Friday, October 28, 2005

A Hat-Tip to Ozzie

While watching the final outs of the World Series this week, did you ever wonder what Ron Gardenhire would have made of Bobby Jenks?

Every time I saw the big rookie appear in this postseason, I thought of Gardy. Meanwhile, Ozzie Guillen earned my full respect as a manager. Whenever Ozzie needed a closer to lock up for the night, he signaled for the big widebody, a rookie who had been claimed off waivers last winter and pitched in AA Birmingham until July 5 of this season.

Ozzie had Dustin Hermanson available, a veteran who had saved 34 games with a 2.04 ERA for the Sox this season; and even if Hermanson had tweaked his back late in the season, as late as September 30 he still pitched 2 innings in a 3-2 win over Cleveland and apparently was healthy enough to stick on the playoff roster. Ozzie didn't use him in October, except to face 2 batters in the 8th inning of Game 3 of the Series.

Ozzie had El Duque, veteran of 13 postseason series and 4 World Series with the Yankees. A proven October performer with a 9-3 record and 2.65 ERA in the postseason. The man who shut down Boston for 3 innings in the 5-3, Game 3 ALDS win a couple weeks back, a game he practically saved in the 6th inning when he inherited loaded bases, no outs, a 4-3 score, Fenway in a frenzy, and he smothered the rally without allowing a run. Even with all that on his resume, he pitched in this World Series for just one inning, the 9th inning with the score knotted in Game 3.

Ozzie didn't fall back on those two or any other veterans in his bullpen when he needed someone to take it on home. Jenks blew a Save opportunity in Game 2 of the Series, allowing a couple runs when Jeff Bagwell singled to Center to lead off, Chris Burke walked, and both runners came home with a 2-out single laced to Leftfield by Jose Vizcaino, although Burke should have been out if not for a poor throw to the plate by Scott Podsednik. Still, Ozzie relied on Jenks to pitch 2 innings of Game 3, and he sent him out again in the 9th to wrap up a 1-0 lead in Game 4--with 88 years of frustrated history weighing on the rook's broad shoulders. There was no hand-wringing talk of how "this is not the place to test out a rookie pitcher." Because the manager trusted the kid's talent to shine through.

Ron Gardenhire doesn't have the sack to manage like that. Given the chance to show that kind of confidence in Jesse Crain last October, when he just needed 3 outs to take home a 2-0 series lead over the Yankees, Gardy held back the rookie with the 2.00 ERA and opted to send out his gassed closer for a third inning of work--and we know how that turned out. Crain only made a brief appearance in that series, facing two batters in the 6th inning of Game 3 after the Yankees had already rallied to a 5-1 lead.

In the ALDS the year before, Lew Ford saw one plate appearance--as a pinch-hitter against Mariano Rivera in Game 3--although the rookie had hit .329/.402/.575 down the stretch. For the 2002 playoffs, Gardy turned Johan Santana into a middle reliever and Kyle Lohse into
persona non grata, although both had been aces in the rotation after the break. He also yanked the rookie Michael Cuddyer in the ALCS, after he'd won the Rightfield job with a hot bat down the stretch and ripped Oakland pitching in the prior playoff round, because he didn't like some routes Cuddyer ran under flyballs in Game 2 against the Angels. This is how Ron Gardenhire handles hot youngsters when his team gets to the postseason. They're either on the short leash, or they hardly get a chance to contribute at all.

The Minnesota Twins, because of their own payroll restrictions, must rely on hot rookies and other young talent to gain a competitive edge against richer clubs, but they're managed on the field by a man who doesn't trust youngsters who come to him without a pedigree. When his team makes it to the Oktoberfest tourney, the Twins manager talks about the importance of experience, an area where his team will always be outgunned at the end of the year, and he kicks his kids to the end of the bench like they're only there to audit the course.

Ozzie Guillen gets it. Gardy is more concerned with what he doesn't have, rather than making the most of what he does. He's an impediment to the club in that way, and that's the biggest reason why he's the wrong man for his job. If you don't see it now, it should be obvious to nearly everyone within a year or two. Until Terry Ryan sees it, I'll still support the team and hope for the best, but I don't expect the Minnesota Twins will ever win another World Series as long as Ron Gardenhire is managing the team.

53 Comments:

At 10/28/2005 8:55 AM, Blogger Moss said...

Sunday's still a couple days off, my good man FW. But I'll hear your preachin'.

Don't forget that 'tool pulled Dustan Mohr in the '02 playoffs in favor of Mr. Cuddyer, who was basically a September callup. And let's not overlook 'tool's regular-season leash-jerkings too -- Bartlett being the most notable, but Ryan and Restovich may be casualties as well (although Terry Ryan may have contributed in those cases).

Moss agrees that the Twins won't be winning a WS, or likely any other playoff series, with 'tool. Moss was ready to dump 'tool after '02, because it was evident that they were winning in spite of their manager, not because of him.

 
At 10/28/2005 2:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've liked Ozzie since the Hunter collision last year. He understands the game, and more importantly understands his players. He had my respect at hello.

 
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