When I first started reading Twins blogs about 4 years ago, the allure of being able to write about baseball without having deadlines or having to watch editors turn my work into a horror show reignited a dream I had of being a sportswriter. As long as I could live without the glory and money (or lack thereof?), I could do what I had wanted to do since being in middle school.
Then I see people in the media seem to take advantage of their job. Some just report on the games and what happens, but then there are others that are charged with putting in a little more substance. Unfortunately though, they sometimes take the high road, acting like Class A jerks over what they perceive to be class Single-A behavior. Skip Bayless on ESPN is the first example who jumps out to me, as his job could be simplified to just “professional troll.”
There’s been a few instances in the past couple days that have bothered me. Perhaps more than they should, but they’ve been over issues I consider to be minor.
1. Two Out Bunting
During last Sunday’s game against the Twins, the Angels’ Erick Aybar reached base via a bunt single with 2 outs in the 5th inning. Bert Blyleven jumped into a rant about how it was stupid that Aybar bunted with two outs, and that he should swing the bat and try for an extra base hit to start a two out rally. Never mind that he has a career .373 SLG, .100 ISO, and 6.4 % of his career at-bats have resulted in an extra base hit. What if he had gotten a single while swinging the bat, or had drawn a walk? Surely Bert would treat those with as much disdain. To finish off his rant, after the next batter (Howie Kendrick) ended the inning by grounding out, Bert said about Aybar, “Well, at least his batting average went up!”
Another instance happened in Friday night’s game against Detroit. Tsuyoshi Nishioka reached on a beautiful bunt single with two outs, and instantly Dick Bremer asked Bert, “I suppose you don’t like that bunt, either?” Bert confirmed this and added that he’d like to see Nishioka try to get into scoring position. Like with the Aybar bunt nearly a week prior, it sounded like Bert was alluding that he wanted Nishioka to swing away and attempt to get an extra base hit. Well, there’s two problems.
1. Nishioka is hitting .226 on the season after Friday’s game, and .203 righthanded. Swinging away seems like a bad idea when you’re hitting that poorly.
2. Not only is Nishioka’s ISO at a microscopic .023, he’s also had 5 extra base hits all season, and they’re all doubles.
Nishioka was promoted as a speed threat when he was brought over from Japan, but he has yet to show that off this year, so a stolen base was certainly out of the question. So Bert is getting mad over a player not attempting to get into scoring position when said player’s top 2 methods of getting to 2nd base are virtually impossible. Nishioka executed a drag bunt, succeeded, and is being chastised for it. To make things even more maddening, Ben Revere followed with a hit-by-pitch, and boom, there’s the 2-out rally Bert had been longing for the whole time. If it wasn’t for Trevor Plouffe popping out to end the inning, the Twins could have added a run, and it all would have started from the very bunt for a hit that Bert was complaining about the first time.
Bert, a player should try to get on base any way he can. Us sabermetric folk may praise the walk (and there is a reason we do it), but getting on base period should be most important. Who cares if it’s a bunt single?
2. Lack of Hustle
When there’s a lack of hustle from most players, it’s completely understandable to complain about it. When it comes from a guy that is simply bad in the field to begin with, it’s possible the guy is already giving near-100% effort and just doesn’t look like it. And then when it’s Adam Dunn, you just have to forgive him because he simply does not belong on the field unless he’s wielding a baseball bat.
During the game earlier this week,* Dunn was chasing a foul ball that ended up landing on the top of an advertising board about 7 feet away from where he was, and he sure looked ugly as he loafed after the ball. Granted, he was tracking the ball like he didn’t know the foul territory around 1st base at Target Field very well, and I don’t blame him for that.
However, Dick ‘n’ Bert certainly took the opportunity to chastise Dunn for his lack of effort. I don’t really have much more to rant back about other than what I’ve said above, and that Dunn weighs somewhere around 280 lbs. Expecting someone with that much heft to move anywhere at any speed faster than “glacially” is by far the wrong expectation to carry.
* I apologize, I’ve been working on this post over several days when I have free time and originally I had typed “During tonight’s Twins game…” Well, when I came back to finish this post, I realized I forgot which day “tonight” had been. This is why I went with the vague description of which game this happened. One thing’s for sure, it definitely wasn’t during either Labor Day game.
3. I Pitch When I Want To Pitch
Finally, I take my mind off of Bert Blyleven and direct my displeasure at Jim Souhan. He, as many media members have done this year, decided to rip Kevin Slowey yet again for not being as much of a team player as he should be, and just like before, it’s over some issues that I consider to be rather asinine.
During Sunday’s game (the same one the Aybar bunt occurred), Slowey pitched 7 innings with only 95 pitches. However, he came out of the game prior to the 8th inning due to a “sore hamstring” with the Twins losing 2-1. Alex Burnett and Jim Hoey came in and surrendered 2 more runs, and the Twins lost 4-1. Souhan determined that Slowey was being selfish for removing himself from the game, and with a depleted bullpen, he should have pitched the 8th inning.
I’ve defended Slowey for a while now, and I’m going to do it again. Yes, even on the heels of his 4 IP, 6 run performance last night against the Tigers. If you remember, Slowey appeared to hurt his back or something in Sunday’s game during the 4th inning. Despite having Gardy and the trainers come out, Slowey stayed in the game and finished another 3 innings. That right there was a key detail that Souhan conveniently ignored. Souhan also cited Slowey’s “bad reputation,” which as I mentioned in my article that I linked at the beginning of this paragraph, has oddly never been mentioned until this season.
Who knows if Slowey asked to be taken out of the game? Coaches tend to take players out if they think there’s a risk for making the injury worse. I’m again going to give Slowey the benefit of the doubt and say that perhaps it was Gardy or Rick Anderson that decided he should be taken out of the game. Plus, he was at 95 pitches. Sure, he could have started the 8th, but he was close to that 100 pitch threshold anyway.
Finally, I think this could have been a non-issue if Burnett and/or Hoey had pitched well, or the Twins had gone to Joe Nathan instead. Nathan had not pitched for 3 days, but because of the convoluted idea that closers can only be used in save situations unless they need work, along with Gardy’s “we can’t do this just in case Issue X comes up” mantra (despite the fact Issue X almost always never happens), he stayed in the bullpen while two of the worst relievers in the ‘pen came into the game instead.
I’m sick of seeing Kevin Slowey be a scapegoat for this poor season. Although he hasn’t pitched well this season, I get the feeling that he’s never fully fit into the “Twins Way.” But with the lack of starting pitching right now and possibly going into 2012, he may find himself stuck in Minnesota, with the same media members complaining about his attitude and work ethic.
Hey media members, how about we start giving Michael Cuddyer some shit for missing games now?