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Terry Francona Woes

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Not much to say about this picture except: scary.
We witnessed a great pitching duel between the new and the old last night; one for the ages. And what do you know? Neither factored into the decision because what wins the game? Not a squeeze bunt or a hard-hit liner, but a grand slam.

That's baseball.

Julian Tavarez served that grand slam up to rookie Jason Kubel on a 3-2 count. Was I foolish to think Tavarez could have gotten out of the bases-loaded jam last night? Usually I'm very skeptical about our relief pitching (except Boy Wonder), but last night I seemed to believe in Tavarez.

I think I'm going crazy, because that was stupid of me.

And, in typical Red Sox bullpen fashion, the aforementioned `salami' was delivered. I quickly changed the channel in fear of David McCarty setting Red Sox Nation straight.

I'll set it straight: Terry Francona can't manage the bullpen.

It's like he spits, and whoever he hits out there gets to pitch. Or he'll put the guys on the bench, shut his eyes, spin around 10 times, and whoever is closest to his pointing finger gets to warm up. Except guys like Manny Delcarman, Jermaine Van Buren and David Riske are being distracted by Al Nipper on the other side of the bullpen.

How many more games do we have to lose before Francona pitches the guy who's performing this season, not the one with the track record? Let's face it: when the game is on the line, Tavarez, Rudy Seanez, and Keith Foulke just can't get the job done. They may have done it last year, or the year before, or maybe in 1996, but they aren't doing it now, so don't put them in those situations.

And Mike Timlin pitched a perfect 11th inning. Why not continue to pitch him? Yeah, yeah, he's been on the disabled list, but it's not going to hurt the 100-year-veteran (that's a compliment) to pitch until he gives up a walk or a hit. The man is a rock, and disabled list or not, I'm sure he wanted to continue. And I'm sure he would have been able to get the job done.

Thankfully, Foulke is on the disabled list. So for at least 15 days he won't be giving up leads for us. Tavarez and Seanez, however, continue to sit out in the bullpen with a "How Can We Blow This Game?" look on their face. It's like they are black-mailing Francona or something to continue to pitch in key situations. Do they have a naughty picture in their back pockets?

I like Francona, but it just seems like he doesn't know how to manage the bullpen - or the lineup for that matter.

I've mentioned the bullpen problems, but why did he play every bench player in the second game of the double header Sunday? Follow me here. He played Alex Cora, Doug Mirabelli, Willie Harris and J.T. Snow. I understand playing Mirabelli to rest Jason Varitek, but to rest Kevin Youkilis, Manny Ramirez and Alex Gonzalez behind the rookie David Pauley? The kicker, though, is that Monday was an off-day, so they were getting a day off anyway. Why do we suffer with the weak offense (Gonzo is turning it around!) in one game when we really need it behind Pauley?

The head-scratchers are continuing to pile up. There weren't too many at the beginning of the season, but now it seems like that's all I'm doing after a Red Sox loss.

I just want to thank Mr. and Mrs. Papelbon right now, though. Thank you for creating our closer. Thank you for creating that arm that can throw 95-MPH heaters. Thank you for giving your son the talent for striking people out. Thank you for giving your son that intensity and desire to win. Thank you for the man I want every member of the Red Sox to be like.

If you are ever in New Hampshire, Mr. and Mrs. Papelbon, I'll buy you a nice lobster dinner. Seriously. Take me up on that offer*.

*Disclaimer: Offer is good for only the parents of the league's best closer. No lobster dinners are available for Mr. and Mrs. Tavarez or Mr. and Mrs. Seanez or Mr. and Mrs. Foulke.