September 3, 2009

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LONGSHOTS: On the shrink’s couch in a near francoma
by Dave Long

I’m having a problem with what can only be described as a building obsession with the way Terry Francona handles the pitching. That doesn’t mean I don’t like Tito. I do. And even though I call him Mother Francona at times, all things considered, he’s the best manager the Sox have had since at least Dick Williams. But I’m now having dreams about it. Like the one from the other night when I flew to Vienna for a session with Sigmund Freud that went something like this:

Dr. Freud: Gooten mourning — please come in and go lay on the couch over there.

Me: Thanks, Doc.

Dr. Freud: Vhaaat seems to be da problem?

Me: Terry Francona is making me crazy. Every time the TV flashes to him from the sixth inning on, my eye starts to twitch the way it did for Chief Inspector Dreyfus in the Pink Panther movies whenever Inspector Clouseau came into the room. He makes me CRAZY!!!!

Dr. Freud: Fvay does that make you, uhm, insane?

Me: Because he keeps removing totally in-command pitchers because they’ve passed 100 on the ALMIGHTY PITCH COUNT for the uncertainty of a new guy from the bullpen.

Dr. Freud: And why does that bother you?

Me: Because you know the guy on the mound has it and you don’t have that guarantee from a new guy. And if it’s a one- or two-run game you don’t have a lot of time to discover that. Plus if he’s leaving ’cause he’s tired, it’s because he’s not conditioned to go longer as these days going 110 is looked at like surviving the Bataan Death March.

Dr. Freud: Is it like that in all cases?

Me:  No. I don’t mind with a big lead as he did with Paul Byrd on Sunday. A 7-0 lead means there’s a margin of error to work with in case the pen isn’t real sharp. So if you want to give a guy a little extra rest then it doesn’t bother me.

Dr. Freud: Den vhat does bother you?

Me: Almost anytime Jon Lester pitches — who the Sox have scored two runs or less TEN freak’n times in 23 starts. The last time the Sox were in Tampa he’s in control having given up just a run in a pretty important game considering they have a tough time winning in Tampa and are off to Yankee Stadium for four really big games against the red hot Yanks after that. But he’s out after six stinking innings when the almighty pitch count hits 100, in part because he’s struck out 11 guys — which is a good thing, right? Daniel Bard, who has pitched well, comes in and BOOM — Longoria homers to tie it and they lose in 13.

Flash forward to Sunday in the Bronx. He leaves after seven and 107 in a REALLY big game since they’ve lost five in a row. Bard comes in again and BOOM — Johnny Damon hits a homer to tie it at 2-2. Next, Mark Teixeira — BOOM — into the bullpen to make it 3-2 and they lose their six straight. Then Tuesday he’s leading Chicago 3-1 in the seventh. He’s got two guys on and two outs. He STRIKES OUT Alexei Ramirez for what should be the third out — but the ball hits the plate and gets away from Jason Varitek and a run scores. Not V’s fault, just bad luck — but Tito’s pacing that familiar pace. Next batter hits a liner that goes in and out of Mike Lowell’s glove to let the other runner score to tie it. Out comes Tito and — I go Grrrrrr!!!!!!! This time the bullpen does the job and they win. Then Saturday Clay Buchholz takes a two-hitter into the ninth,.where a seeing eye grounder gets through for a single to start the inning. He gets the next guy — but Tito brings in Hideki Okajima for the coveted lefty-vs.-lefty match-up with the next two hitters. Adam (gone with the) Lind is first and BOOM — he hits a double to score the first run and Lyle Overbay — goes semi-BOOM. Not a homer, but a sharp single to drive in the second run before Jonathan Papelbon comes in to get the final two outs.

Dr. Freud: And vhat bothers you about that — they von, didn’t they?

Me: YES — but he over-managed a 3-0 win into a barely-got-out alive 3-2 win. DON’T YOU GET IT EITHER?

Dr. Freud: Calm yourself. Don’t get excited.

Me: I can’t help it. Every time it happens my blood pressure spikes. It’s almost as bad flicking by the fair and balanced network and hearing the dumbest guy on TV blathering about eastern establishment, left wing, media elite, liberal bias on stories ranging from bulldog Sarah Palin’s play during Wasilla’s run to Alaska’s state basketball crown to the Lindberg kidnapping.

Dr. Freud: Is that all that’s bothering you?

Me: NO! I haven’t even gotten to what REALLY bugs me. I mean who came up with 100 as the number for the all mighty pitch count anyway???? A pitching coach, doctor, trainer, a pitcher or a math teacher who liked the symmetry of the 100?

