World Series: Game 2 Recap

This morning, we come to praise the manager of the Boston Red Sox, Terry Francona. Tito has received well-deserved accolades for keeping the circus that always hovers around his team at bay, and to that end he is seen as a fine modern-day manager. He handles the press, he lets his players play, and he generally stays out of the way (which rhymes; think of it as an added bonus from us to you). Which is exactly what you should do when you manage a team like the Red Sox.

But Francona has grown as a game manager as well, and it was never more evident than during last night’s 2-1 win over Colorado.

If Francona has a knock it’s that he stays with his players too long, and he has been with no one longer than Curt Schilling. When Tito was in Philly, he was constantly derided for allowing Schilling to de-facto manage the games in which he started. It was a bit of an unfair charge in that Schilling was just about all he had on his pitching staff.

When Francona got the Sox job before the 2004 season, many saw it as another bargaining chip to lure Schilling from Arizona, and there were times when Tito stayed with Big Schill after his expiration date had passed.

Those days are long over. In a game last night in which one or two key moves made all the difference, Francona pushed the right buttons. He wasted little time yanking Schilling in the sixth once he began to waver. In came Hideki Okajima, and out went the Rockies last best chance to score.

Francona stayed with Okajima for as long as he could, and then went to Jonathan Papelbon at exactly the right moment. That Matt Holiday singled didn’t make the move wrong, and that the bench called the pickoff play that erased him at first was further evidence that Francona doesn’t miss a trick.

It was often said that whoever led the Red Sox to a World Series championship would forever be a God in this town, but Francona has maintained his legion of critics who remain unhappy unless the Red Sox win every game and he uses every available reliever in every situation.

The game doesn’t work like that. Score one for Francona last night, and score another one for Schilling who in his own way was every bit as impressive as Josh Beckett was in Game 1. Credit Mike Lowell, whose bit of heads-up base running allowed the Red Sox to steal this one. And finally, credit the bullpen, which was lights out.

But make sure you don’t overlook Francona, who in four years has taken the Red Sox to the playoffs three times, won one World Series, and is halfway to another.

Can’t let it go without saying this. You’re killing us, Fox.

Only Fox, with the complicit help of Major League Baseball, could take a 2-1 game with 11 totals hits and turn it into a three-and-a-half hour marathon that lasted past midnight. Whether it was interviewing taco mavens during a key moment or promoting 24, there were at least 20 agendas conflicting with what was one of the best games of the postseason. Way to go.