Goodwill Bunting

Gardy's good intentions are paving the way to an early off-season

In times of crisis, it's natural to hunt down the source of your ills, to stop rooting for your team and start rooting around for the reason your team's losing. It's called scapegoating, and it's been going on all throughout this sad and maddening season. The targets of the fans' scorn was first the under-performing rookie squad that comprised most of the lineup; then the dark eye turned to the veterans, failing in their leadership roles; and now, the buck is finally beginning to stop with the coaches, specifically hitting coach Scott Ulger and, of course, Ron Gardenhire. That's the exact opposite direction the blame-chain ought to run.

So far I've had a pretty good time defending Gardy with the same old arguments--he's been dealt a rough hand, he's old-school, he's funny--but no more. I'm switching sides, converting to the "he's managing the team into the ground" school, and I'm zeroing in on one very small but lately very maddening part of his game: the sacrifice bunt.

It's already an old argument (you can read all about it in this awesome Washington Post article), but I'm going to beat the horse just a bit more because today's series finale against the Royals really drove the point into Twins Territory's collective skull: sac bunts aren't worth it. Especially when your guys bunt like 10-year-olds (maybe worse). Super-especially when your guys are pounding the opposing pitcher when they're swinging away. Gardy apparently disagrees.

Today there was a lot of grounding into double plays, and sure, that's frustrating. But it further proves how valuable the game's 27 outs are. The Twins threw what, five of those outs away on bunts? (I'm fuzzily remembering, and too lazy to actually check, but that's close). And not once did it work out. The Twins' 13 hits is a team record in a shut-out. Jacques Jones tried to bunt, failed miserably, then grounded into a double play, and he was the clean-up hitter. The Twins were hitting the ball better than they have in weeks, and Gardy was rewarding his baserunners by never giving them a chance to score. If you're beating your head into the screen right now, you're responding appropriately.

Finally, in the ninth, with one out, a Twins hitter (Redmond) hit a single without the following hitter (Bartlett) showing bunt. It was the right play, and Bartlett, swinging away, immediately hit a double.

Yeah, I know, one example doesn't prove anything. And two minutes later Abernathy (Redmond's pinch runner) was caught dead between third and home. What did you expect? Poor guy's been to third base only a handful of times this season. He was probably just enjoying the view. The point is that when Bartlett hit that double, it was like cracking a bat over Gardy's bunt-loving head.

What's the moral? Quit bunting? Nah. There is no moral. All I know is that it's the ninth inning, the score is 0-0, the game was boring as hell and should have been over long ago.

UPDATE: So, yeah, they lost. To the Royals. In the ninth. By one run. Oh yeah, and I forgot to mention another first: I finally feel bad for Kyle Lohse. The guy pitched a three-hitter going into the eighth, only to be pulled for a reliever. Two more relievers later, Mulholland sealed the loss with a single pitch. I should've been upset, but damn, they really deserved to lose that one.

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