Having watched virtually every Twins game so far in this wretched season, we can confidently say that on a list of what is wrong with the team right now, Danny Valencia does not crack the top 10. Sure, his numbers are down from last year's hot rookie season, when he was a pleasant surprise in a lineup full of quality hitters. The most glaring number is his OPS, which was .799 last year and .651 this year.
But until Jason Kubel's three-run blast yesterday, Valencia was leading the team with 18 RBI, and his three home runs -- however meager that total is -- were tied for the team lead. His fielding is at least adequate -- above average when it comes to fielding percentage (just two errors), below average when advanced metrics are brought into play. And his play in the seventh inning saved Francisco Liriano's no-hitter, which remains the brightest spot this season by far. Let's not forget, too, that in a year during which the Twins have had tons of players go on the disabled list for various boo-boos and the Twins have put out haphazard lineups full of spare parts and AAA players, Ron Gardenhire has written "Valencia" on the card for all 35 games at third base.
So what you have here is a durable player who is on pace to give you virtually exactly what should have been expected of him, particularly in his first full seasons in the major leagues: reasonable defense and some pop at the bottom of the lineup. Runs batted in are situational, but they have been hard to come by for this team. Valencia has delivered them.
As such, with so many players struggling in so many ways, we found it a little odd that Gardenhire -- who by the way looks completely miserable whenever he is shown on camera -- apparently chose a Valencia at-bat in Wednesday's game as his tipping point. From Joe C's insider:
Cuddyer was batting .103 (3-for-29) with runners in scoring position before he drilled an RBI double in the second inning. This came after a leadoff double by Morneau and a shallow flyout to center field by Danny Valencia.
That at-bat by Valencia was among the myriad things eating at manager Ron Gardenhire.
"Man on second, doesn't get him over, flips a weak fly ball," Gardenhire said. "That's not good enough. That's not how we play. And [he's like], 'I'm trying.'
"OK, you are trying. Get it done. That's how we have to do it. Get it done because I'm tired of 'trying.'"
Maybe there's more to it than that. Maybe it was just a case of wrong place, wrong time. And we hardly blame Gardenhire for venting his overall frustration. But from the outside looking in, we'll say this:
Some guys get a free pass. Some guys get a tip of the cap for heroically allowing a lead and then a tie game to turn into a loss. But the brash kid doing an adequate job holding down third base gets knocked down a peg for the millionth fundamental error the Twins have committed this year? Sorry, but we're not sure that's the right guy to pick on.