Change-UpSeptember 19, 2007
Joe Pepitone & Terry Francona
By Patrick Sullivan

So there are two baseball-related items on my mind this morning. Coming off of Sunday night's tour-de-force Curb Your Enthusiasm episode in which Larry David's Joe Pepitone game jersey is lost at the dry cleaners and then, um, recovered (read: stolen back) by his houseguest Leon Black, I just had to figure out "why Joe Pepitone?"

Also, Terry Francona absolutely gave the Toronto Blue Jays a win last night. I need to get a few things off my chest on that front.

First Pepitone, however. For starters, like David, Pepitone was born in Brooklyn. He was a New Yorker through and through and when he was signed at the age of 18 by the Yanks in 1958, there was great anticipation in and around New York for his arrival with the Big Club. It came in 1962, but with Mickey Mantle in center field and Moose Skowron manning first base, he was relegated to spot duties and struggled, posting a .239/.255/.442 line.

Still, with his pop and smooth glove the Yanks felt Pepitone was ready for fulltime duties in 1963. They traded Skowron to make room for him, and "Pepi" became the everyday first baseman. With the ability to play both first and center and nice pop, when I read about him I couldn't help but think of Darrin Erstad. Early in his career, Erstad was the better player because he could get on base with regularity. Now, however, Erstad can neither get on base nor hit with any pop, so Pepitone is the better player. Average them out and they net out similarly, although Pepitone gets the slight edge at the plate.

          AVG   OBP   SLG   OPS+
Pepitone .258  .301  .432   105
Erstad   .284  .339  .411   95

Anyway, Pepitone had a pretty nice career and was known for his fiery play on the field and local popularity. Given this it is no surprise that David, who does little to hide his Yankee loyalties on Curb Your Enthusiasm and famously was the voice of George Steinbrenner on Seinfeld, would have incorporated his affinity for Joe Pepitone into an episode.


Having gotten seven strong innings out of young lefty Jon Lester and clinging to a 2-1 lead last night in Toronto, Terry Francona had a number of options available to him. He chose Eric Gagne, who had pitched well in consecutive outings over the weekend against the Yankees. Take in the following:

* Gagne has a 9.00 ERA as a Red Sox
* Neither Hideki Okajima nor Jonathan Papelbon had appeared in a game since 9/14.
* Manny Delcarmen (2.37 ERA) threw three pitches in the seventh inning.
* After getting the first two outs, Gagne surrendered a walk, a base hit and another walk to load the bases. The tying run was at third, the go-ahead run on second.

I don't need to tell you how this ended, but Gagne remained on the hill, walked a run, and surrendered a two-run double to Russ Adams. The Red Sox lost 4-3.

Terry Francona is an awful bullpen manager, and very well may cost the Red Sox in the post-season.


Who do you think handles the bullpen worse, Torre or Francona?

Heh, I was about to ask the same thing. As a Yankees fan, I'm often complaining about Torre, and I've seen Francona do (intelligent) things with his 'pen (for instance, using Papelbon in a tie game on the road, which if I recall correctly he has done this year).

Yet I also watched last night and "Francoma" was on display. He's apparently fallen for the idea that Gagne MUST be an integral part of his bullpen, instead of discarded for... Manny Delcarmen (if you must have a "7th inning guy" or somesuch to set up for Okajima & Papelbon).

i rather have it that way than with my guy ozzie guillen. hes pretty good with the pen(when he has something to work with), lousy with the line-up and pinch hitters.

Moose Skowron was the witness at my wedding.(Ron Kittle was the minister, 5/26/07 @ US Cellular-sox didnt even lose, game rained out)

I don't know if that's a fair rap of Guillen's handling of the line-up... imagine what Torre would do with his lineup if he didn't have the chance to pencil in 8 All Stars every day? (I'll give him credit for realizing he needed a real CF and started sitting Damon.)

In Francona's defense, isn't it worth seeing if Gagne can get the job done now rather than in October?

I honestly believe that the Sawx front office has made it clear that, since the playoffs are a lock, testing players and resting players is more important than competing for the division.

Not a good plan, in my opinion, but I don't think all of this is Francoma.

As all true Larry David-Seinfeld fans know, Joe Pepitone was twice before mentioned on the show. The first was when Kramer was at the fantasy camp, and Kramer threw him a little "chin music." "Wow! Joe Pepitone," said Jerry. "Well Joe Pepitone or not, I own the inside part of that plate." Kramer then started a brawl and punched Mickey Mantle. The second time, in the famous "marble loaf" episode, was when Kramer, in giving a tourist a tour of Central Park in a horse-drawn carriage, stated that it designed in 1850 by Joe Pepitone during the Civil War so the northern armies could practice fighting on grass.

Just because Eric Gagne cost the Sox a game does NOT make Terry Francona "an awful bullpen manager." That comment should be revised, unless you really believe it. About 5 months' worth of the AL's best bullpen work rebutts that statement itself. Third-rate reporting such as this is what will cost the Red Sox the postseason.

I really doubt that non-move before Gagne issued the bases-loaded walk had much to do with Tito at all, unless he had an out-of-body experience that inning.

One more Joe Pepitone reference on Seinfeld: In the episode where George is trying to find out whether or not the car he bought had actually belonged to Jon Voight, he proposes to the Yankees brass that they have more theme days at the ballpark. The first theme day that he proposes is "Joe Pepitone Day", before finally getting around to proposing a "Jon Voight Day", which did not go over very well.

Bryan: Good catch. If we want to expand to Yankee references, my two favorite are (1) George wanting to name a child "Seven" in honor of Mickey Mantle and (2) George's father, after being told by Steinbrenner that George was dead, responding by asking Steinbrenner, "How could you trade Buhner" and Steinbrenner blaming it on his "baseball people." Classic stuff.