August 10, 2004

Good Old Rubber Arm

Thoughts I had while watching the first inning of last night's Twins/Mariners game ...

If I live to see the Red Sox actually win another World Series, I will never quite understand Ron Gardenhire. The team just got finished trading Doug Mientkiewicz in order to create the playing time for both Justin Morneau and Lew Ford, which is something I agreed with.

So what does Gardenhire do with that new lineup spot created by Mientkiewicz's departure? He puts Jose Offerman in it, of course. Offerman, a 35-year-old career .274/.361/.374 hitter who was signed during the offseason to serve as the team's "veteran pinch-hitter," has now started three of the past four games as the team's designated hitter.

I have actually been quite impressed by Offerman's incredible discipline at the plate this year and he has enough timely hits to sway me opinion of him so that I now have no problem having him around as a bench player. That said, starting him at DH three times in four games, on this team, is just crazy.

POST-GAME UPDATE: Offerman went 0-for-3 with a strikeout and the guy he replaced in the lineup, Ford, hit a pinch-hit home run in his only plate appearance of the night.

Everyone involved with the Twins, from Gardenhire and the players to Dick Bremer and Bert Blyleven, can't stop talking about how amazing it is that Terry Mulholland has a "rubber arm."

While Mulholland was giving up a leadoff single to Ichiro!, Blyleven and Bremer went on and on about how great it was that Mulholland could pitch the 18th inning of the game against the A's over the weekend and then make his start against the Mariners tonight.

Yet no one mentions the fact that Mulholland's arm, whatever substance it is made of, is just not very good. He has a 5.14 ERA this year and has given up 92 hits and 19 walks in 70 innings. Also, he hasn't had an ERA better than league average since I was 16.

As for his pitching in last week's 18-inning game, is it really all that wonderful that he was willing and able to come into a tie game that had been scoreless for nine straight innings and give up three runs to lose the game?

POST-GAME UPDATE: I guess there's no need for this, since I ended up complaining about Mulholland again in about 30 seconds.

Edgar Martinez got a very nice standing ovation when he stepped into the batter's box for the first time tonight, which was great to see. I'm a big fan of Edgar's and, while I don't think he's a Hall of Famer (I'll examine this issue a little more closely soon), it's always wonderful to see a fan base so in love with a player who has been with the team for his entire career.

And, of course, Edgar hit a two-run home run immediately after his ovation ended, giving the Mariners a 2-0 lead. But hey, Mulholland could probably lose tomorrow's game too, if they let him. He's got a rubber arm!

After Martinez's homer, Mulholland gave up a double to Bret Boone and then gave up another two-run homer, this time to Bucky Jacobsen. I think Gardenhire should yank him right now, because then the Twins could use him in relief tomorrow and he could probably start again in 2-3 days, seeing as though he's got that rubber arm and everything.

Someone I have a feeling that, if no one cared about how well they pitched, a lot of guys could have a "rubber arm."

By the way, as I write this sentence it is 9:33 p.m., long before any post-game quotes or news stories appear. I'm predicting Mulholland, Gardenhire, pitching coach Rick Anderson and/or some member of the media makes an excuse for Mulholland's bad first-inning performance by saying he pitched when he wasn't scheduled to pitch in the 18-inning game, and that threw him off for tonight.

Here's the problem with that ... If a guy has a "rubber arm" because he can pitch "whenever" and the guy actually stinks when he pitches and then is given excuses because he actually pitched "whenever," then what good is having a rubber arm?

POST-GAME UPDATE: Mulholland ended up going seven innings and he didn't allow a single run after those two two-run homers. Obviously the end result wasn't so bad, but that first inning was just miserable. Oh, and from the game story on "The Minnesota starter was working on just one day of rest following his relief outing on Sunday in the Twins' 18-inning marathon against the Athletics."

Okay, Mulholland just gave up a single to Jose Lopez. It's 4-0 Seattle and five of their first seven batters have hits. I just changed the channel, choosing to watch the World Series of Poker on ESPN instead of smashing the TV over my head. Goodnight. By the way, in about three hours, the Indians will be four games back.

POST-GAME UPDATE: I tuned back in just in time to see the Twins score a run in the eighth and a run in the ninth, cutting the lead to one run before losing 4-3. And Cleveland is, in fact, four games out of a first place.

New article at The Hardball Times: Hardball Questions: Andy Baldwin

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