Who will be closing for the Red Sox down the stretch and into the post-season? Mike Timlin? Jon Papelbon? Keith Foulke? Fuck if I know, but the Boston Herald’s Tony Massarotti says Terry Francona ought to make a decision and stick with it.
And so here we are, a whopping 143 games into The Season After, and the Red Sox bullpen seems in a state of complete anarchy. In the middle of it all stands intrepid 24-year-old Jonathan Papelbon, who is now being exposed to that most terrifying of all things from recent Red Sox history.
The dreaded closer by committee.
Less than one year removed from their 2004 title run, the Red Sox last night traveled back to early 2003 during a 6-5 win over the Toronto Blue Jays in 11 innings at the Rogers Centre. The Sox blew a 5-0 lead in an unsightly seventh inning, when manager Terry Francona summoned interim closer (or so we thought) Mike Timlin to face potential tying run Vernon Wells with two men on and the Sox holding a 5-2 lead.
And when it all went poof in the form of a game-tying three-run homer, only a Herculean effort by Papelbon exorcised the ghost of Byung-Hyun Kim.
Having operated with a structured bullpen for the large majority of his managerial career in Boston, Francona now seems to have zero confidence in virtually every Sox reliever but Timlin and, seemingly, Papelbon. The manager certainly has every right, particularly during a season in which Red Sox relievers have been swimming in gasoline.
No wonder the prices keep going up.
But the committee approach? No, no, no, no. It doesn’t work. We all saw that during the early stages of the 2003 season, when the bullpen failed so miserably that the Sox went out and acquired Kim from the Arizona Diamondbacks for Shea Hillenbrand. Kim stablized the bullpen “ at least during the majority of the regular season “ the same way Curt Schilling did this year, which is another frightening similarity between this year and that one.
Are the Red Sox certain they want to do this?
“It’s not perfect,” admitted Francona, who continues to stress that the Sox’ ultimate goal is to return Keith Foulke to the closer’s role and establish order in their relief corps. “We’re trying to get there and we’re trying to win at the same time.”