Saturday, April 01, 2006

Twins Demote Shortstop to Wisconsin Dells

Ron Gardenhire has spoken, and it is utter nonsense. The Twins decided to send Jason Bartlett to the minors in favor of Juan Castro and Luis Rodriguez. Apparently the choice for Castro was based on defense. Sadly it's not an April Fool's joke.

"He's a quiet kid," Gardenhire said. "But in the middle, you have to be vocal. You have to lead, and that's what I told him you need to do. 'You go down there and take control of the infield. You be the leader. Once you start getting that part of the game down, you'll be more confident all the way around.' "

What does Gardy want, someone to tell Tony Batista where to stand? Maybe Bartlett can yell at Lew Ford when he misses the cutoff man or tell Luis Castillo to turn two when a runner is on first. Gardenhire refers to the way Kent Hrbek represnted this type of leadership during his career. If an infield absolutely requires a leader, reason says it doesn't have to be a shortstop. Then Gardenhire takes his half-baked leader theory and erases any shred of logic by saying Cristian Guzman was the leader during his Twins' tenure.

"Guzy controlled the game out there with [Luis] Rivas, and that was hard to do; Luis wasn't always on the same page," Gardenhire said. "As quiet as [Guzman] was, when he saw something, he'd run to the mound if he didn't like something."

Gardenhire better hope he never has to testify in a crime trial; he just doesn't know when to stop talking. Basically to summarize his thoughts, Gardenhire wants Jason Bartlett to be the leader Guzman was. Guzman was a good fielder because of his natural talent, certainly not from any intangibles or leadership. Bartlett is not a Gold Glove shortstop, but when compared to Castro's fielding stats he is more than adequate. Both players saw nearly the same time at short with Bartlett committing two more errors.

If Gardenhire stills insists on considering Castro a better fielder fine, it still misses the most improtant issue. The largest issue for the Twins last year was their offense. They were last in the AL in runs scored and near the bottom of every other offensive category. In order for that to change, they will need to maximize their chances at every position in the lineup. This means Bartlett is the obvious choice and it's not even close. Castro's OPB was a Guzmanesque .279 while Bartlett's OBP was .316.

If Bartlett struggled in Spring Training and they sent him to AAA to find his swing, it would at least be a valid argument. Sending him down to find his inner leader is ridiculous. Again, if it was a matter of choosing between a great fielder/poor hitter and a poor fielder/great hitter it is different. In this case both are good fielders and one is a much better hitter. It's a no-brainer to almost everyone. Of course I never learned how to be a quarterback on the diamond.