"Let us go forth a while, and get better air in our lungs. Let us leave our closed rooms...
The game of ball is glorious."

--Walt Whitman

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Liabilities

I like Jason Bartlett. I really like Jason Bartlett. I've made no secret of that. So if you want to take the following with a grain of salt, you go right ahead.

I do NOT understand this:

Minnesota Twins News:
Two hits in Saturday's 5-0 loss earned Juan Castro another start at shortstop Sunday vs. Texas over scuffling rookie Jason Bartlett.
Another key hit in the sixth inning of Sunday's 5-2 win could keep him there again for the next game Tuesday. Castro's two-out single kept a rally going and led to Shannon Stewart's game-winning three-run home run.
'I'll do whatever I feel is right Tuesday,' Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. 'I'm going to put winning teams out there. We're not worried about feelings too much out here. We're trying to develop, but we put a winning team out there.'

So Bartlett has an admittedly crappy late April/early May, and he's on the bench. I'd find that a lot easier to swallow if we hadn't put up with Rivas's lousy bat and limited range for four years before putting Punto in his place. Or if we hadn't put up with 2+ seasons of no-bat/low-effort from Guzman after the infamous shoulder injury.

But the fact of the matter is that Bartlett is adjusting to major-league pitching, and even in the midst of that process he's not much worse than Guzman was, and is actually doing much better for the Twins than Guzman is for the Nationals. They each have 4 errors, and Guzman is batting .219/.257/.539 to Bartlett's .242/.310/.684. Even allowing for the adjustment to NL pitching, Guzzy's having a really sucky start to the year. And here we are, replacing Bartlett with Castro, hitting .244/.295/.613, which is an offensive downgrade. Huh?

Speaking of errors and batting...

Shortstop is traditionally the most error-prone position. You expect your shortstop to end (and yes, to start) the season with more errors than anybody else. And yet our third baseman, who has 3 "extra" errors at 7, is still being trotted out there day after day. It's not as though his bat is making up for it, either--he's hitting .257/.315/.660, no better than Bartlett in any way that matters. If we're punishing people for starting slow at the plate and mishandling plays in the field, why the hell is Cuddyer still out there while Bartlett rides the pine?

I mean, really. Let's at least have some consistency here. If Punto is our best second baseman and Castro is our best shortstop, then Tiffee has to be our best third baseman. Heck, Tiffee can actually hit, which isn't something Punto, Castro, Bartlett or Cuddyer have been accused of lately.

I just can't wrap my brain around why on earth we'd bench a promising shortstop for having a few bad weeks when we routinely and mutely accept season after season of crappy output from others. We keep hearing about how we're going to "give him some chances" and "stick by our choice", and still these guys do nothing. But then a talented player earns a spot on the roster, and we can't be bothered to see him through his first slump.

It seems like some players are sacrosanct no matter how terrible they are, and others, no matter how promising, are shuttled back down to the minors at the least sign of trouble. It's not just Bartlett, after all. How many times has Tiffee been up and down? Remember how fast they shot Morneau down to Rochester last year when he failed to beat the snot out of every pitch he saw? Where's Michael Restovich these days?

If they really want to put a winning team out there, as Gardy says, then they should think long and hard about who's going to win them games over the long haul, not just this week.

3 rejoinders:

TwinsJunkie sounded off...

Granted, Bartlett is adjusting to Major League pitching, but is that some crazy free pass for him starting? No. As long as Castro is playing good, he deserves a few starts while Bartlett is struggling. You even pointed out Rivas, and this is basically the same case. It would be very frustrating for Ron to trot out a lineup that is not as good as it could be just in the interest of developing a young guy (now do you see?)

Anyway, Bartlett will be a good player, and he will get his at-bats. As of now, let's ride the Juan Castro train for all it's worth, because it probably won't last very long.

Third Base Line sounded off...

TJ,

I just figure if you've got a guy who's hitting .250-ish while in a bad slump, you put him out there instead of the guy who hits .250-ish normally. Especially if the slumping one is admittedly your future at the position! :)

frightwig sounded off...

I agree with all your points on Bartlett. He is hitting just as well as Guzman had been the last few years, and IMO his defense is actually an upgrade on Guzy. The alternative, Castro, may be a steadier glove, but you know he's a downgrade with the bat, and there's no longterm benefit to playing him ahead of the rookie. Why jerk around the kid just 6 weeks after making a commitment to him, and why talk to the papers about it like it's a formal demotion? It's senseless.

I'm obligated to point out, though, that Cuddyer has been jerked around the last few years as much as anyone besides Michael Restovich, so I'm glad that they are finally showing some patience with him. He's hitting .341/.375/.432 in May, and he's showing some soft hands in the field, so perhaps their commitment is being rewarded. I wish they could be as patient with Bartlett, or one-quarter as patient as they were with Rivas, too.