By The Common Man
The Common Man tries not to write and complain too frequently about the Minnesota Twins in this space. After all, this is a general baseball site, and TCM’s not one of the more pessimistic Twins fans out there. That said, last night’s ninth inning demonstrated in sharp detail how a flawed roster and manager can conspire to snuff out a team’s chance to win a ballgame.
Because the Twins are carrying 12 pitchers, they only have four bench players. The best hitter, Thome, had just been burned, and only Jason Repko, Matt Tolbert, and JJ Hardy are left. Hardy is generally the best hitter of the bunch, but he’s glued to the bench presumably because his wrist is hurting (this, however, should not have precluded him from running the bases, but TCM digresses). So Ron Gardenhire is left with two players to fill two rolls. One must hit and one must run.
4) Gardenhire’s blind belief in the platoon advantage. Hey, TCM understand the name of this blog might lead you to believe otherwise, but the platoon advantage can be blown way out of proportion. Lefties are not invariably more likely to get hits off of righties and vice versa. Rather than allowing knowledge to inform his decisions, Gardenhire pushes pre-determined buttons. It’s a trick he uses to make his job easier, so that he (and there are many other managers just like him) won’t actually have to think too hard during the game. There’s a button for Thome (that’s always the first button), then there’s a “match-up” button. And that’s really as far as the thinking goes. Last night, Gardenhire had an opportunity to give his team a marginally larger chance to win by sending Repko to bat, and failed.
In closing, The Common Man doesn’t think that Ron Gardenhire is a terrible manager. He’s good at keeping the clubhouse happy and minimizing conflict. He doesn’t criticize players in the media, and is very defensive of his guys. He’s moved away from the bunt this year, as he finally has a decent #2 hitter. And he seems to have no problems adjusting his approach to work with youngsters and veterans, which the Twins have an interesting mix of. There’s a lot of value in a manager like that, and in the long run having a manager who keeps good players happy (and not driving them out of town) is worth more wins than he’s likely to cost them with his tactical weakness. But God is that tactical weakness extremely frustrating sometimes.