Friday Morning Cram Session, 8/31

If you missed it yesterday, I probably overreacted a little bit on Twitter to the news that Denard Span was finally going on the DL 18 days after injuring himself.  18 days of Twins officials claiming he was only day-to-day, while Span missed 12 straight contests and then played in three of the next six before succumbing to reality.  The most ridiculous part of it all was that the Twins made the move a day and a half before rosters expanded, because they felt the need to call up “an outfielder”, Matt Carson, despite the fact that Chris Parmelee, Ryan Doumit, and Darin Matroianni can all play in the outfield.  It’s just another frustrating example of the Twins misusing the Disabled List or mismanaging their roster, and while it ultimately matters little in the grand scheme of 2012, I’ve grown increasingly tired and dispirited by the Twins’ continued inability to grasp simple roster management, and increasingly convinced the Twins are employing one of the worst (if not the worst) medical/training staff in the game today.

Nick Nelson (who is a friend and does a tremendous job on Twins Daily) thought I was being pretty ridiculous.  Nick said a lot of stuff, and I don’t want to misrepresent his position, but his objection essentially came down to a few points that I’ll summarize.  If you want his full argument, and to make sure that I didn’t take liberties with what he was saying, I’d recommend going to his generally excellent Twitter feed.

1)      The treatment of Span doesn’t matter because the Twins suck.

On one level, Nick’s right.  Span’s presence on the 25 man roster probably didn’t cost the Twins any games.  The Twins don’t pinch hit much and they had players who could handle right field.  But when you look at Span in the larger pattern of misdiagnoses, frustrating lingering injuries, and general misuse of the Disabled List, Span’s treatment is indicative of the larger pattern of miscues the Twins have made.  And in that, it’s incredibly frustrating.

2)      The Twins would be doing something different if the games actually mattered.

Would they?  We’ve seen this same pattern of behavior since at least 2010, and maybe back into 2009 as well, seasons in which the Twins were contending.  Players were held off the DL for a week or more until the club finally gave in, or they grinded through the injury and hurt the team with poor performance.  Even last year, the Twins insisted they were potentially in the AL Central race into July (remember #itshappening?) and made these same mistakes with Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, and Denard Span.

3)      This is Span’s fault anyway; since his claustrophobia has prevented him from getting an MRI, the Twins are forced to rely more on his own opinion of his pain level and how he’s feeling.

This is a valid point, and while I would not blame Span for his fear (claustrophobia is a mental illness), I understand the club’s frustration with not being able to look at Span’s injury in detail.  Let’s leave aside the Twins’ medical staff’s inability to effectively diagnose guys like Scott Baker and Carl Pavano even with an MRI, shall we?  Let’s instead focus on Span.  Yes, the Twins are left to trust him.  But given his history last year as he attempted to come back from a concussion, the Twins have plenty of reason not to trust Denard Span when he says that he’s ready or almost ready to play.  He wants to be on the field.  That’s laudable.  But the Twins know that he’s generally willing to say he’s healthy to get back out there when he’s not.  So trusting his analysis now is actually still a sign of this club’s poor judgment.

All of this leaves aside Nick’s point that we should be rooting for the Twins to lose anyway because it will improve their draft position.  I don’t think that’s a valid concern.  I refuse to regard the Twins as the Clippers of the Major Leagues, so I won’t accept an argument that the Twins shouldn’t be trying their best to win games, and that not using the simple roster moves at their disposal to put their best roster on the field is somehow a good thing.

So let’s recap: Denard Span? Hurt since August 12. Went on the DL August 30. Eligible to come off on September 12.  Twins? Still a freaking mess.  And me?  I’ve had it.

Pitcher of the Night: Edwin Jackson, 8 IP, 4 H, 2 BB, 10 K, 1 R
There was some criticism for Scott Boras last year when Edwin Jackson only got a one year deal, and a few started to wonder of Boras had lost his mojo.  But Jackson’s actually been very solid (as he has been for the last five years), and with a less exciting crop of pitchers on the market, he’ll get paid.