Dr. Freud: But it does prevent injuries — right?

Me: Who says so? I have to see the data before I’ll believe it. In fact, I think it leads to more time on the DL and all this situational pitching HURTS a team — because 13-man pitching staffs mean you have three stiffs on a staff that never would have been there in the 1970s when the pitching was better.

Dr. Freud: How can you prove that? 

Me: The good pitchers then went more innings. I mean who would you rather face, a tiring Luis Tiant in the eighth or Casey Janssen and his 5.81 ERA? I’’ll take my chances with the latter — which managers do all the time these days. And that’s why the lowest league-wide ERA this decade in the AL was 4.36 and in the ’70s it was 3.47 and the highest in the 2000s was 5.28 and the highest in the ’70s 4.23. It ain’t rocket science. It’s there for all to see but they don’t and it makes me nuts. So as I said, you’ve got to help me — please!

Dr. Freud: OK — it’s simple. You have a condition called know-it-all-itis. It agitates you because you don’t like it when people just accept things — just because experts say so.

Me: What do you know — I thought it was just that I didn’t like seeing winnable games blown by micro-managing from the dugout.

Dr. Freud: No — you want people to question the experts who may have the trend on their side, when you have ALL the historical evidence on your side. You are fine. It’s everyone else who is, er, crazy.

Me: Now we’re getting somewhere — ’cause that’s what I thought all along.

Dave Long can be reached at dlong@hippopress.com. He hosts Dave Long and Company from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. each Saturday on WGAM – The Game, 1250-AM Manchester, 900-AM Nashua.


