After The Fenway Party, There Was a Game

Ballparks, Fantasy/Roto, Games, Hall Of Fame, History, Management, Media, Paul Lebowitz's 2012 Baseball Guide, Players, Playoffs, Stats

I didn’t see it, but by all accounts the Red Sox did a great job with their celebration of Fenway Park’s 100th anniversary.

You can read and see clips of the event here on Boston.com.

Here are other notables.

Manager irrelevant.

If Terry Francona, Joe Torre, Joe Maddon, John Farrell or Connie Mack were managing this Red Sox team, there would be less public feuding but the results wouldn’t be much different.

This is what Bobby Valentine was saddled with: a GM who didn’t want him; a dysfunctional, enabled and highly paid group of players; a starting rotation with questions from positions 3-5; a bad bullpen; injuries; and black holes in the starting lineup.

Valentine was expected to cause controversy and the expectation was so intense that when he said something seemingly innocuous (and by insider accounts, true) about Kevin Youkilis it was treated as if he’d said Ted Williams was overrated.

What do the masses want Valentine to do?

What can he do?

A firestarter might be needed.

Under no circumstances do I think Ivan Nova was throwing at Youkilis when he hit him with a pitch in the bottom of the 6th, but in the situation the Red Sox are in, intent doesn’t matter.

They need a spark and with Alex Rodriguez batting second in the top of the 7th, it was the perfect setting to retaliate.

“You hit my third baseman? I hit your third baseman.”

If it starts a fight, so much the better. The Red Sox need something to bring them together and maybe a brawl is it.

Joe Girardi wants you and everyone else to know how smart he is.

In theory I suppose I understand why Girardi decided to begin the bottom of the 9th inning with a sidearming waiver wire pickup Cody Eppley.

The Yankees had a 4-run lead and the conventional wisdom is not to use your closer when it’s not a save situation.

But after Eppley allowed a leadoff single to Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Girardi called on Mariano Rivera to finish the game.

In spite of it being—in the grand scheme of things—a relatively meaningless game in April, in reality, it wasn’t.

On a day where the Red Sox and their fans were still in bliss at the celebration, why give them the opening to stage a comeback? How galvanizing would it have been had the Red Sox rallied—against the Yankees no less!!!—on such a day? All the acrimony within the organization would’ve been replaced with the joy of a huge win against their hated rivals and possibly save the Red Sox spiraling season.

It was a needless and self-indulgent risk.

For a smart man, a good manager and baseball man Girardi does some notoriously idiotic things in what appear to be repeated attempts to show how smart he is.

I’m the “don’t mess around” guy and can’t stand overthinking and overmanging. I thought we were past the “save situation” nonsense especially with teams like the Yankees who have intentionally shunned conventional baseball orthodoxy in favor of objectivity.

Keep your boot on their throats; don’t open the door; hold them down and keep them down. The best way to do that is with Rivera.

What’s Rivera there for?

Girardi’s overmanaging has gotten the Yankees in trouble before and he could conceivably have done it again yesterday. It wasn’t just unnecessary. It was stupid.

//

The Francona-Red Sox Cold War Gets Colder By The Day

Ballparks, Games, History, Hot Stove, Management, Media, Paul Lebowitz's 2012 Baseball Guide, Players, Politics, Spring Training, Stats, Trade Rumors, World Series

The Red Sox and Terry Francona need to put aside this contentious and unnecessary public back and forth that’s been going on since Francona was ousted as manager.

Both sides are to blame. It’s passive aggressive, tiresome and does nothing but fuel the fires of 2011—fires that the Red Sox are currently trying (and failing) to put behind them.

They’re a team in flux. Right now, they’re not very good. The last thing they need is the once again prominent CEO Larry Lucchino engaging in an open, pro wrestling style feud with Francona. The former manager is still worshipped in Boston because he was running the team on the field when The Curse was broken and led the team to another title 3 years later.

This is not a defense of Francona’s entire tenure as manager. He’s been absolved of a large share of the responsibility for 2011—responsibility that should end at his desk. If he got the credit for the wins, then he gets the blame for the losses. That’s the way it works.

Factions of the front office were never overly impressed with Francona and when he was hired, the organizational edict was to have someone who would work within the defined parameters of adhering to stat based theory, running the clubhouse and handling the media.

As the clubhouse came apart, so did the team.

The Red Sox are preparing to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Fenway Park, Francona was invited to participate. He declined and it degenerated into a rehash of the circumstances that led to his dismissal/departure along with a new chapter for the paperback with Francona still wanting answers and Lucchino and John Henry defending themselves for denied allegations that they slammed Francona in the process of shoving him out the door.

You can read the details here on Boston.com.

Eventually, this was going to happen.

Francona still feels bitter.

The Red Sox clearly believe that Francona could’ve done more to head off the issues that led to their collapse.

Neither side is completely right, but neither side is completely wrong either.

The commemoration is meant to celebrate the Red Sox and their storied park and now it’s going to be, “Well Tito’s not here.”

Rather than engage in a public spitting contest, all that needed to be said was, “We invited Tito. He’s always welcome here, but he felt it would be a distraction if he came and we understand that.”

Ironically, the Mets faced a similarly uncomfortable situation with the new Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine when they celebrated the 2000 pennant winning club and Valentine didn’t come, in part, because Mets’ manager Jerry Manuel was under fire and the fans were openly clamoring for Valentine to take over.

It was a courtesy.

Strangely it’s Valentine who’s considered the strutting peacock with the ginormous ego, eager to get his name and face everywhere while Francona is the hard-working everyman who receded into the background and let his players accumulate the glory.

Maybe it’s not that simple.

Does it matter whether it’s a personal decision on the part of Francona or it’s because of bad blood and wounds that have yet to heal?

The reasons should’ve been kept private. Both Lucchino and Francona look petty and angry and the selfishness inherent in a he said/he said dispute of this kind might’ve had something to do with why Francona’s no longer the Red Sox manager and Lucchino has interfered with the club to the point that they’re rapidly degenerating into a train crash.

Judging by the way they’re playing, the Red Sox have bigger things to worry about than Francona and Lucchino.

Much bigger.

They’d better enjoy the celebrating while they can because, from the looks of things, there’s not going to be much joy to be had this summer and, more importantly, in the fall.

//