Francona Wins Nomination for ‘2010 Worst Managerial Decision’ Award

It’s always a competitive competition but Terry Francona’s entry from yesterday will be tough to beat when the award is handed out in November for “2010 worst managerial decision – bullpen category.” There is dumb. There is stupid. And then there is today ….. which took managerial retardation to a new level.  

I’ll keep it real simple here …. On what planet is Hideki Okajima a better option than Daniel Bard? Unless we are talking about 2007, when Oki was dazzling and Bard was struggling in A ball, the answer to that question is certainly not “The Earth.” So why did Terry Francona yank Bard from a one-run game in the 8th inning and bring in Oki-san to face a switch hitter and two lefties? It certainly wasn’t because of the numbers as lefties are hitting .113 off Bard this season and .322 off Okajima.

It turns out the plan all along was to bring Bard in to shut down the heart of Seattle’s lineup in the seventh and leave him in there so long as he was economical with his pitches.  And the plan worked as Bard took just 13 pitches to get through the seventh.  But after giving up a leadoff single, and with the tying run now on first, Francona decided to hand the ball to probably his worst option other than Bill Hall. Yes, a switch-hitter and two lefties were coming up but since when has left and right mattered to Okajima? After all, this guy doesn’t discriminate …. He gets pounded from both sides of the plate.

I won’t rehash all of the gore but let’s just say the plan didn’t work too well. Oki got hit, Oki had a brain fart, Oki got hit some more, Oki got lifted and Oki left without answering questions. Meanwhile, Francona defended the move, arguing that he was just putting Oki in a situation where he was set up for success. Say what? Has he not watched Oki get mauled this year?

Listen, the options out in the Boston pen are poor but they are not non-existent. Given the fact that yesterday’s game, after Saturday night’s debacle, was pretty damn important, Francona could have and should have stuck with Bard. And if that didn’t suit him, Scott Atchison or Ramon Ramirez would have been acceptable options, although still a bit on the questionable side. Instead, Francona tried to find outs in the one place where everyone knows they are in short supply: Oki’s left arm. For that, Francona looks to be in good shape to pick up some hardware at the end of the season.

“The Decision” was the big story from yesterday but to ignore this team’s slumbering offense would do an injustice to thoroughness.   

Once again, the Sox bats were shut down and once again, the situation got worse the moment that opposing relievers were brought into the game. Here are the horrifying numbers: in yesterday’s game, the Sox were 0-12 with five strikeouts off the Ms bullpen and for the series, the Sox managed just seven hits and two runs in 16.1 innings against Seattle relievers. The hammer yesterday was rookie Chris Seddon who retired all eight batters he faced, three of which via the strikeout. Other luminaries who shut down the Red Sox this weekend include Jamey Wright, Dave Aardsma and Garrett Olson. That doesn’t exactly remind you of the Nasty Boys from the 1990 Cincy Reds, does it?

The fact of the matter is the Sox can’t hit anyone right now. They scratched some runs out on Thursday, but they struggled out of the second-half gate with Texas, Oakland was no picnic and over the last three games in Seattle, the Sox have scored just five runs. And that was after they had the good fortune of missing Felix Hernandez. Imagine what he might have done to this Sox club.

Thankfully, Victor Martinez looks like he is ready to make his return and that will be a HUGE help as the dynamic duo of Cash-Brown did about as much damage as a 2.2 earthquake. But I’m not sure that will cure all that ills this offense. After all, Drew and Ortiz still can’t hit lefties, Mike Cameron can’t hit righties, nobody on the team can steal a base, Jed Lowrie is no Laser Show.

The Sox now head south to start a three-gamer in Orange County. Clearly, the club is listing as they trail Tampa by five games and Tampa is ready to begin an ELEVEN game homestand. Obviously, the hole is now getting a little deep for comfort and to make matters worse, the Sox will now have to face Dan Haren in LA rather than Joe Saunders. I realize that tonight is just the 100th game of the year, but if the Sox struggle over the next week, they might not be standing when they hit the 2/3rds pole.

Other Points:

* Marco Scutaro is hitting .196 since the break. It’s a good thing Ellsbury is getting so close ….. to play for Lowell.

* Do any Japanese pitchers know how to field sacrifices with runners at first and second. Matsusaka screwed one up in Tampa right before the break and yesterday, it was Oki’s turn. Does “get the out” just not translate?

* Matsusaka wasn’t great yesterday (five walks in a pitching-friendly park?) but he kept Seattle at bay and gave the Sox a great chance to win. Quietly, he has got his numbers down to respectable levels and at the very least, he has improved his value around the league. Yes, he still holds a no-trade clause, but I have to think he might waive that for the right spot.  And with an ERA of 4.09 and a WHIP of 1.34, I don’t think the 2yrs/$20M left on Matsusaka’s contract is much of an impediment at all. In fact, it might even be an asset.

FARM REPORT: It wasn’t a great day on the farm but one name to bring up is that of Derrick Gibson. The Greenville shortstop has not exactly turned heads since being selected in the second round of the 2008 draft, although he did have a decent year at Lowell last year. But he got off to a slow start this year, had an awful May and found himself falling 25 spots on the list of prospects that RS Prosspects.Com maintains.  But he has rebounded of late and yesterday, he had three knocks. That makes him 14 for his last 40 with six walks and four steals. He still has a ways to go before he regains “prospect” status but a nice August could get him back on the radar.

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