8/27/2009 Random thoughts and big refrigerator magnets

8/20/2009 Sixty-one years later and Ruth's still in the conversation8/13/2009 Empire strikes back during annual visit
8/6/2009 Ortiz and Manny's steroid story tests fans as well
7/30/2009 Trading places not as simple as "I'll take the old guy" 7/23/2009 Mailbag delivers some interesting questions and answers
7/16/2009 Random thoughts for a lazy summer day
7/9/2009 Season's second half is when it'll get interesting for the Sox
7/2/2009 Declaring independence of how others play the game
6/25/2009 Finding the right plan is as easy as A, B, C with Celtics
6/18/2009 A great experience came in the Knick of time
6/11/2009 Ripping key to Rodney's broadcast success?
6/4/2009 The Mt. Rushmores of the red Sox-Yankees rivalry
5/28/2009 First-place Sox are making the grade
5/21/2009 NBA rivalries have no rival in other team sports
5/14/2009 Lying from baseball's Pinocchio prompts questions
5/7/2009 Celtics bull their way into round two — finally!
4/30/2009 Tanked from the headlines, the Fenway series yanks it back
4/23/2009 Draft winds blow NFL teams to make interesting decisions
4/16/2009 Spring cleaning of a cluttered sports mind
4/9/2009 Red Sox Nation springs back to life
4/2/2009 Climbing sports Mt. Rushmore
3/26/2009 Mount Rushmore offerings and other spring thoughts
3/19/2009 B-Ball, Coach B and Baseball in the mailbag today
3/12/2009 Great talent a rush but not all it's cracked up to be
3/5/2009 In Bill we still trust?
2/26/2009 A mountain over this molehill
2/19/2009 Steroids muscle in on game's strength
2/12/2009 Bonner bombs away on Cs in garden party homecoming
2/5/2009 Nation's angst ends as V-Tek says what the heck and rejoins flock
1/29/2009 Super Bowl Sunday brings to mind past and present
1/22/2009 The elusive quality of greatness is the topic of the day
1/15/2009 Spring cleaning of the sports mind a little early
1/8/2009 Will hall have Rice on the menu come July
1/1/2009 Predictions and wants for the year ahead
12/25/2008 A look in the rear view mirror at 2008
12/18/2008 The Pats' playoff run and new Yankees contracts make big news
12/11/2008 Random thoughts and associations
12/4/2008 Pats should consider options when it comes to Cassel and Brady
11/27/2008 Putting the thanks in Thanksgiving
11/20/2008 News of the week has people talking
11/13/2008 Cassel's in the clouds compared to early expectations11/6/2008 Mail bag delivers some interesting questiont10/30/2008"Yankees Suck" - like mentality fuels political discontent10/23/2008 No ray of hope as season closes in Tampa Bay
10/16/2008 Going to the nines a thing of the past
10/9/2008 C-eeing some interesting stories unfold this week
10/2/2008 "How come?" is the main question of the day
9/25/2008 Observations on baseball in 2008
9/18/2008 If I were a QB, a DB, a stat geek or a soccer mom ...
9/11/2008 After disaster Brady's bunch won't pass on season
9/4/2008 Pats start off with high expectation and some concerns
8/28/2008 A race to the finish to take all month long
8/21/2008 National news items of interest for local folks
8/14/2008 A little of this and that from the good side of sports pile
8/7/2008 Manny happy returns from the Evil Empire
7/31/2008 Manny being Manny - the sequel Part XXXII
7/24/2008 Open the mail bag for some Red Sox questions
7/17/2008 Hall-worthy or not the latest question on Schilling
7/10/2008 Baseball season has actually started
7/03/2008 UL editorial in denial — stop the presses
6/26/2008 Boston turnaround makes NBA green with envy
6/19/2008 Letters from the NBA finals
6/12/2008 A Father's Day letter to dad
6/5/2008 Twenty-one and six are the lucky numbers for the Cs
5/29/2008 Sometimes a bat is just a bat
5/22/2008 Some questions for folks right up there in the front row
5/15/2008 Numbers don't add up to supposed Fenway
5/8/2008 Cavalier attitude nearly derails first meeting with LeBron
5/1/2008 I'm so old,I remember ...
4/24/2008 Sox Line-ups, Celtics and ESPN investigations are in the mail bag
4/17/2008 Show me the way to that All-Star Game
4/10/2008 For C'ing a great time ahead as playoffs arrive this spring
4/3/2008 Bill James and the stats for 2008 — Take Two
3/27/2008 Drowning in the NCAA office pool
3/20/2008 Whether forecast is right or not is the question
3/13/2008 Comment sparks wonder over just what I did
3/6/2008 New hires, new trades in pro sports
2/28/2008 Celtics issues far from black and white in the early days
2/21/2008 Congressional ineptitude muscles in on steroid hearings
2/14/2008 Basketball rounds into form under the cover of Pats football
2/7/2008 A giant win leaves Patriots fans feeling blue
1/31/2008 Foxboro lads earn pats on the back, and old Celtics mystique makes sense
1/24/2008 Mail bag asks about Rice, the hall and wild-eyed liberals
1/17/2008 Peyton manning the fort back home as Pats take on Chargers
1/10/2008 Grumpy old Dolphins are lost at sea on this one
1/3/2008 The primary concern is getting a clear picture
12/27/2007 The annual sports awards close out 2007
12/20/2007 Holiday gifts for the deserving and not so deserving
12/13/2007 Jets land in Foxboro as pat go number 14
12/06/2007 To include or not to include Ellsbury — that is the questione
11/29/2007 Yanked from the sports pages in the Big Apple
11/22/2007 Here's what I'm thankful for at Thanksgiving
11/15/2007 Waiting game leads to a series of random thoughts
11/8/2007 OK — it's week nine and I'm ready to talk
11/1/2007 Finally a little shut-eye for a sleep deprived nation
10/25/2007 A rocky mountain high for Red Sox Nation
10/18/2007 Time to go to the mailbag
10/112007 Who'd more popular, Patriots or Red Sox
