez struck out, but he now knows he will get a chance in tight situations, he isn’t just a human vacuum cleaner, here in Boston to scoop up ground balls.
How anyone who knows anything about the Red Sox under the reign of Tito can act surprised at last night is a shocker in itself. Francona is one of the more loyal managers you will find. Remember how mightily Dustin Pedroia struggled in his rookie season? The first few months out of the gate, the future AL MVP couldn’t hit the back of a barn door with a Scud Missile, at a range of three feet. With Pedroia batting .168 well into May the brain-box Red Sox blowhard section were calling for Alex Cora to be inserted full time into the Sox lineup.
Tito stuck loyally to Pedroia at second base, and we all know how that worked out for the Boston Red Sox.
Look, let’s face it, sometimes many, many Boston fans, including myself, are an awful pain in the backside. They think they actually know more than a brilliant manager who has taken two World Series titles in the last five years. Any sign of weakness, perceived or real, and they jump all over it like a bad rash.
To read some of the clowns today, chastising Tito for allowing a Major League players to bat in a certain situation, you kind of remember how good it is to not be around people sometimes. Get a little space. Walk the dog in a nice quiet, person free atmosphere. Dive into a good movie or get lost in a good book.
The moral of the story? People really are clowns sometimes, and thank goodness we can avoid each other now and again. Thank goodness also for Tito Francona and his immense character in doing the job the way he sees fit, the way he knows works, and the way he knows his players will love him for.
Hopefully, and the guess is here he is not losing any sleep over it, but hopefully Francona isn’t bothered by some of the more inane, acerbic criticism being thrown his way today. Hopefully he sees it for what it is, noise, nothing but noise.