Posted on 22 August 2011.
Ron Gardenhire has become increasingly frustrated this season with what he considers a general misunderstanding of baseball fundamentals on the part of his young players.
During the Twins manager’s pregame talk Saturday, it was outfielder Ben Revere who drew his ire, this time for swinging at a 2-0 pitch with his team down 6-1 Friday. That came two days after Luke Hughes, recalled from Class AAA Rochester, missed his flight from Pennsylvania.
Other young players who have inspired tirades from Gardenhire include infielders Trevor Plouffe and Danny Valencia.
After running some young outfielders through a relay drill Saturday, the manager said: “We’re doing all this stuff so we don’t have to tell them. We shouldn’t have to. They should learn this in the minor leagues.”
Sunday, Gardenhire was quizzed in detail about that statement, and other recent comments regarding his young players. The conversation grew out of Francisco Cervelli’s at-bat against second-year pitcher Alex Burnett.
Cervelli, Gardenhire said, was cheating to cover the plate for a breaking ball, which Burnett supplied.
“Why would you throw a breaking ball there?” Gardenhire said. “I know the catcher calls it, but if I see a guy diving, and he (thinks) he gets hit by a pitch that’s over the plate, I’m not going to throw a breaking ball because he’s diving out that way.
“I would have gone fastball right back in there. If it hits him, it hits him….Those are things I want my pitchers to do. They say, ‘Well, he called it.’ I don’t care. You’re the guy with the ball. You’ve got to recognize that. Good pitchers recognize. Listen to (Carl) Pavano. He comes in right away and tells you, ‘This guy’s diving. This guy was cheating over the plate and he got it.’ So Pav knows what he’s going to do the next time. I want some of these guys to do that, too.
“Take those (scouting) reports and read them. Read them. And then know, when you face a guy, what he does. Is he a first-pitch, fastball hitter? Is he a pull hitter? I want you to know. Why do we have to tell you all the time?”
Q. Is it the same with baserunning?
A. No doubt; same thing, over and over. Who was it last night? Plouffey, on the ball off the wall. Their first instinct is to run back to back to the bag. Your first instinct should be to freeze, see what’s going to happen. If that guy catches the ball over his head, I’ve got plenty of time to run back and tag up, right? How do you not score on a ball off the wall? Hold your ground, see it and then once you realize he’s going to miss it, take off and haul ass and score.
Q. They’re being taught this in the minors, right?
A. Sure they are; they’re just not paying attention. This is the stuff. They should learn to run the bases when they’re growing up through the minor leagues, but they don’t pay attention. Maybe we have to be more forceful in the minor leagues about this stuff.
There’s a lot of younger players (here), but they’ve been playing long enough, they’ve been in spring training long enough. Paul Molitor and Jerry White do baserunning almost every day in spring training, and go over and over these things. The hardest thing to do is simulate situational baserunning. It’s really hard to do, and you have to pay attention in the games and watch. You can talk all you want to, but the game situation is different. But if you watch and you see a guy, and you’re constantly saying, “Hold your ground, hold your ground; wait and see what happens before,” and you see them run back, that’s panicking. Just total panic. So we’re trying to get better at it. I just want them to listen and understand.
When we hand them a report and make copies of these reports – read it. Where you going to play a guy? This shouldn’t come up and all of the sudden a guy going, (blank stare). Read it. It’s right there; we gave it to you. You should know. And the same thing about holding runners: Why do I have to stand in the dugout going, “Hey, hold him?” When I played, no one had to tell me. I look at a runner and would go, “I can’t let him do that.” And I’d go get him. That’s what I don’t get. It’s like you have to go, “Hey, one of you two’s got to hold him.” And you shouldn’t have to. Those are the things I want them to pay attention to and do.
Q. It seems there’s a disconnect for some players between details and winning.
A. This stuff actually matters. But you preach it, and you talk about it enough, the fundamentals of the game. But you also have to understand, these guys are trying to get their feet in the door and keep them in the door, so their focus is more on getting hits than it is anything else, because numbers speak for themselves. “I’m hitting .280,” or whatever….That’s being naccve. That’s the thought of the offense. It’s all about offense and not the fundamentals, and that’s what we’re beating into their head. It’s about both sides, both sides of the game – the defense and the offense. And they’re learning. They’re understanding that, because we don’t let up on them. The things that I tell (media), I tell them.
Ben Revere not taking a pitch. I walked right over to him right in the dugout, “You’re a leadoff guy, aren’t you? What are you thinking? We’re down 6-1, two balls and no strikes, two out, and you’re swinging. What is your job there?” And then he says, “I need to take a pitch.”…Absolutely. So if you let up on them and let it go, then you’re not doing your job. We do not let up on them. They get it from about four coaches when they walk into the dugout.
Q. Is part of that a lack of accountability?
A. It’s playing and being accountable; yes, that’s always a part of it. But it’s also not just going through the motions, trying to figure out the game yourself, playing the game.
Q. Managers in other lines of work would say the same things you’re saying.
A. No doubt. … It’s not just baseball. We relate it to everything. Just like your bosses. They want you to go cover the Twins , but they don’t want to have to tell you who you need to talk to, right? They want you to figure that out. They want you to come up with something, so that’s the same thing we want with our players. I want to write their name in the lineup, and I want them to look at the pitcher they’re going to face and then know where we’re going to play (on defense) without me or Jerry having to wave a towel and yell at them. (Mistakes) happen every once in awhile, but (they) shouldn’t happen all the time.”