Not Bad, Kiddo. For Pitching with a Knife in Your Back.
They really have it in for Scott Baker.
Listening to Dick & Bert in the 1st inning tonight, you would think that this season so far has been nothing but a disaster for Scott Baker. He has a problem with leaving pitches "up in the zone" like no other pitcher you've seen, and every inning in which he takes the mound feels like an interminable wait in the dentist's chair.
Oh, didn't you know? Baker has an awful tendency to work at a snail's pace, or so they say. Dick even let slip (ooops!) a conversation he had with Gardy today around the batting cages, where the Twins manager confided that during Baker starts it feels like the team always spends 5 minutes in the dugout and 15 minutes on the field. Don't tell anyone else. I'm sure that was supposed to be a secret.
Never mind that this observation may be a more damning indictment of the Twins offense than of Scott Baker. No, the point is, our boy seems to share Jason Bartlett's chronic affliction of "a lack of urgency." (In case you haven't heard that bit of inside gossip, that's Terry Ryan's latest excuse for keeping Bartlett on the farm.) Young Baker is not aggressive. He dawdles. So when the rest of the team falls asleep and fails to score runs or catch the ball in the field, that's really Scott Baker's fault, too.
Is this any way to talk about one of your best prospects on the team, just because he's been going through some growing pains lately?
Of course, you know why it's being done. The team mouthpieces have been talking like Carlos Silva's return to the rotation was practically a done deal almost since the day he lost his spot. All he had to do was find that Magic Sinker again, and room would be cleared for him. After 5 appearances out of the bullpen, it's obvious from listening to Dick & Bert that Gardy has seen enough to know that Silva is ready for reinstatement. He just needs a kid to slip up, and clearly Scott Baker is the one presently marked to take the fall.
If I may pretend to be Jim Souhan for a moment: this organization jerks around more kids than The Zipper at the State Fair. (Hey-oooooooh!) What's one more on the old Tilt-a-Whirl, eh?
Seriously, it's not right. And it's particularly sad to hear Bert Blyleven, who should know better, reduced to characterizing any pitch above the belt that gets hit to a hole in the defense as another Scott Baker mistake. In the 1st inning tonight, Baker threw a pitch up & in to Orlando Cabrera, which Bert would normally praise as just the sort of thing a pitcher needs to do in order to keep the batters off-balance. In this case, however, Cabrera fought off the pitch for a bloop-double up the line, so it became an object lesson in what happens when Scott Baker leaves his pitches up. Shortly afterwards, I think Dick brought up his inside dope on the kid's slow pacing.
It's not right, and you can see it's getting back to Baker, too. When he came off the field after that inning, he looked like he had 50 pounds strapped to his back. He knows.
One might wonder how the manager is helping Baker by encouraging all this negative talk which could only be dispelled by near perfection for a string of outings in the next month, but then is helping Baker really the point here?
I see now that Baker has been chased from the game after giving up 4 runs in the 5th inning, and that's likely the justification Gardy will need to announce that Silva will replace Baker in the rotation. If he doesn't tell the media tonight, I expect him to announce the change within a couple days. Really, though, it hardly mattered whether Baker gave up that homer to Juan Rivera tonight or stumbled in his next turn, or maybe the turn after that. You could tell by listening to Dick & Bert in the 1st inning, the kid was a marked man even before the game began.