When alarmed by a happening back on the prairie, a popular saying was, “I’ve been to several county fairs and never seen anything like this.’’
The Twins will open their 54th season on Monday in Chicago and I would like to modify that to say: “I’ve seen dang near all the openers and never seen anything like this.’’
It’s regrettable to be fixated over a minor issue for a team with several major ones, but the Jason Bartlett situation is a first for me:
Adding a veteran who showed nothing on the field in spring training, in the hope that he can be the source of uplifting dialogue with less-experienced lads in the clubhouse.
That’s the way I read it, anyway … that Bartlett survived in order to be a confidante in times of frustration for Aaron Hicks, or Oswaldo Arcia, or even Trevor Plouffe.
This would’ve been doable back in the ‘60s, when there nine pitchers and 16 position players (meaning eight on the bench, with no DH) on an active roster. It would’ve been doable in the ‘70s and into the ‘80s when the numbers were 10 and 15 … maybe when it was 11 pitchers and 14 players a dozen years ago.
The Twins had 13 pitchers and 12 players for most of last season. This season, they will start with 12 pitchers and 13 players, and hope that works.
That means a four-player bench. One spot goes to a catcher, Josmil Pinto. One goes to an infielder, Eduardo Escobar. One goes to a DH/first baseman, Chris Colabello. And one goes to a pep leader, Bartlett.
The Twins are the source of incredible ridicule after the worst three-year stretch in franchise history … more ridicule than during the eight consecutive losing seasons from 1993 through 2000.
And now they have put this on a tee – Bartlett, and Ron Gardenhire’s main reason for having him on the roster – and allowed the media and the sporting public to blast away.
We’re all jumping at this with both feet, like Bubba Watson trying to cut a drive 350 yards.
Gardenhire talked with a week left in Florida about wanting Chris Herrmann on his club, as a third catcher, a corner outfielder and an emergency second baseman. Herrmann made sense as a versatile player in this era of short benches.
Yet, the manager decided it was more important to have Bartlett – a 34-year-old who didn’t play last season and has played only shortstop in his big-league career – than a usable Herrmann as the fourth guy on the bench.
There were strange happenings in Calvin Griffith’s time in charge [1961-84], including the summer when Steve Brye stayed on the active list for weeks with a cast on a broken hand.
“You can use him as a pinch runner,’’ Calvin told manager Frank Quilici.
It was ridiculous, and extra cheap, but Frankie did have four or five other players on the bench.
To me, having Bartlett as a 25 percent of the bench on Opening Day is more stupefying. I’m shocked that the baseball boss, Terry Ryan, and acting general manager Rob Antony allowed Gardenhire to get his way with the nonsense that clubhouse chemistry is an important issue for a team with so many other problems.
Starting with this: They can’t hit. And whatever back slaps Bartlett can muster aren't going to change that.