Tuesday, July 05, 2005


"He came in and I thought he had good pop on his fastball, made real good pitches to Dave Dellucci," said Francona. "It's a one-run game and that's the big guy you want to keep off the bases. Once Michael Young came up and stretched that out to a triple, we've got our hands full. You make a dangerous hitter that much more dangerous. Those are the consequences of facing a good hitter."
Um, yeah. It's also the consequence of being a crappy pitcher. This was Francona trying to explain why the Red Sox lost after going up 5-3 in the eighth inning of Sunday night's game against the Rangers.

I don't think there is any player on this Boston team that I have less confidence in than Keith Foulke. What's worrisome is that he's teammates with guys named Millar and Bellhorn, the poster-peeps for the perpetual vote of no confidence from Red Sox fans. And I don't even care that he pitches because the 'pay is good,' or that he likes calling fans who boo him 'Johnny Burger King.' In the scheme of things, that shouldn't even show up on the radar. An ERA over six, four blown saves, throwing fastballs so straight that Alan Embree says, "god, that's a straight fastball" -- now that's something to get worked up about.

And it's kind of hard to blame Theo; he tried to bolster the pitching staff by calling up everybody but Cla Meredith, but he's still stuck with Foulke as the closer. And that, in addition to the woeful middle relief (at least before the most recent call-ups, is the problem. So the good news is that now, hopefully, the Red Sox pitchers can hold down the fort until late in the game. The bad news is that Keith Foulke will, at least for the foreseeable future, continue to be the guy trotting out of the bullpen to try and get a save.

After last night's debacle I got to wondering what the worst all-time ERA was for a closer who played the whole season. At this pace, Foulke might end up with an ERA around 10 and more blown saves than actual saves. As I watched Foulke warm up to start the ninth inning, I had the same sinking feeling you get when you see Manny try to stretch an obvious single into a double, only to get thrown out by 40 feet (twice in two weeks, no less). I had pretty much decided that the Red Sox were probably going to lose the game, and that helped soften the blow as the next ten minutes unfolded (as much as trying to prepare yourself for a train wreck can 'soften the blow').

So now the question is what to do with Foulke. Tito mentioned it last week and reiterated it last night -- Foulke's the guy. But you also have to imagine that Theo's pulling his hair out trying figure out how to solidify the closer's role. The fact that Foulke mentioned last week that his ideal situation would include him starting. Uh, given his recent track record, that's probably not a good idea. Of course, Schilling got roughed up a bit in his latest minor league rehab start, so who knows?

Speaking of Schilling, I was never of the opinion that his return would solve all of Boston's problems. In fact, I'd be more inclined to believe that it might take him some time to adjust to pitching every fifth day, especially given that he hasn't been effective since October 2004, and that he's almost 40 years old. I was just kidding about moving Foulke to the starting lineup if Schilling's return is delayed, but that still doesn't address the fact that Foulke is skrugglin'. Maybe Schilling should move to the bullpen. I'm only half kidding too. Didn't Olerud used to pitch in college? And whatever happened to the Dave McCarty experiment? OK, now it sounds like I'm begging.