Thursday, October 06, 2005

Time to take out the trash so I took a trip to the dumpster but became confused over what to shove in the garbage and what to recycle. It was no mystery where to put the beer cans or how they became empty, but the stacks of old Pioneer Press/Star Tribunes seemed to qualify as both a renewable resource and rubbish. As I stood in the vacant alley seeking answers I stared blankly at a sports section from the two-bit St. Paul daily dated September 22nd. The Twins were on the eve of a 4 game series at Chicago with a chance to play spoiler and ruin the White Sox season (what better consolation prize is there ?) but according to the article manager Ron Gardenhire had already given up. His quote that day was "you've seen this isn't going to work, we have to have hitters, and hitting is not going to come from in here, we have to have new people come in." I need help is basically what he said and who could disagree with that. The Twins, working with a small market budget, have handed Gardenhire the best young pitching staff in baseball and a farm system that is the envy of every other franchise but our manager is looking for help. That would seem to be the job of the GM but I guess Gardy is seeking a new job title because the one that was initially given to him -"players manager"- no longer exists. That was the bill of goods we were sold when he took over, oh sure maybe he didn't have a head for strategy but he sure knew how to get along with the new breed of young players who felt uncomfortable around old school managers like Tom Kelly as though having the ability to make athletes "comfortable" somehow bodes well for team success. Tom Kelly, by the way, made a run at the title in 2001 by stressing defense, smart base running, and the minimization of mental errors without looking around for outside help because he knew how to play the hand that he was dealt. Well how did our "players manager" fare this year? Brad Radke, who doesn't even open his mouth to breathe, went to the manager and told him that on the days he pitches he wants a different DH in the lineup. Carlos Silva publicly called out the Twins offense. Justin Morneau has the look of a man who barely tolerates Gardenhire's very existence (particularly back in late July when we were still in the heat of the wild card race but our manager was batting Terry Tiffee cleanup while flirting with the idea of sending Morneau to AAA).
Kyle Lohse took a bat to the door of Gardenhire's office and tried to inflict so much damage he nearly broke his pitching hand. And what about JC Romero you ask ? Well JC shows more respect to his rented mule than his manager. Can anyone possibly believe these mutinous conditions would have existed on Tom Kelly's watch ? Should not every local rag that printed the words "players manager" be forced to issue a retraction ? F the retraction, I want a refund after last Thursday's game (Sept 29). I drove through 494 and 35W death defying traffic consisting of random minivans making sporadic unannounced lane changes so that I could get to the game to say goodbye to Joe Mays. I parked in a 1/8th full $5 lot lacking street light and security but making up for it with an abundance of broken glass and guys pissing on other peoples cars so that I could say goodbye to Joe Mays. Why ? Because Joe is a good man and as long as Gardenhire is the manager Joe Mays will be the answer to the trivia question "who was the starting pitcher the last time the Twins won an ALCS game ?" 2002 ALCS game 1 - Joe beat the Angels 2 -1 but even then my enthusiasm was tempered by the knowledge that Gardenhire had Rick Reed scheduled to pitch 2 of the next 5 games (Santana and Lohse had been sent to the bullpen for the entire post-season). The series never made it past game 5 so Joe's game 1 victory remains the high water mark for the 21st century Twins. So that is why I came to pay my respects to Joe because he will not be here in 2006. Joe was shaky early, the crowd got ugly, and the 9,000 in attendance were calling for his head. I wasn't happy about how the Joe Mays going away party was progressing but at least if he was taken off the mound I had good enough seats that I could cheer him in the midst of the boos and cat calls. Then the tide turned, Joe set down 11 in a row and a 5 - 0 deficit after 2 innings became a 6- 5 lead after 5 innings. I didn't see Joe again that night and perhaps will never see him again, he was removed from the game between innings. Even if Gardenhire had a logical reason for taking Joe out (his pitch count was 90), couldn't he at least have sent Joe out there to take his warm up tosses at the top of the 6th and then walk out and ask for the baseball ? The fans who were booing him would have no doubt given him a standing ovation based on the turn of events but Gardenhire doesn't think about things like that he is usually preoccupied with reaching into his tiny bag of tricks and on this night he pulled out AAA closer Travis Bowyer to start inning number 6. Bowyer spent the entire year pitching exclusively in the ninth inning but a 9 is just an upside down 6 to Gardenhire and his decision netted the KC Royals 5 runs on 5 hits (three of which were HR's) before Bowyer got three outs. The rookie pitcher was just another victim of our manager's penchant for inserting players into unfamiliar situations while the prevailing sense of doom I get whenever I am in the vicinity of Gardenhire becomes more familiar. KC 10 Twins over...season over....I walked out of the dome for the last time in 2005 and headed for the parking lot. A late September chill was in the air yet there was still a faint hint of summer stench coming off the Mississippi river which helped to cover the smell of the urine left in puddles by the tailgaters who had parked next to my car. You know what ? I couldn't blame those responsible because no major league venue has fewer outdoor porta-johns or indoor stalls than the Metrodome. It was either the parking lot or wait until they got inside the dome where you can stand 10 deep in a line for 10 minutes just to get the opportunity to relieve yourself in a trough. Clearly those perpetrators who pissed all over my car made better game time decisions than Ron Gardenhire.