Thursday, September 01, 2005

A Chicken with Its Head Cut Off

Another 1-0 loss, this time with the novel twist of the Twins getting shut out despite 13 hits, or 16 baserunners in all. As Royals outfielder Terrence Long put it in perspective: "That's something we'd do--thirteen hits and not score." We have come to that, where the offense of our contending team is inventing ways to lose that remind players on the worst team in baseball of themselves.

Jacque Jones hit into a couple double plays and was thrown out trying to score from 2nd base on an infield hit, gambling that the pitcher covering 1st base wouldn't notice him trying to sneak home. Later, Ron Gardenhire followed up on his crackdown against boneheaded mistakes by telling the press, "I don't mind Jacque trying that. Heck, you think we're going to knock him in? Come on, don't start arguing when guys are trying to score."

Brent Abernathy also got thrown out trying to scurry back to 3rd base after a wild pitch to the backstop took a hard bounce right back to the Catcher. Michael Ryan got picked off while trying to get an early jump on stealing 2nd base against a lefty pitcher. The team left 6 runners stranded in scoring position. Of course, the manager made his own questionable judgment call in the 9th, when he again tapped Terry Mulholland in a crucial moment, relieving Matt Guerrier after Denny Hocking had singled and advanced to 2nd on a Terry Tiffee error. The old man mustered enough energy of the Tao to strike out Matt Stairs, but then lost the game in giving up a single to Emil Brown as Jesse Crain was warming in the pen.

Gardenhire defended his decision afterwards:
"You can't go with the same guy every night. That's all we're doing. We didn't even want to get Crain up. You can't do that every stinking day. We didn't even want to use Rincon today, but we had to. It's not about who we pitched today. We gave up one run. It's about offense. I think you guys could all agree with that one."
Yes, I agree it is hard to win when your offense is shut out for 9 innings. It's also true that Kyle Lohse and Juan Rincon still gave the team a fighting chance to win by shutting down the Royals for 8 innings, and those efforts were blown in part by decisions made by the manager in the 9th. Terrible baserunning and a dearth of clutch hitting do not wipe away all other factors in the game, including the manager's hand in the outcome.

Judging by the relievers' recent usage, and considering that today is a day off for the team, it appears that nobody in the pen really should have been unavailable to work that inning. I can see the sense in using Guerrier to start the inning, but why would you rely on Mulholland to get 3 outs with a runner already in scoring position?

Even if the manager felt like he was forced to use Mulholland because Crain was tired and he doesn't trust Romero to strand Hocking on base, well, who made the decision to keep Terry Mulholland on the team even at this late date? Yesterday after the game, Gardy mentioned that it will be nice to have Travis Bowyer and Francisco Liriano around in September "to take the pressure off" his core relievers. So why isn't one of them with the team already? Why is the club waiting until next week to bring the call-ups on board, if the manager is feeling such a pinch of available players now?

Gardenhire responds:

"Our reinforcement is getting Shannon (Stewart) back. Who's going to help us? We have the players up here who are the best players right now. We're talking depth off the bench. As far as guys who are going to help us in the lineup, Shannon's the guy."

Does he listen to himself? After talking about how he feels shorthanded, and how nice it will be to have Liriano and Bowyer join the team, he turns around and claims there is no urgent need for reinforcements, and nobody who can really help comes to his mind, anyway. Speak up if you believe that the 25 men on the roster are all the best Gardy might have under his command right now. Does the Twins manager really believe that Terry Mulholland is better than Francisco Liriano?

Hey, that's why he gets paid the Big Bucks. He's the boss.


At 9/04/2005 4:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well it seemed blatantly obvious (too all but one I guess) that Gardenhire was talking about his offensive options rather than his pitching options. I dont think Liriano is going to help offensively. What he was saying was that the Twins have their best offensive options with the big league club, no one in the system was going to come in and help.

At 9/08/2005 5:03 PM, Blogger frightwig said...

I recognize that he referred to Stewart in that quote, and at that moment he probably had his offensive options primarily on his mind. In the same reporters' conference, however, he also complained about how he felt shorthanded in the bullpen; yet, the club planned to wait until Monday to bring anybody up.

The next day, they brought up both Tyner and Liriano. Why didn't he mention that Liriano (or Tyner) would be up the next day? Either he had no clue what the front office had in store, or we should take his word for it that he didn't think any help worth mentioning was on the way. So Gardy was talking out of his ass, either way.

Oh, and another sign that Gardy probably does rate Mulholland's experience over Liriano's superior talent: he turned to the Old Man to face Teixeira and Blalock in the 5th inning on Tuesday, although Liriano probably was available, having thrown only 17 pitches the day before. If he's true to form, Gardy may not trust Liriano to do anything but scrubwork until next May. So it goes....


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