10/4/2007 IA weekend chock full of nuts, chokes and great moments
9/27/2007 I hate to say I told you so...
9/20/2007 Media and fan bias shades the severity of sports crime
9/13/2007 All round baseball week starts with a look at leaders
9/6/2007 It's Superbowl or bust for Pats in 2007
8/30/2007 The race is on as baseball enters September
8/23/2007 Spine vs. lack of spine theme for school board debate
8/16/2007 Time for thoughts from the summer mailbag
8/9/2007 Will this three make it big in Boston?
8/2/2007 Trading places all in a day's work for Boston GMs
7/26/2007 Getting out of a slump; an ameteur golfer can feel Sox' pain
7/19/2007 Does second chance guarantee a great outcome?
7/12/2007 Masse still a honeymooner in local baseball culture
7/5/2007 Brown Monster a big Fisher Cat hit
6/28/2007 Rambling along with some random thoughts
6/21/2007 The future is now for the C's come Thursday night
6/14/2007 Homers create bonds among fans for generations
6/07/2007 Sox win by losing two of three this weekend
5/31/2007 Lutz of things to think about
5/24/2007 Down 2-0 M’s for playoff payoff
5/17/2007 Baseballs' conventional wisdom is for the birds
5/10/2007 The Rocket lands in Gotham during Monarchs' playoff break
5/3/2007 Raiders say "No Moss" in fight with talented wideout
4/26/2007 A little history on the ancient Sox and Yanks rivalry
4/19/2007 Lessons to be learned from Robinson, Monarchs and I-Man
4/12/2007 A few questions for the sports gods
4/5/2007 Stanton his case on a variety of current topics
3/29/2007 Sox spring back into action on Monday
3/22/2007 A guide for having fun on NCAA hockey weekend
3/15/2007 The madness of March kicks off on Thursday
3/8/2007 Jumping through hoops after an odd season
3/1/2007 A trip to the mail bag for Hippo Sports
2/22/2007 Six degrees of Muhammed Ali
2/15/2007 Monarchs rule as streak reaches 12
2/8/2007 Talking a good game ahead on all-sports WGAM
2/1/2007 Manning the Super Bowl watch more difficult in '07
1/25/2007 Winning and what else matters in college coaching
1/18/2007 ESPN polls are fanning the flames of national lunacy
1/11/2007 Patriots marching to MIami promised land
1/4/2007 Predictions for 2007
12/28/2006 REcognizing the best on the national front
12/21/2006 Present under the tree for all
12/14/2006 Mailbag open for busines at a time filled with questions
12/07/2006 Lions and Gators and Bears, oh my
11/30/2006 Does Fenway frankness roll to the negative side?
11/23/2006 Turkeys and thanks as the big day arrives
11/16/2006 Green-around-the-gills Celts looking to earn some respect
11/9/2006 Blame game reaches new local low
11/2/2006 A week of highs and lows in sport
10/26/2006 Curses! The U is foiled again
10/19/2006 Time for a trip to the sports mailbag
10/12/2006 U turns Granite Stare around on football
10/05/2006 James' gang riding into town to face the Celtics
09/28/2006 Words to describe a lost Red Sox season
09/21/2006 Football Friday can't stack up to Saturday
09/14/2006 A lesson to be learned in remembering a somber day
09/07/2006 Usual pat choice to win AFC East questioned
08/31/2006 Whining won't yank AL East away from NY
08/24/2006 Spring forward or fall behind for Sox
08/17/2006 Trash talking abounds in the Empire over Sox and Pats
08/10/2006 Monarchs call press conference to crown new leader
08/03/2006 Deadly Fenway duo leave mark on history
07/27/2006 Word of the wise gets lost in sports translation
07/20/2006 Looking beyond the Big Three
07/13/2006 Cream rises to the top of baseball talk at the Dot
07/06/2006 Greetings and salutations toThe Nation at mid-year
06/29/2006 Being dealt is a consequence of the trade
06/22/2006 A year later, Boudreau's cup runneth over
06/15/2006 See dogs and cats battle for a different fan experience
06/08/2006 Not Bad Anymore league makes a comeback
06/01/2006 Luck goes Sox way with Lowell in Massachusetts
05/25/2006 Pitching in to help the Sox trade a few places
05/18/2006 Going to school by cutting Red Sox payroll
05/11/2006 Columnist blows his mind; here are the results
05/04/2006 Yanks stormed Manchester 37 years ago this week
04/27/2006 Regular crowd nowhere to be found come playoff time
04/20/2006 Questions and answers from the mailbag
04/13/2006 Local sports teams spring into action
04/06/2006 Predictable Red Sox season lies ahead
03/30/2006 Analyzing this and that as Pats roster shrinks
03/23/2006 A week of following the bouncing balls
03/16/2006 The beginning of four days of basketball bliss
03/09/2006 Many miss the central point of the story
03/02/2006 Better late than never to jump through local hoops
02/23/2006 Celtic green means raw, not envy as it once did
02/16/2003 An issue that is all black and white
02/09/2006 Nomar curses from the UL's Sullivan
02/02/2006 Super memories from 40 years of watching the big game
01/26/2006 A certain uniformity to the inquiries in the mailbag
01/19/2006 Sudden end to Pats' season leave just one thing to do
01/12/2006 Pats on the back for the football team
01/05/2006 Predictions for Manchester Sports 2031
A lesson for Leo the Lip and nice guys everywhere

Chop House opening is Berra of good news
Event-filled weekend missed en route to evil empire
Hero’s death lays to rest misuse of the word
Saint Theo ascends to new heights in The Nation
Santa sack filled to the brim with sports
Patriots march through injuries toward threepeat
Sports talk should be on the air
Stars shine brightest when winning is in the mix
The Demonization of Johnny Damon
Thirty-seven topics and so little space
Too many holes in Sox for repeat
Trip to the injured list makes it a long weekend for local scribe
Turkeys and giving thanks take center stage this week
Yanked from the edge of your seat