May 17, 2005

Blue Jays 10, Twins 3

I am too depressed about last night's ugly loss and Johan Santana's recent struggles to talk rationally about them, so let's move on to a subject that is marginally less depressing ...

I am extremely disappointed by what has happened at shortstop. It upsets me that Jason Bartlett sat out his third straight game last night and no longer appears to be the starter at the position, but that's secondary to the bigger issue. If the team had kept Bartlett at Triple-A this whole time, handing the job to Juan Castro or Nick Punto out of spring training, it would have been far less troubling than what has actually taken place.

Instead, the Twins made the decision to head north with a 25-year-old rookie shortstop. Then, when he struggled a bit at the plate and in the field during the first six weeks of the season, they completely abandoned their plan. And it's not as if Bartlett has been a disaster. He's hitting .242/.310/.374, which is very similar to the .259/.317/.384 major-league shortstops as a whole are hitting so far this season, and he has four errors in 206 innings.

Perhaps Ron Gardenhire is just giving Bartlett a week off to clear his head, but if the Twins have truly given up on Bartlett for the near future it shows an astounding lack of patience. In a way, it shows they had no plan at all. A plan doesn't just consist of what to do when everything goes well. Presumably a plan would also include what to do when things go poorly. Yet when things went poorly with Bartlett, they gave up on everything. And this is the same team that took five years to put Luis Rivas on the bench.

All of this would be fine if that was the plan with Bartlett all along, but it wasn't. There is simply no way Terry Ryan and Gardenhire sat down at the end of spring training and said, "Okay, we'll take this rookie north with us, make him our starting shortstop, and then if things go poorly we can always just ditch the whole idea in the middle of May." If anything I think Ryan is too smart to let that be the outlook heading into the season.

Here's an interesting comparison:

                 AVG      OBP      SLG      OPS     FLD%       ZR
Bartlett '05 .242 .310 .374 .684 .960 .821
Guzman '04 .274 .309 .384 .693 .983 .823

Bartlett has come about as close to duplicating Cristian Guzman's 2004 numbers at shortstop as humanly possible. And while I'd be the first to tell you that's certainly not a good thing, it should at least have been enough to give Bartlett more of a chance to establish himself as the long-term starter at the position than the six weeks he got.

Instead, Bartlett was thrown into a tough spot, held his own while showing some definite flashes of potential, and is now on the bench (and perhaps headed back to Triple-A). What do we get instead? Lots and lots of Juan Castro. Castro, while very good with the glove, has almost no chance of approaching Bartlett's numbers at the plate. And we're not talking great offensive numbers here, they are the same ones that helped Bartlett find a place on the bench.

Today at The Hardball Times:
- Business of Baseball Report (by Brian Borawski)
- Finding Flaws: American League (by Ben Jacobs)

Today's Picks (36-24, +$1,380):
Toronto (Bush) +120 over Minnesota (Lohse)

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