July 18, 2007
Twins Notes: Tough Guys, Censors, and Little Things
I criticized Hunter for those comments last month and was met with the usual assortment of outrage from the subset of fans who aren't being ironic when they call him the "face of the franchise" and think that he can do no wrong on or off the field. That wasn't the first time Hunter has bragged about being a tough guy and he's predictably convinced people like Dick Bremer and Bert Blyleven that he's indeed "ready to play no matter what."
I think some people take pain in different ways. Some people have to play at 100 percent, and Joe may be one of those guys. I've seen it happen. Joe is a good player, and he wants to perform at 100 percent, not at 80 percent. Me, I grew up in a different time. I'm ready to play no matter what--broken toe, hamstring, groin, back--and that's the mentality I've grown to have.
In fact, last night Bremer launched into one of his trademark breathless monologues about how incredibly tough and durable Hunter is ... after he left the game with a strained hamstring. Hunter has missed just two games this season, but he's exited early with an injury no fewer than four times and sat out 103 games over the previous three years. To be very clear, I have absolutely zero interest in criticizing Hunter for missing time with injuries, because doing so would be absurd.
Injuries are simply a part of baseball and missing time with them rarely says anything about a player's toughness or character. With that said, for a player who's missed significant time with injuries to put forth a tough-guy act to the media at the expense of a teammate is laughable and should be noted somewhere in the midst of the continuous praise heaped on Hunter for his supposed leadership skills, self-proclaimed toughness, and sparkling personality.
If you want to be an actual leader instead of merely a good player whose willingness to provide quotes has made friends in the media, don't accuse teammates of lacking the toughness to play through injuries when you've missed over 100 games in the past three years. Similarly, don't act as if the inability to play through injuries is a character flaw when, if it was, you'd be plenty flawed. Regardless of someone's "mentality," injuries happen. Fortunately for Hunter, Mauer isn't a quote machine.
Here's what Ron Gardenhire had to say about the situation:
It's been talked about and it's being addressed. We've had our say with our president, and he's going to take care of it. He's going to talk to them. They're supposed to be with us. And some of the things that were said were uncalled for and wrong.
If you're keeping track, three of the five media outlets that offer the most Twins coverage fit Gardenhire's "they're supposed to be with us" label. No wonder people read blogs.
Difficult as it may be to believe, Parker's job title is "associate reporter."
- He keeps the clubhouse loose with jokes, entertains (and sometimes scares) teammates and coaches with his headfirst slides into first base and helps Minnesota secure victories with seemingly impossible plays in the field.
- Everyone in the clubhouse is cheering for Punto.
- Hunter has named Punto his "pick to click" for the second half.
- Even reigning American League MVP Justin Morneau knows Punto will eventually turn it on.
- What he lacks in offensive consistency he more than makes up for with his dependable defense.
- When he does get on a roll and break out of the slump, his teammates will be the ones cheering the loudest.
Given the number of times that they've failed to get a bunt down, run into an easy out on the bases, or been unable to simply make contact in a key spot, it seems that many people have a difficult time differentiating between a team that doesn't hit for any power and a team that actually "does the little things well." For instance, in leaving 14 runners on base in last night's 3-2 loss, the Twins didn't hit for any power and they didn't "do the little thing well."
It also helped that the Twins didn't do the little things well that they usually do. For instance, after a leadoff four-pitch walk to Lew Ford from Macay McBride in the eighth, Nick Punto failed to get a bunt down and ended up flying out to right instead. After that, Luis Castillo hit into an inning-ending double play.
Once you're done here, check out my latest "Daily Dose" column over at Rotoworld.