TITO GETS HIGH PRAISE from the media, if not from the fans. First, there’s this column on ESPN.com, and then there’s this defense by Bill Simmons in his mailbag:

Q: How many more times are we going to be subjected to Tito Francona’s bonehead decisions? He is great at managing players’ egos and building relationships with them, but please get him a coach to do the X’s and O’s before he kills us. We can’t keep overcoming his major screwups, can we? I’ve said it since 2004 and it is still true … just amazing we keep winning despite him. I set the over/under of his ALCS miscues at four!
– Randy, Derry, N.H.

SG: You can read more of Randy’s work at his “Mr. Ungrateful” blog. Here’s my take on Tito: He has never been outmanaged in a playoff series; his players love him and play hard for him; he handles the media as deftly as anyone this side of Doc Rivers; and by all accounts, he’s a genuinely good person. You’re never going to find a perfect manager or coach. That person just doesn’t exist. So if you had your druthers (love that word), you’d want your manager’s biggest weakness to be, “makes some occasionally boneheaded decisions that rarely come back to haunt the team because of the horseshoe that was surgically inserted into his rear end during the ’04 playoffs.” He’s certainly the best Red Sox manager of my lifetime. And beyond that, nobody spits sunflower seeds with more grace and precision.

Meanwhile, Tony Massarotti profiles Terry Francona and offers this fun little tidbit to illustrate why he may have the toughest job in baseball:

How in god’s name can you justify that??? You are being paid millions of dollars and even my 9 year old son can do a better job than [a] sleep on the wheel manager like you.

– E-mail sent to Francona from Chembur, Mumbai (India)