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Posts Tagged ‘Paul Molitor’

Note to Triple In the Gap readers: I have joined the Peace Corps and have been living in Thailand since January and will be here until around opening day, 2013.

“People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball.  I’ll tell you what I do.  I stare out the window and wait for spring.” – Rogers Hornsby

Living without baseball hasn’t been as difficult as I thought.  The number one question I was asked from friends and family before I left was, “What are you going to do without baseball?”  This made me wonder if people thought I was so shallow that all I thought about was baseball.  No, I also enjoy good literature and films like Shoeless Joe and The Natural.

Like all the other luxuries I enjoyed in the states (peanut butter, toilet paper, comfortable weather, libraries with English books) I don’t miss what I don’t have.  If I was in the states and was barred from going to baseball games, then I’d miss it.  But there’s no one here asking me if I saw the play that Denard Span made last night or what a great time they had at the Saints game, so I’m apathetic.

Honestly, I am!

“If a woman has to choose between catching a fly ball and saving an infant’s life, she will choose to save the infant’s life without even considering if there are men on base.” – Dave Barry

However, I am getting small fixes now and then through the games I have saved on my computer and the computer game Baseball Mogul (I’m currently playing a full season as the Billy Martin-led Twins of 1969.)  As for reading the news on the internet, I’m pretty satisfied simply checking the Twins box score and then the standings to see what team’s been hot lately (as of today, the Twins!).

Now that the season’s in full swing, I keep getting the comment, “It’s a good thing you’re not here with how bad the Twins are.”  I strongly disagree.  No, I don’t want to go back just to see a Twins game, but I have honestly missed bad Twins teams over the last decade.  We Twins fans have been spoiled.  We are not Yankees fans – we do not need to go to the World Series to be satisfied with our team.  We take what we get and I think the last decade has spoiled us  to the point where they’re a little more like Yankees fans, but still light years away from their egotism.

“This is a game to be savored, not gulped.  There’s time to discuss everything between pitches or between innings.” – Bill Veeck

Last season was frustrating for me.  For my entire life I could always count on going to the Metrodome by myself or a friend on game day and finding a seat to watch the greatest major league baseball organization in the history of Planet Earth.  Last year, the fair-weather fans flocked to the brand new Target Field like it was a 1994 Garth Brooks concert.  Twice I showed up by myself hoping to squeeze in somewhere – no go.  Meanwhile, there were 40,000 people inside about to see the game and 5,000 of them would leave early because their short-attention spanned kids consumed too much cotton candy and Mountain Dew and wouldn’t stop crying for two innings while witnessing one pitch through six innings … the first one.

“I believe in the Church of Baseball.  I tried all the major religions and most of the minor ones.  I’ve worshipped Buddha, Allah, Brahma, Vishnu, Siva, trees, mushrooms and Isadora Duncan.  I know things.  For instance, there are 108 beads in a Catholic rosary and there are 108 stitches in a baseball.  When I learned that, I gave Jesus a chance.” – from Bull Durham

I’ve watched some of the best baseball of my life when the Twins were “bad” (https://tripleinthegap.wordpress.com/2010/06/06/best-of-the-best-greatest-games-attended-6-10/).This year, 2011, the novelty of Target Field has worn off and the Twins are horrible with their number one draw, Joe Mauer, on the bench with owwy legs.  I think I’d be able to get a seat on game day now.  I don’t care if the team’s bad.  One of my favorite Twins teams was from 1996 with Paul Molitor and Chuck Knoblauch leading off the lineup with matching .341 batting averages (Molitor’s was slightly higher) and a pitching staff that couldn’t strike out Babe Ruth (present day).

If there’s something I miss most about baseball at this point, it’s that everyone at the games speak English.  I miss it, but in the same way I miss my friends, family and book stores – it’s what I signed up for and I was prepared for that sacrifice.

As for the 2011 Twins, I don’t care how bad the team is, I just want to be able to see them without having to buy a ticket four months in advance.

“The other sports are just sports.  Baseball is a love.”  – Bryant Gumbel

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I love baseball and I know a lot about it.  I know a lot of facts.  I know Kirby Puckett batted .356 in 1988.  I know Chuck Knoblauch and Paul Molitor batted .341 for the 1996 Twins.  I know Cristian Guzman led the American League in triples in 2000 and 2001.  I know these things off the top of my head. 

What I don’t know is if the Twins would do better with J.J. Hardy in the No. 2 spot or the No. 9 spot.  I don’t know the best way to motivate an English-as-a-second-language player like Luis Rivas.  I don’t know when to pull Francisco Liriano in terms of his arm’s health and how he’s pitching. 

No one knows these things.  They’re matters of opinion.  Some people have better opinions than others, but this is also a matter of opinion.  I am pretty sure I – a baseball fan who has never worked in the game aside from playing it as a kid – don’t have the best opinion on how to manage a game.  I am also sure Twins manager Ron Gardenhire knows a lot more than I do and is doing a fantastic job. 

I didn’t think this opinion needed to be said, until I read Joe Posnanski’s latest column: http://joeposnanski.si.com/2010/09/17/my-annual-gardy-rant/ . 

If you don’t feel like reading the entire thing, here’s the main point: 

In 2008, I wrote a series of columns stating what I believe — that Ron Gardenhire is the best manager in baseball. This led more than a few people to believe that I was completely off my rocker and many of those people were Minnesota Twins fans who watched the man manage every single day and, as such, could recite hundreds and hundreds of reasons why Gardenhire was, in fact, a dreadful manager.

That’s a wide gap — best in the game (me) to dreadful (most of the people writing in). The 2008 Twins, despite hitting the fewest home runs in the league (and having the 10th best slugging percentage) and having a mediocre pitching staff somehow won 88 games and forced a one-game playoff with Chicago, which they lost 1-0. I thought it was another pretty impressive managerial run for a guy who had led his Twins to the playoffs in four of his first six years as manager. Others thought it was another lousy managing job.

Who are these Minnesota Twins fans?  What games are they watching?  More importantly, what standings are they looking at?  I think Gardenhire has done a fantastic job since taking over for the 2002 season.  He’s won every year with the exception of 2007.  But my opinion is not the main point here.  My question is how do these critical fans make themselves experts on the subject?  Managing is so much more than filling in the lineup card and calling for hit-and-runs.  A manager has to keep everyone motivated and happy, deal with the media, communicate with upper management, work with the fans, scout the opposition and his own team and farm clubs and then he has to manage big league baseball games.

Gardenhire has taken a small-market team and made it into a perennial playoff team.  The Twins have been in the playoffs six (I’ll count this year) of the last nine years, or seven if you count the one-game playoff against the White Sox in 2008.  With the exception of the last few years, the Twins have played a totally different kind of baseball than the rest of the American League.  While the other teams were winning with three-run home runs, the Twins were playing small-ball like it was 1982.  Take a look at the lineups of the 2002-2005 Twins: there’s really nothing to be scared of if you’re an opposing pitcher.  

If you’re a Gardenhire hater and this doesn’t convince you, that’s fine.  I’m just a non-professional baseball writer who has never worked in the game.  I don’t have much credibility … but neither do you.

Ron Gardenhire - a much respected man among peers and my family.

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