“P” is for Papelbon and panic

No, I didn’t see Jonathan Papelbon blow his sixth save of the season this afternoon. I was working. But I’d say he’s now officially become a problem. Wouldn’t you? If he’d blown, say, two saves up to this point, the Sox would be leading in the wild-card race.

You can’t hold that blown save against the Angels in the 2009 playoffs over his head. Those things happen. But even though his statistics have, for the most part, been very good, I think most of us would agree that he hasn’t looked right since the beginning of the ’09 season — even though he can still be dominating, as he was against the Yankees the other night.

It would be a panic move, and I doubt Terry Francona would ever do it. But I wonder if it might be time to make Daniel Bard the closer, give some key innings to Felix Doubront and Michael Bowden (what is he still doing in Pawtucket?) and use Papelbon in some non-key situations for a while.

Three for Monday

I’m up to my neck in other work, so three quick observations for a Monday morning:

1. The Boston Globe’s Spotlight series on the state’s patronage-riddled Probation Department should be the last nail in the coffin for state treasurer Tim Cahill’s independent gubernatorial campaign. The clueless Cahill doesn’t help matters today. While Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick and Republican challenger Charlie Baker squabble over how best to disinfect the agency, Cahill — a key player in the patronage game — criticizes Baker’s campaign for trying “to politicize issues for their own benefit without having a full understanding of the matters at hand.”

2. The New York Times’ Brian Stelter reports that news organizations are cutting back on covering presidential trips, citing an “exorbitant” cost in 2009 of $18 million. Frankly, I don’t think the shrinkage is a big deal. How many reporters need to follow the president around the world? But given that Katie Couric’s $15 million salary comes to almost the entire annual cost, it’s hard to take this lament seriously.

3. Make sure you read Charles Pierce’s excellent profile of Terry Francona, the greatest baseball manager in the known universe. It appeared Sunday in the Boston Globe Magazine.

Hail, Tito

Red Sox fans will not get better news all year than this: Terry Francona will be here for the next three to five years. Bruce Allen wraps up the coverage.

There’s something “well, duh” about saying Francona is the best Sox manager in my lifetime. After all, he’s won two World Series, and everyone else had won none. As Francona is always quick to say, he’s benefited from a lot of great moves on the part of the people above him.

But Francona’s preparation and on-field managing skills are unparalleled. His handling of players is amazing, from his ability to keep Manny Ramírez productive year after year to having Jonathan Papelbon spring-training fresh going into the post-season last fall. He’s the anti-Belichick — I don’t think Francona loves the media, but as best as I can tell he is unfailingly polite and respectful in his dealings with other people. He’s just a good, decent human being, and that comes through every time he talks.

A couple of years ago, we were all worried that Francona’s health might not allow him to enjoy a lengthy managerial career. But he seemed to be healthier last year, and now he’s signed a long-term deal. May he continue to manage the Sox for years to come.

Photo (cc) by bunkosquad, and republished here under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.