So I know second-guessing the manager has been around for as long as baseball has - there have always been fans who are pretty sure they could win 162 games if they just had the chance. But it seems to me that lately the second-guessing in RSN has reached record-high levels. I'm not sure if it's all the new fans, or simply the fact that the internets let people express their opinion publicly (probably some combination of the two), but it's gotten bad. For example, people are still complaining about Tito's decision in Friday's game to let Beckett pitch in the 8th (despite the fact that he had only thrown 78 pitches, and was hitting 96 mph). But I can't find a single game thread where anyone had a problem with sending him out there at the time. And can you imagine the outrage if Beckett didn't come out? Timlin was pretty bad (as he had been for the previous couple outings...though yesterday he looked good), so might've tied it then and there. And everyone would've blamed Francona for not sending Beckett out there. It's ridiculous.
Of course, you can never prove that such fans are hypocrites, since we don't have an "alternate reality" machine. A machine where we get to see how people would react if Lowell or Varitek got hurt by starting every single day, or if Manny or Wily Mo made some ridiculous baserunning or defensive gaffe instead of Nixon. But that's just the point: in baseball, we don't have such a machine, and it's stupid to pretend that we do. If a particular gamble has a 55% chance of working, and a 45% of failing, you go for it. Every time. (Assuming the cost:benefit ratio is about 1:1). It won't work out nearly half the time, but over the course of the season, it will: 55% is almost enough to get you in the playoffs (more than enough if you're the NL West). Really: what were the odds of Beckett giving up 2 homers, and Lowell committing an error, in that one inning? Unless you honestly think they were better than the odds of the bullpen screwing up (and if that's the case, I'd argue you haven't been paying attention), then you'd be wrong to complain.
And on top of just the stupidity of armchair managing with the benefit of hindsight, there are other considerations as well. Who knows what's really going on in the clubhouse? What players are in pain, which ones have the trainers worried about potential injuries, etc. Only the coaching staff and the front office knows for sure (hopefully). And people need to stop pretending that Francona does everything in a vacuum - one reason he's a good match for the Red Sox is that not only that is he a players' manager, and deals with the media well, but also he listens to our statistically-minded front office. Does anyone really believe he and Theo don't talk about lineups, and defensive replacements, and use of the bullpen? And also: what about the ban of greenies? I can't say I agree with Tito's "JV squad" approach towards giving guys rest, but my guess is he, and the front office, are very concerned about players' energy levels dropping precipitously in August and September. If our best players are ready to go in those months, and other teams' best players aren't, I'm all for all the extra rest.
Okay, I'm done ranting. That felt good.