Free Jason Bartlett

Wah 'Append? My second favorite player gets sent down while I'm on vacation and I can't even drown my sorrows in this blog until I return. That is so wrong.

It was only a matter of time before I started referring to our beloved manager by my pet name for him--Gardenhoser. (It's an homage to the movie "Rookie of the Year" in which the manager can't pronounce the kid's name--Rollengardner--so he calls him Gardenhoser.) And when I'm really peeved with him, I might just shorten it to the penultimate Canadian insult--'Hoser. And If I really get steamed, I might use the ultimate insult--'Hosehead.

Anyway, I made a pact this offseason that as long as 'Hoser stayed on his meds and didn't flip out at the least inconsequential thing--like Lew Ford making light saber noises--I would show him the respect due to all major league managers and refer to him by his uninspired clubhouse nickname--Gardy. It was inevitable that he would flip out and do something stupid, but I thought it would take me a few games into the season when he calls for a bunt with Mike Redmond on second base in a tie game without pinch running for Red Dog before I started doing it.

Obviously, I'm already doing it because he's already screwed up royally in my book. On a team as offensively challenged as this one, he decides that offense doesn't matter at shortstop and he sends down the best hitting shortstop this team's had seen since Zoillo.

It wouldn't be a big deal if Bartlett was a 23-year old rookie just trying to make the team. But this guy has done everything the organization asked him to do. He's 26 years old and he's had an OBP of over .400 for two consecutive years at AAA. In his second stint with the big club, he handled himself exptremely well and showed that he was a vast improvement over the other candidates. He's radically improved his defense, which was always rangy but is now much more consistent. He's gotten a lot stronger so he can drive balls rather than just slapping singles and taking walks. Terry Ryan already said "he's got nothing more to prove at AAA." Now is his time to shine in the majors. And Ryen went out and got two veterans to play alongside him just to make the transition more palatable for 'Hoser. But 'Hoser wasn't satisfied with two veterans, he wanted three.

No matter what gets asked of him, 'Hoser comes up with a new excuse to send him out in favor of--excuse me while I swallow my breakfast again--Juan Castro. The excuse de juer is that Bartlett does not show enough leadership. Well, I'm sorry but when you're playing next to Luis Castillo and you're practically a rookie, you shut up and let your play do the talking. There are plenty of quiet guys in the clubhouse and on the field--everybody's favorite player Joe Mauer for example--and 'Hoser doesn't send him down to show more leadership out of the position that demands leadership. 'Hoser says he wants his shortstop to be the "quarterback" of the infield. I thought the catcher was the quarterback. Hmm.

Castro is a solid shortstop in the field. But he has limited range, which will become painfully self evident next to Tony Batista with Carlos Silva on the mound. Suffice it to say we will hear "ground single into left" a lot with those two over there. Bartlett has at least two more steps of range than Castro in the hole, and a much stronger arm. But 'Hoser wants a rah-rah guy who can chear on the left fielder to take those "seeing eye" singles while he runs to second to receive the throw.

And Castro can't hit. He gets hot once in a while and has two or three games of 1-3. But most games he's got  0 for 3 written all over him. On the bright side, he's better than having a pitcher hit in the nine hole, I guess. But not much. On the other hand, Bartlett is a good hitter who could start rallies from the nine hole. He can steal bases, which Castro doesn't even try anymore.

In short, it's not in the best interestes of the team for Bartlett to go down. It's only a matter of time before 'Hoser is forced to call Bartlett back up, but why wait to use him? The Twins start the season with perhaps their toughest stretch of games of the whole year. Why handicap your line-up and your defense in this critical stretch just because you want more rah-rah out there?

It's also not in Bartlet's best interest to send him to AAA. As a parting shot, he lead the Red Wings to a 15-3 rout of the Twins by going 4-5 with a home run and a two-run double yesterday against Scott Baker and company. To that, 'Hosehead just shrugged and said "That's what they're expected to do."

That's my point exactly. Bartlett made one error all spring and all 'Hoser talks about is the dropped pop-up. He hit like crazy (.375/.450) this spring, but he "didn't do the little things good enough." He played defense like a star but he didn't show enough leadership. He'll go down to Rochester and show the leadership 'Hoser wants and 'Hoser will come up with another excuse--he's too laid back, or he's not man enough or some such lame excuse. And the Twins will suffer through their toughest schedule with a guy who's a little better than a pitcher hitting ninth.

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