Time Waits for No Manager
Earlier in the season, as certain younger players struggled to adjust to fulltime roles in the lineup, Gardy and his allies have suggested that he could not afford to be patient with developing kids, not in a year when the Twins were shooting for another division title and possibly the pennant. There was no time for errors and rookie mistakes, no time to wait for youngsters to find their swings, no time to let kids nurse their injuries, no time to worry about hurting any kid's feelings. Gardy this season has liked to say that he's just trying to win, and he'll ride the hot hands or play the guys whom he feels give his team the best chance to win on that day.
So why is Joe Mays still in the pitching rotation?
Joe Mays was a pleasant surprise early in the season, when he was 3-2 with a 3.59 ERA after pitching valiantly in a loss to the Yankees on June 4. One of the highlights of the spring was his complete game shutout of the Blue Jays on May 19. He even had a 5-3 record and 3.84 ERA as late as July 3, after beating Tampa Bay with 7 strong innings in a 3-2 victory. I was impressed that he'd come back so strong, immediately after missing a year while rehabbing after Tommy John surgery, and I felt glad for him.
Since that July 3 game, however, his arm must be wearing down. He hasn't been completely awful lately, but pretty bad more often than not. In his last 9 starts, he's allowed 40 runs in 45.1 innings, a 7.94 ERA, and the team has lost 8 of the 9 games. Even when Mays put up a decent line and notched a 'W' last week against Seattle, he seemed to be dodging trouble through much of his 6 innings, while facing one of the worst offenses in the league.
Let's take a moment to look at the individual VORP (Value Over Replacement Pitcher) figures for the Twins pitching staff:
Johan Santana 50.2
Brad Radke 33.0
Carlos Silva 40.4
Kyle Lohse 25.5
Joe Mays 1.9
Jesse Crain 18.3
Juan Rincon 17.7
Joe Nathan 19.1
Matt Guerrier 12.9
Terry Mulholland 0.1
J.C. Romero 9.7
Scott Baker 4.5
Dave Gassner -2.0
What does this say? Johan is again one of the elite pitchers of the league. Silva has been unexpectedly outstanding. Radke and Lohse are solid values by the standards of #3-4 pitchers. The Twins have a deep corps of strong righthanded relievers; Romero isn't great, but he's not garbage. Terry Mulholland, however, is practically worthless, or no better than a replacement-level pitcher from AAA. Not much better is Joe Mays, whose value is even lower than Scott Baker's rating in an admittedly small sample of 13 innings.
All that Mays contributed in the first half of the season has been nearly negated by his performances in the last 7 weeks. There's no question, he's hurting his team by taking his turn in the rotation lately. So why is he still getting the ball, when the team has no time for patience?
Why wasn't he skipped in the rotation this week?
Why hasn't he been demoted to the pen?
Patrick Reusse writes that when a reporter asked him about it last night, Gardy shot back:
I guess the manager might have time to worry about hurting a player's feelings, after all. If it's one of his senior veterans.
"If you can figure out a way to get a pitcher up here, with all of our players down and hurt, and tell me who you want to take off this roster to bring a pitcher up here ," Gardenhire said.
He added: "You're a little smarter than I am, because I can't figure it out. We're really stuck here."
Another reporter loitered in the manager's office, then offered a solution: Designate Mays for assignment and call up Scott Baker (he pitched well in a Class AAA start Tuesday) to face the Royals.
"That's not the way we do things here," Gardenhire said. "We have too much respect for Joe. If we did that, the guys in that clubhouse ... let's just say they would be very upset, knowing what Joe's gone through to get back here."
Maybe I am a little smarter than the Twins manager--pshaw, Gardy, just a little?--but I have a couple alternate ideas if the club is too genteel to push Joe Mays out the door before the season is over.
For one thing, Matt Guerrier could take that next scheduled start in Kansas City on Monday. Aside from his mulligan outing last weekend, he's done an excellent job in middle relief all season. He has the stamina to pitch at least 5 innings, and his fastball and curve are good enough to get through the Royals order at least a couple times. That would get the club through the end of the month, when Scott Baker and Francisco Liriano could come up, then the manager would have until Saturday next week to decide on who should start against the Indians.
Or, and I know this is a wild idea, but I'm just brainstorming here... maybe, just maybe, the team already could have cut the cord on Terry Mulholland? As nice as it must feel to the manager to have a veteran pitcher around who can boast of a rubber arm and never complains about his role because he's happy just to be on the team, you don't see many serious contenders go out of their way to carry 42 year-old pitchers with a sore back and a 5.40 ERA while allowing batters to hit .281/.332/.464. The old man's availability is even day-to-day lately because of his back pain. Hasn't it occurred to the GM and manager of this outfit that they could have created a roster spot by at least putting Terry Mulholland on the Disabled List?
Time's running out on the season. If Gardy didn't have the luxury to wait for players to come around before, he certainly doesn't have it now. Why are we waiting for September 1st to roll around before putting Mays on the shelf? Why hasn't someone made the necessary moves to get Baker or Liriano in the Twins rotation already? Why can't it happen NOW?
I ask you.