Sunday, August 12, 2007

Gagne with a Spoon

Eric Gagne blew it again. AP reports:
"Obtained from Texas on July 31 to fortify the back end of the bullpen, Gagne endured another damaging performance. Seeking to hold a 3-1 lead in the eighth, the right-hander entered with a runner on and promptly yielded a tying home run to Tejada on a 3-2 pitch.

"Gagne retired the next two batters, but he has allowed seven runs in four innings over five games. On Friday, Gagne got one out while blowing a four-run lead in a 6-5 defeat."
The Sons of Sam Horn heaped a lot of scorn on manager Terry Francona for insisting on replacing ace set-up man Hideki Okajima with the shaky Gagne in the 8th with the tying run coming to the plate. It was the sort of by-the-book "matchups" move that, when it blows up, is especially frustrating to the armchair managers at home.

The Sons were also frustrated with Francona's practice of refusing to use ace closer Jonathan Papelbon late in road games until after the Sox have the lead. They don't like the fifth or sixth best pitcher in the bullpen (in this case Kyle Snyder) on the mound with the game on the line while a better pitcher like Papelbon sits in the pen waiting for the Sox to take the lead. Especially after Snyder allowed the first two batters to reach with no outs, creating a situation where the Sox needed strikeouts. This wasn't second-guessing, either -- in the online game thread, the Sons were questioning Francona's moves as he made them, not afterwards.

I suspect that Francona, and managers in general, take an outsize share of the blame for controversial decisions that don't work out. When they do work out, the players generally get the credit. When they don't, it's the manager who is blamed.

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