Hitter of the Night: Josh Reddick, 3-5, HR, 3 RBI
The A’s have won six straight, eight of nine, and 12 of 14.  Reddick has had a pretty terrible August, hitting .252/.284/.427 for the month, and that’s after hitting .522 over his past 5 games.

Play of the Night: Miguel Cabrera

Cabrera is a terrible defender, there’s no argument for that.  But I love how patient he is with this high chopper, how he catches it in essentially a cocked position, and just unloads the strong throw immediately.  It’s exceptionally pretty.

Big Hit of the Night: Alfonso Soriano

Soriano wins a wild one for the Cubs with a long single off the wall in left-center.  He’s now hitting .259/.317/.482, and I can’t help but feel like we’d think he was a much better player if it weren’t for his contract.

Injuries of Note:
Rafael Furcal, elbow
The Cardinals playoff chances took a hit when Furcal came out in the 6th after feeling his elbow pop.  That said, they have Daniel Descalso, who’s not an embarrassment, to fill in, so the downgrade is probably no more than a game.

Ephemera:

Orioles: Zach Britton, 8 IP, 7 H, 0 BB, 10 K, 1 R
Britton had three disastrous starts in a row when he first came off the DL, but in his last three, he’s allowed just 3 runs in 21.2 innings (1.25 ERA) with 21 strikeouts.  Hopefully, this means the kid is back and can help them down the stretch.  The Orioles remain in the driver’s seat for the 5th playoff spot, but are in a virtual tie with the Rays.

Phillies: Kevin Frandsen, 4-5, 2B, R, RBI
Frandsen has had tremendously fluky success this year, and it’s been fun.  He’s hitting .355/.405/.430 in 117 plate appearances.  The good news is that the Phillies don’t seem fooled by it and will consider upgrades (which may include shifting Chase Utley)

Mariners: Blake Beavan, 7 IP, 5 H, 2 BB, 1 K, 2 R
The Twins offense got shut down by Blake Beavan and his one strikeout.  These things happen, but it’s really hard not to take this personally today.

Cubs: Bryan LaHair, 0-3, 1 K
Just because I predicted the collapse doesn’t mean I feel good about it.  Since April, LaHair is hitting just .225/.306/.378 and he’s struck out in just under a third of his plate appearances on the season.  At this rate, he’s going to struggle to find a job as a anything more than a bench bat in the years ahead.

Blue Jays: Carlos Villanueva, 6 IP, 5 H, 1 BB, 7 K, 0 R
We haven’t checked in on our buddy Villanueva in a while.  Since joining the rotation, he’s thrown 65.1 innings in 11 starts with a 3.03 ERA and 65 Ks.  Like Jackson, he continues to set himself up for a huge payday.

Royals: Jeremy Guthrie, 7.1 IP, 10 H, 0 BB, 3 K, 1 R
On back to back days, the Tigers, a team with playoff aspirations, has been shut down by Bruce Chen (5.13 ERA) and Jeremy Guthrie (5.48).  They’re 2.5 back now and need to get past the A’s and O’s to get in.

Diamondbacks: Ian Kennedy, 6.1 IP, 2 H, 2 BB, 7 K, 0 R
Kennedy was great last night, even though he’s a big reason the Diamondbacks have underperformed in 2012.  For a team with a rebuilt offense, let’s take a moment to acknowledge that the Dodgers have gotten shut out twoice in the last four days.  They’re 4.5 back of the Giants and 1.5 back in the Wild Card, but will have to leap over both the Pirates and the Cardinals to get there.

Red Sox: Jon Lester, 8 IP, 9 H, 3 BB, 2 K, 5 R
The other day I might have given the impression that we shouldn’t criticize Bobby Valentine for his attempts to coax two-inning saves out of guys.  But you know what? My love of the old school goes only so far.  Lester had thrown 110 pitches and given up 5 runs going into the bottom of the 8th last night?  What possible purpose was served by sending him out to throw another 11?  Managers shouldn’t coddle their pitchers, of course, but they also don’t need to tempt fate either.

Giants: Brandon Belt, 4-5, 2 2B, 1 RBI
I guess Belt’s job is safe?  Maybe?  I probably won’t feel secure about this until he’s 10 years into the league or makes an All Star team or something.

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