Tuesday, May 30, 2006

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.


At 5/31/2006 7:11 AM, Anonymous bjhess said...

I wish you'd blog more. This is excellent. Nice job!

At 5/31/2006 8:07 AM, Blogger Moss said...

Baker just wasn't battling his tail off, fw. We can't tolerate such things around here.

Moss is getting the same feeling with Baker as with Lohse. Moss is no Lohse apologist, but does sense that things could have been different if he wasn't under the 'tool's watch. And now Baker was expected to go out there and shut out the Angels after being skipped in the rotation. And as you have documented, the team has leaked all kinds of fodder and excuses for pulling Baker.

It sucks. Baker's body language has become like Lohse's and he used to have an air of confidence out there.

Moss remembers making a statement last year that Moss would adopt a new team if things don't improve around here. Moss proposed the Tigers. (FW questioned why Moss picked the Tigers -- Look at them now!) Moss would have loved for the Twins to fire the 'tool and hire Leyland. Alas, no.

Does fw know the blogger behind firerongardenhire? There is no identifier on that page. Moss would love to see more posts there. If you do, please pass the word.

At 5/31/2006 8:23 AM, Blogger Moss said...

Oh, and as soon as Baker came out of the game, Blyleven started fueling the fire. "Not a good outing at all for Scott Baker" or something to that effect. Moss wishes they'd have more stones. Awhile back, when the Twinks were playing like complete crap in Detroit, Gladden and Gordo at least had the guts to call the squad on it and alluded to the poor leadership. But those TV guys are something else.

At 5/31/2006 10:53 AM, Blogger Third Base Line said...


Speaking of Bert (who should know better) blindly spouting the party line, are you as tired as I am of hearing him rant and rave ad nauseum over Castro's defense every time he so much as sticks a toe into the camera's view?



At 5/31/2006 5:44 PM, Anonymous al said...

The total lack of effort by any member of our infield on defense more than offsets their huge offensive contributions. The offensive part of that comment was somewhat hyperbolic: what I really mean is our infield sucks. Luckily, there is a really good shortstop playing out his career at Rochester.

At 5/31/2006 6:32 PM, Anonymous Nick said...

I'm not sure I entirely agree. I'd certainly expect any young pitcher to struggle at times, and I wasn't able to watch last nights game. That said, what I've seen of Baker for most of the season is that he really does pitch up too much. Of course, sometimes you have to pitch up, but my impression of him is that he's having trouble getting the ball down while keeping it in or near the strike zone.

I think Baker will be a fine pitcher for us, but perhaps he really does need some time in AAA to get his location working well. I'm not sure why he necessarily had to have all this pressure put on this one start, but I don't know if the conspiracy or stupidity is as deep as you might think.

At 6/01/2006 5:12 AM, Blogger frightwig said...

Nick, when a young player just isn't enjoying any success for a significant length of time, yes, it may be necessary to send the kid back to AAA to work on some things and find himself again. I don't believe Scott Baker is facing that kind of situation at this point. I see a young pitcher who had a few rough outings, which is to be expected, and management has responded by setting out to undercut him because Gardy is overly eager to get Silva in the rotation again.

It isn't even about whether Baker goes back to Rochester so much as the way Gardy and his agents are handling the kid now, while he's still with the team and in the rotation. They setting Baker up to fail.

I suspect that Gardy is even anxious to get one of his rookies out of the rotation, for any reason he can find. We know that Terry Ryan did not trade Lohse last winter because he was afraid to go into the season with two rookies (Baker and Liriano) in the rotation together; now the Twins rotation has 3 rookies in it. Gardy & Co. have taken great pains to make clear to everyone that Silva's demotion to the pen was not to be seen as permanent. Now Gardy seems awfully eager to give Silva another shot, after making just 5 apps out of the bullpen. We know Gardy is uncomfortable with rookies who are not instant smash-success stories, too.

Add it up, and it looks like Gardy has a very strong motivation to nitpick Baker and overreact to whatever faults he may find.

At 6/01/2006 5:22 AM, Blogger frightwig said...

Moss, yeah, I also noticed Bert shoveling dirt on Baker as he was being pulled, or soon after. We can't forgive two walks in 4.2 IP (never mind if the same batter had both of them, and fouled off two 2-2 pitches before drawing the 2nd walk), not when the walks are drawn by the leadoff man and he happens to come around to score both times.

I don't know the author of FIRERONGARDENHIRE, but I'd love to see more posts there, too.

I admit you were onto something with the Tigers, something I didn't see coming. But I'm becoming a believer. Bonderman, Granderson, Rodney, and Zumaya all are doing nice work for my fantasy team.

At 6/01/2006 5:26 AM, Blogger frightwig said...

TBL: yeah. I used to enjoy Dick & Bert, but lately I often find myself turning down the sound on them because they're just getting me angry.

I thought their commentary in the 2nd inning last night, however, hit the top of the Unintentional Comedy Scale.

At 6/01/2006 1:58 PM, Blogger JustBeth said...

Thanks for the insightful commentary, Fright.

I actually would've been okay with Baker's demotion if they were more positive about it ("We want him to get more work in down there, boost the confidence a little"), rather than damning him ("He's not doing what we want; get him out of here!").

The one thing I appreciate about John Gordon and Dan Gladden (because I don't have television) is their positive attitude. They seemed to be supporting Baker; I think they mentioned that he could get sent down, but they were more looking at the positive things from him.

I have no problem with Silva being back in the rotation if performs like last year or the year before. I only have mild issues with Baker being sent down. I have major issues with Baker being sent down in a damning statement.

At 6/02/2006 1:27 AM, Anonymous Drake33 said...

What I don't get is how I can be so damn happy with the way they are limiting Liriano's exposure, and so upset at the way they are jerking around everyone else.


At 6/03/2006 2:01 AM, Blogger Leslie Monteiro said...

I gotta admit that I have found Dick and Bert to be really annoying this season with their excuses on the team.

I sense Dick and Bert called out Scott just out of frustration more than anything.

I have to say sending Scott to the minors was crazy and crazier was inserting Silva in the pen. That's even stupid considering I don't think he is ready yet. Baker should be in the pen at best.


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