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.