Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Gardy's Deadly Sin: Loyalty

For years now, the Twins' bullpen has been the absolute bedrock of the pitching staff and, quite frankly, the envy of many other teams in baseball -- especially small market teams who overpay on the open market for bullpen help while the Twins continue to raise their own and supplement with the odd free agent gem unearthed by Terry Ryan.

So why then, after pitching seven glorious innings, does the team fail to warm up a couple of relievers (presumably one from each side) the absolute second that Jason Kubel's ball hits the turf in right field, scoring Michael Cuddyer and the go-ahead run. You can talk 'til you're blue in the face about how Reyes, Guerrier, and Rincon all pitched the night before -- that doesn't stop the fact that both Pat Neshek and Joe Nathan, the two best relievers on the team in 2007, did NOT and should be all that was needed for the eighth and ninth innings, respectively.

Instead, the Twins go blindly forth into the eighth, without even the possibility of a change, with a starting pitcher who's pitching his first quality start in ten starts, is in the 90's on pitch count, and, despite striking out nine in the game, had not fooled any of the previous eight hitters -- relying on defense and some poor situational hitting by the Jays to get through the seventh unscathed.

Many teams in baseball go by the theory of not letting a young pitcher lose a ballgame once you've put him in a position to win. For Ron Gardenhire, and I believe this is part of his being such a "player's manager," it's about letting a young man go out there and finish what he started. It is my firm belief that if Gardy managed in a larger media market, where the pressure to sell papers turns beatwriters into something you hide the kids from, he wouldn't hear the end of his failure to utilize one of the Twins' greatest assets when the time is absolutely ripe. I know the Twins have fifteen games in fourteen days, but how likely is it that the game tomorrow will be tied or within a run in the eighth inning -- just look at how many games Nathan has pitched this season and you'll understand that you need to use your strength when you need it and not save it for the rainy day that might never come.

As it is, the Jays scored a run and tied the game because Baker was left out there and the Twins' ended up having to pitch in extra innings -- thereby putting more stress on the bullpen. Funny how that works.


JimCrikket said...

I think you make a fair point and I was uneasy with the way the 7th inning went, as well. I personally would have gone to Neshek to start the 8th and certainly would have had him ready when that leadoff guy in the 8th gets on base.

That said, we're kind of Monday morning quarterbacking. If he pulls Baker and the bullpen promptly give up that 1-0 lead in the 8th, when Baker hadn't even broken the 90 pitch mark, there would have been no shortage of criticism for pulling a guy too soon just because he had one inning without a K and it was the "formula" that you're tied to.

Anonymous said...

Jim- we are monday morning quarterbacking a bit, although I will tell you that I began writing this piece as soon as Baker got pulled (second and third with one out) and published it as the ninth inning ended, before I knew the result. It made me that damned mad! Cory

Anonymous said...

>>It is my firm belief that if Gardy managed in a larger media market, where the pressure to sell papers turns beatwriters into something you hide the kids from,

"It sells papers," has been uttered for probably a couple hundred years. The only problem is, pretty much nothing sells papers today, and most certainly nothing that appears buried in a sports section.

I'll argue it's been at least 20 years since "X" sold newspapers. Maybe 40.

It's time to hang up that cliche.