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Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Ron Gardenhire v. Danny Valencia

Shame on you, Gardy. Leave Danny alone.

Here's just a short list of what's gone wrong with the Twins this year:
1) Injuries to Joe Mauer, Tsuyoshi Nishioka, Jason Kubel, Jim Thome, Francisco Liriano, Joe Nathan, Glen Perkins, Kevin Slowey, and others, most recently Denard Span; 2) Justin Morneau not back to the player he once was; 3) the worst bullpen in baseball; 4) Delmon Young's serious offensive regression and awful play in the outfield after what we all hoped was a turning point in 2010; 5) Alexi Casilla straddling the Mendoza line until just 2 weeks ago. Any one or two of these items combined is certainly stress-inducing for any manager.

Notwithstanding all these problems, Gardy has chosen to focus his scorn recently on Danny Valencia. To be sure, Valencia is not having a good season, toting a .218/.281/.333 line with 5 home runs. Clearly, he has regressed from his 2010 breakout line of .311/.351/.448 in 85 games. It probably was unreasonable to expect him to maintain his 2010 line in 2011, given his somewhat pedestrian minor league numbers. Still, though, no one likely expected the significant drop we have seen so far. His defense has also suffered, having committed 5 errors in 58 games.

Given the numbers, it is easy to understand Gardy's frustration with Valencia: Valencia isn't playing well, and it might be too late in the season to call it a slump. Noting that Valencia had played in all the team's games thus far, Gardy gave him the night off Monday against Cleveland. But it wasn't just for a rest. Here is Gardy's quote from the Monday game: "He's been playing in every game and has not been swinging worth a flip. In Kansas City he was pulling off the ball. Just sit him out, give him a break and let him sit back and watch a ballgame. Probably get him right back tomorrow. Depends if he gets Wally Pipped by [Luke] Hughes."

Maybe that quote wasn't so bad. On one hand, Gardy acknowledged, in so many words, that Valencia is tired, wasn't batting well and needed a break. But then he had to throw in the little jab about getting "Wally Pipped," a reference of course to the Yankees player who was benched in favor of a young Lou Gehrig. We all know how that one turned out for old Wally.

Back to Valencia. He also sat Tuesday's game, with the exception of pinch hitting for Rene Rivera in the 8th inning. Regarding Valencia, Gardy stated: "It'll be good for him, because I know his head's going to be spinning now, and you know what, sometimes that's a good thing. Maybe get him a little fired up and stay focused." Regarding Gardy's role as the manager, he said: "I like it when you can irritate people as a manger. It's good. I get irritated all the time, so sometimes a manager gets a chance to irritate people a little bit and that kind of maybe will get a little extra oomph out of him. We'll see. [Valencia] hasn't come in here yet, so . . . I dare him. Just kidding."

That's seriously enough, Gardy. Stop it. I've given you a pass on this season. No manager, not even the manager of the year, is going to be able to field a winning team with starting lineups featuring 5 or 6 players each night from AAA. Sure, maybe there will be patches of good baseball, but over the course of a 162 game season, I don't think any team can compete with the caliber of players we have been forced to play. So, I understand your frustration, Ron. But don't take it out on Valencia to this degree. Sure, he's immature and annoying, and it's exacerbated when he's playing awful. But there are so many other problems in 2011 that, to waste your breath repeatedly dogging Valencia, is time and energy misspent.

In case you haven't noticed, we don't exactly have another stud third basemen waiting in the wings, and something tells me the front office doesn't have plans to go spend money on the market this summer for a veteran upgrade - - there are simply way too many other areas of weakness. I get that Valencia doesn't fit into the Twins' mold of quiet and humble guys, and I also understand how annoying it might be if he is cocky and arrogant, all while batting .218. But that's the way he is. In fact, one can make the argument that the Twins' mold of quiet, compassionate leaders hasn't resulted in postseason success.

I think the veteran players in the clubhouse will be more effective, over time, in molding Valencia, than will Gardy's jabs in the press. I expect Valencia to start the Wednesday matinee against the Indians. We'll see what, if anything, Gardy says, and perhaps how Valencia reacts, through his play.


  1. Sorry Andrew, Valencia needs an attitude adjustment and a short trip to Rochester would be the perfect remedy. Unfortunately with all the injuries issues that is not possible at the present time. Valencia has been in the big leagues for a year and he appears to me to think that he is a seasoned veteran. I see him as a player who has put in just a half season in the big leagues where he played decent but he had better start makings ome adjustments in his attitude, bat, and his fielding or his time with the Twins will be short.

  2. jjswol, thanks for the comment. I think what you say is true - especially that, in a perfect world, Valencia might be sent down to AAA for a while. I'm simply suggesting that I don't think Gardy's strategy of bashing him in the media is doing anyone any good. There were plenty of barbs last year when Danny was playing well, there have been plenty this year when he hasn't played well, and Valencia seems unchanged. Why keep doing the same thing over and over?

  3. To be honest, I'm kind of tired of everyone complaining about Gardy being sooooooo hard on this player or that player. It brings to mind the scene in A League of Their Own where Tom Hanks' character yells at one of his outfielders and the girl cries. His response: "There's no crying in baseball!" Seriously, have we reached the point where either the players themselves or people who have some particular attachment to particular players can't stand to be called out when they don't play well?

    If you don't want your manager telling the world that you suck right now, hit better than .218! That goes for Plouffe and those who thought he was treated unfairly, too... if you don't want to wear a Red Wings uniform, don't suck when you get a chance with the big team!

    There's no whining in baseball either... or at least there shouldnt be.

  4. First time reading your blog here, Andrew. I'm liking what I see!

    Anyways, I'm a Valencia fan. I have been since he first came into the Twins organization so I may be an apologist to Danny.

    I think Gardy is just trying to get him fired up. Danny seems like the type of person that would more respond to "getting called out" rather than a passive approach.

    However, I think if you're going to call Danny out, you have to call others out as well. Before Delmon was swinging well, he would have been perfect to call out especially after his little episode in the field where he told Span to get a ball he was too lazy to run after. Delmon was probably worse off than Valencia at the time both in the field and at the plate.

    I'm not too worried about Valencia's season long slump right now. We saw it with Span last season. You have your breakout season and then you have a below-expectation season where you can't get a hit to save your life. A "sophomore slump" as you will.

    I say send him to AAA, let him clear his head and see what he can do when he comes back.

    Hey, if there's help for Alexi Casilla, there may be hope for DV!