FIRE FRANCONA

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Fire Doc Rivers

83-98. A .458 winning percentage. In short, sadly mediocre production over the past 3 seasons, especially in a town where winning is the norm. Or, was the norm... 20 years ago, for the Boston Celtics.

The problem? Well it depends who you ask. Its the youth, the team is too young, there is no veteran leadership. It's the GM, Danny Ainge has arranged too many of the same pieces. The team is banged up right now, you can't use this beginning of the season to gauge the quality of this team.

All of these would seem fair excuses, but I don't buy them. Not anymore. In this case blame rests sorely on the shoulders of one Glenn “Doc” Rivers, Boston's head coach. Some stick up for him, most notably Bob Ryan of the Globe, out of respect for the man. It is time to put aside respect for the man and start analyzing the job the man has done, and the win-loss record doesn't even tell the whole story.

The first, most noticeable reason for a change is the absolute lack of consistency. This comes in two forms. Lack of consistent play and lack of a consistent rotation of players. Due to injuries, Doc has been forced into at least using a 10 man rotation as opposed to using every player on the bench, which he has been known to do on occasion (November 22nd against the Bobcats, for one example). Of the rotation decisions, Doc was quoted by the AP in September as saying "I don't think we ever had one and I don't think we were a team that should have had one. No one separated themselves enough to have one,". Well, that idea did not work out so well as it translated into a sub .500 record and no playoff birth.

Even within this rotation issue, there is another and that is playing time. One night someone gets 20 minutes, the next night six minutes. For example, last night against the Grizzles, Leon Powe played eight minutes. This would seem a peculiar choice in the first place since all three of our centers are currently shelved with injuries, leaving Powe as the 3rd tallest player on the team at 6'8”, but when you factor in that earlier in the season when Al Jefferson was out, Powe was getting 25 minutes a game against Orlando, 19 minutes a game against Portland, 15 minutes against Chicago, and even 10 minutes a game against Portland and the New York Knicks, the playing time rotation looks especially confusing. How are the players supposed to know their roles on the team if the coach doesn't even seem to know? Doc had Powe go from 19 minutes, to 8 minutes to 1 minute in the span of 3 games. For a young player, it is important they know their role on the team. Powe might not be a key to the Celtics future success but he has shown flashes of potential in the limited time he has been on the floor. With an injury ravaged team, one would think it might be a good time to let the kid feel his way into the league. A better example of the “how many minutes will he get tonight?” problem is Gerald Green, and he, unlike Powe, is supposed to be key in the Celtics future success.

Last night, Green played 26 minutes, the most he had got all season and all that playing time was mostly because Wally Szczerbiak is hurt and couldn't play in the last two games. Green managed 21 points on 6 for 10 shooting. With the Celtics struggling to find consistent offensive production out of anyone not named Wally or Pierce, where has this kid been all season? The answer is shelved on the bench and relegated to garbage time in games that are already over. Despite that, he still managing to rank second in the entire NBA in 3-point field goal percentage at a staggering .560 clip. And yet, until very recently, he was warming the bench and only coming in for a few minutes at the end of a quarter to give Paul Pierce a breather. With a 3-point field goal percentage like that, one would think it might be a good idea to call a play for the kid down the stretch when the team needs a three to tie, especially since teams mostly just key on Paul Pierce with double and even triple teams at the end of a game. But no, last night against the Grizzlies, Doc decided to run a play for Sebastian Telfair instead of Green. Telfair is shooting .308 from beyond the arc, by the way, and the shot managed to hit the shot clock instead of the rim. In short, it wasn't a very good play, and it was a loss to the worst team in the NBA.

Another problem is the turnover issue. Last year, the Celtics finished with 15.9 turnovers a game. Only the Knicks finished with a worse mark (17.0 a game). This season hasn't faired any better, it has actually been worse. Even though Ainge brought in Sebastian Telfair to run the point, the Celtics are still 25th in the league with an average of 16.2 turnovers a game. Well coached teams take care of the ball, the Celtics do not.

The final and most glaring reason to replace Rivers is this troubling statistic: in this, the 2006-2007 season, in close games (that is, games decided by 5 or less points), the Celtics are already 1-6. The lone victory came against Charlotte and it took the Celtics overtime to do it. Last season, the Celtics were a laughable 11-20 in the same situation.

You can't blame it on the youth forever. At this point, Delonte West, Al Jefferson, Sebastian Telfair and Tony Allen are all in their 3rd NBA seasons, while Kendrick Perkins is in his 4th. The babies are growing up without a father. It's time to bring a new one in. Even Doc agrees, “We talk about the young stuff because we have to. But I don't want to use that as an excuse. You can't use that as an excuse. I can't allow them to use that as an excuse”, he said in the Globe on Wednesday. If youth can't be the excuse, then the blame points squarely at you, Doc. And since Danny seems to have no desire to replace the boys, that is, he won't trade them for a veteran player who could help right away, it is time to replace the man leading the boys.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

All I want for Hot Stove X-mas is....

I have two words for you all.

