Coppola: Terry Francona Shows His Genius In Game 1 of the ALDS

As I was flipping through the channels trying to catch a little bit of each playoff game the other day. I stopped at the Cleveland / Boston game and to my disbelief there was Andrew Miller “The Closer” pitching in the 5th inning. I was scratching my head trying to figure out what the heck could Terry Francona be thinking about?

I watched and was again in awe of Millers command of his fastball and nasty slider. I feel he is a better closer than Chapman and he is the one the Yankees will miss more. But why is the closer pitching in the 5th inning? Than it hit me.

As if I just discovered oil in my back yard. Terry Francona has just ushered us into a new era of baseball thinking. Most of us feel Tony La Russa came up with the concept of starter six- innings followed by middle relief, setup guy and “Closer” That is when we started labeling this 3 out pitcher as a “Closer” Every team adapted it into its formula for winning games. Score early and then shut the other team out for 9- outs using three different pitchers. Amazing, revolutionary. History was made. So what the heck is Francona doing?

Well, Terry wants a guy to save the game for him. That situation may come into play in the fifth or sixth inning. You have a two- run lead, They have runners at the corners and no outs. The meat of the order is coming up. Sound the bugle call for the Calvary, SOS. This is where you need a save. So you bring in your lights out bullpen guy and he gets the next five to six hitters out. Now you are only four to five outs away from a win and their best hitters have faced your best pitcher.

Those hitters will only get one more at bat at best. And how many times do teams get to the ninth inning and it is the bottom of the line up?

So Terry Francona gets to come up with a new name for this situation guy. How about the “Saver”? Soon every team will be looking to sign the best “Saver” in the free agent player pool. Closers will go back to being things that help doors shut. What ever evolves from Terry’s brilliant risky move just gives us another wonderful example of how creative gut feeling decisions make this game beautiful.

The analytical mathematicians that have taken over the decision making in every front office will have to “Pie R Square” into the wee hours to figure what new stat and acronym to use for this one.

Way to go Terry Francona. A true creative Baseball Man!

Editor’s Note: William Coppola just completed his 40th year in the game of baseball. He has been a coach, instructor and last week completed his third season as an associate advanced scout with the Atlanta Braves organization.

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