Friday, February 24, 2006

The Dr Phil of Baseball

Chemistry in sports is often cited as a key to winning. For sports like basketball, football and hockey this is very true. Team cohesiveness in baseball however is overrated.

The ’86 Mets hated each other and won the World Series. The reason it works despite Kevin Mitchell wanting to club Lenny Dykstra with a bat, is because Dykstra doesn’t rely on Mitchell in order to double down the line. The Mets had a lot of talent. If Terrell Owens hates his quarterback, that causes serious problems and results in losses.

The chemistry cliché is totally overdone. Two articles by Jason Williams and Lavelle E Neal imply that the Twins’ failures resulted from Torii Hunter’s broken ankle. Don't worry they are just keeping Jim Souhan's seat for unreasonable logic warm .

What can't be argued is that the Twins' slim hopes of reaching the playoffs in 2005 ended July 29 when Hunter broke his ankle while trying to make a catch in Boston. He batted .269 with 14 homers and 56 RBI in 98 games.
I’ll raise my hand and argue with Lavelle E Neal III. On July 2nd, with a healthy Hunter, they were 9.5 games behind the White Sox. July 29th, the Twins were 12.5 games out.

Here’s more of Torii’s mediocre 2005 numbers: .788 OPS and 55 RC (runs created) and a 65/34 K to BB ratio. His OPS was 38th among outfielders. Why does Lavelle list his poor stats and still make a statement on his importance to the team?

The Twins fell apart well before Hunter was hurt. The emotional meltdowns, primarily from frustrated pitchers getting no run support, occurred near the end of the season. If Hunter was their main offensive weapon, sure that is a major loss. To cite Hunter as the man that kept the Twins' attitude positive is stupid. They struggled with and without him.

"You saw what happened to us when he went down last year,"Terry Ryan said. "Not only did we lose our center fielder, we lost a little bit of our edge, a little bit of our face, a little bit of our charisma, presence and leadership.”
How would Hunter change things? Maybe he could physically separate Lohse and Gardenhire better than Michael Ryan. Or maybe he would take JC Romero aside for psychoanalysis and administer a Rorschach test.

"He possesses all those kind of attributes. He's got energy. He's got leadership. He's got personality that people gravitate toward. He's got a lot of ability. Those are the types of traits that are certainly conducive to unity."
Inside Justin Morneau’s head, “Must…fight…urge to…gravitate to Torii.” He does have a lot of baseball ability, but I don’t think he is or needs to be a uniter, counselor or Interplanetary Cohesion-making Engineer person.

I bet Lew Ford is a great kisser, that could be a trait for unity too.

"I don't want to be the police of the clubhouse," said Hunter, who spent most of the final two months of the season recovering at home in suburban Dallas. "You don't go talk to the police. A lot of people don't trust the police. I want to be that counselor in the clubhouse. If you need somebody to talk to, you can come talk to me about anything."
My mistake, maybe Hunter does have an MA in sociology, but not criminal justice. Will he have a stand set up like Lucy from Peanuts? Will Terry Tiffee talk to Hunter about his childhood nightmares?

Gardenhire missed Hunter taking charge. But that leadership trait got the best of Hunter when he returned from Texas during the last week of the season. He, in fact, contributed to some of the clubhouse dissension, when he tried to punch Justin Morneau after a game. The young first baseman had taken exception to Hunter's intentionally harmless joke.
Hunter was part of the problem last year. Now he is the guy everyone relies on for support and leadership. The Twins players and coaches make it sound like without Hunter they are in big trouble. Hunter seems to be a good guy, a great fielder and an average hitter. But leadership and counseling skills in a major league clubhouse don't really mean much.

Sure, staying positive and having confidence is important, but the Twins didn’t win the Central because they simply couldn’t hit. The Twins ranked in the bottom 5 in the Majors in runs, SLG, 2B, OPS. Oh yes and first in MLB in Grounded Into Double Plays.

More random tidbits from Hunter:
"We have to give these guys [Rondell White, Luis Castillo and Tony Batista] a chance. You never know what's going to happen during the season. Give these guys a chance and see what the results are. You can't judge them on spring training, either. You have to let them get ready and see what happens."
Or be smart. If White or Batista hit like Bret Boone, put them in a catapult and launch them to Sioux Falls. And then call up the hot prospect… Ruben Sierra. Oh man this could get bad.

"I feel different," Hunter said. "The trade rumors and the trade talks during the offseason. You didn't know if you were going to be here. I don't know if I'm happy or at the same time ... man, it's just different. "Jacque is gone and J.C. is gone and different guys in the clubhouse are gone. It's different in here."
Hunter is still beating this dead horse. Romero is gone because he didn’t want to be here. Jacque is gone because the Cubs gave him $16 million to hit 20 HR’s. He forgot to mention Doug Mientkiewicz, Corey Koskie, Joe Mays and Cristian Guzman. None of whom could be considered grave mistakes by the Twins.