Ted Lilly.

His unimpressive 4.31 ERA and 1.43 WHIP are not what you generally target in the free agent pitching market, especially for a big name, big market team like the Red Sox. Similiarly, neither is his slightly above .500 record of 15-13, even though win/loss record is a fairly inaccurate judge of a pitcher anyway. Lilly's K/BB ratio is roughly a 2:1, which is decent, if not good... as well as his K/9, which sits at nearly 8 (7.98). His groundball to flyball ratio is close to 1:1, with flyball getting a slight edge (.89/1 fly ball).

But all of this is less important than one other fact that doesn't show up in the stat sheet.

Lilly already pitches in the AL East. He is piling up these slightly better than average stats against the best of the best. It isn't taking a flier on a decent pitcher in the NL and hoping he'll pan out (Hello Matt Clement......), it's getting a guy who you KNOW what you will get from. You know the offense is gonna have to score 5 or more runs that night to win, more often than not. Which should not be a hard task with the offense the Red Sox have presently assembled.

With Papelbon definitely going into the rotation this season, Wakefield being resigned already, that leaves just the one spot in the rotation to fill. It should be Ted Lilly's. A bonified vet to plug the hole in the rotation til some of the younger guys are ready to step up in 2008. Hopefully Jon Lester will be recovered from the cancer and chemotherapy by then. Hopefully the Red Sox can get something along the lines of a 4th or 5th starter out of guys like Dave Pauley, Kasson Gabbard and others. Not to mention the single A ball studs the Sox have down on the farm, both in Lowell and Wilmington.

For a team to remain competitive, it begins with pitching. Getting a guy like Lilly, who would be a perfect fit in Boston because he has the same fiery attitude that guys like Schilling, Beckett and Papelbon all have, would help to solidify a position that was full of question marks last season.

Schilling
Beckett
Wakefield
Papelbon
Lilly

All I want for X-mas is an ex-Yankee.
Oh, and a closer.
But that is another post's worth of problems.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

A Public Hanging in Kenmore Square... Come one... Come All

How much longer will this farce be allowed to continue? It is high time Barnum and Bailey pulled up the tent and left Fenway Park. Or in tonight's case, Safeco Field. But the locale hasn't mattered much. A bigtime edge in wins versus losses at Fenway... nullified by a manager who continually fails to notice a pattern of failure no matter how long it is allowed to continue on. As one person pointed out to me during the first game of the Seattle series, "Francona would still be using Embree if Theo hadn't cut him". Couldn't be closer to the truth.

The fact is, if there hadn't been a World Series victory in 2004, Francona would've been strung up in Kenmore Square and publically stoned, or hung in an incident reminiscent of Mussolini's final hours. For a town that is not supposed to tolerate losing or mediocrity, it sure has taken a lot to get anyone to start criticizing a man who will continually pull his starters too early (David Wells... 97 pitches through 7 innings tonight). Or leave them in too long... (Francona's lovely habit of letting his pitchers load the bases before pulling them out of the game). Or just his consistant way of finding the worst possible people for the given situation. How many times has Julian Tavarez come in at a crucial juncture to blow a game that was within grasp at the very least? At least if you put in the youth in these stages, they can learn from these experiences. The kids can get better. The tired, has-been, never-was veterans cannot. They will merely take their boo's on the way into the clubhouse, and in Tavarez's case, hopefully attack a bullpen phone. At least then he would be on the DL and no longer be on the other end of Francona's "Tank the game time" call. Tonight was a perfect example of "worst guy for the given situation". Timlin hasn't been able to get anyone out for weeks. Yet Francona continues to run him out right when the team grabs a lead and seizes momentum. Apparently Terry thinks giving the other team free runs is his way of giving back to charity. Or so it would seem anyway. So another blown hold for Timlin. And its not his fault. He's old. He probably should've retired after 2004, but hung on and became really the unsung hero of the 2005 team that would've been much much worse off without him stepping into the closer role. No, it is not Timlin's fault. It is all on Francona. The right man for the job: Something Terry can't find, and something Terry is not. Has not been. And will never be.

Top of the 9th lineup tonight for the Red Sox. Last chance to tie a one run game.

Eric Hinske (0-3 with 2 k's at the time)
Javy Lopez (0-3 with 2k's at the time)
and Alex Cora (0-3 at the time)

In a one run game, one would think to bring in a power hitter as a pinch hitter. Makes sense. One mistake by the pitcher and its a tie ball game with the right hitter at the plate. But not if your Terry Francona. Doesn't make sense then. Letting Wily Mo Pena rot away on the bench in the 9th, now theres the decision you clearly have to stick with. What could a guy who either strikes out or hits the ball 500 feet possibly bring to the table in a one-run game during the last AB's for a team?

I guess we'll never know.

Because with Francona at the helm, rest assured that the right call will never be made.

Friday, June 16, 2006

The stupidest man to ever manage a major league club...

This blog is dedicated to documenting the sheer managerial stupidity that is Terry Francona.

More to come as the season progresses.