6. Criticizing Francona's decision to use Matt Albers instead of Daniel Bard in Game 2 of the Cubs series is the ultimate in second-guessing, a transparent attempt to stir the "Francoma"-bashing banshees. You can keep your hindsight; I'd go so far as to say it was the right thing to do, even as it ended in disaster, with Albers allowed six runs (five earned) without recording an out in the eighth inning. Albers has been one of the revelations of the season and had been nothing short of outstanding up until his meltdown, entering the game with a 1.56 ERA in 12 appearances. Further, Bard, whose struggles with command lately suggest a greater level of fatigue than he admits to, is essential to this team in the long run, and giving him a maintenance day every now and then -- and anyone else who needs one -- is actually admirable attribute of Francona's. Having Bard rested and healthy in October is far more important than winning the second game of three-game series with the Cubs in May. Thank goodness at least the manager has the big picture in perspective.
7. Caution is probably the proper path when it comes to analyzing Jarrod Saltalamacchia's recent hot stretch, which includes three homers in his last four starts, an .803 OPS in May, and a 1.054 OPS in his last seven games. But it's tempting to throw caution to the wind and watch it sail over the Monster, because the maligned 26-year-old catcher is making a believer out of me. Whether he's actually comfortable at the plate and with his role with the Sox or whether it's just a temporary tease, the reality is that he has begun rewarding the Red Sox' patience and faith in him. Given the paucity of adequate catchers these days, let alone decent ones, sticking with a hardworking former top prospect was the more prudent route than signing The Best Available Molina Not Named Alfred.
8. Be sure to check out this week's Red Sox podcast, which I somehow managed to get through without making one Are-we-tracking-Dice-K's-plane-back-to-Japan? joke. Perhaps this isn't as serious as it seems, but let's just say I have a hunch Matsuzaka has pitched his last game for the Red Sox, that Tommy John surgery is in his future and it will eventually be revealed that he was pitching through elbow pain (thus the lost velocity) without informing Terry Francona or Curt Young or anyone who pays salary. It would be an appropriate for his Boston career, which has consisted of 105 starts, 49 wins, 30 losses, a 4.25 ERA and a career similarity comp to the perpetually mediocre John Maine, to end on an enigmatic note. He earned his legend in Japan, but stateside, his greatness remains as mythical as the gyroball.
9. As for today's Completely Random Baseball Card:
Yeah, this one's more random than most. But we do have our reasons. He pitched for Cleveland, he was a perpetual Red Sox nuisance (2.42 career ERA), he had the kind of hellacious relief season you'll never see again when he went 13-5 with 29 saves, a 1.57 ERA, and a 264 OPS+ in 143 relief innings in '79, and by the looks of it he was the Bill to the Eck's Ted when it comes to excellent adventures.
About Touching All The Bases
Irreverence and insight from Chad Finn, a Globe/Boston.com sports writer and media columnist. A winner of several national and regional writing awards, he is the founder and sole contributor to the TATB blog, which launched in December 2004. Yes, he realizes how lucky he is.