Last night Twins fans were treated to yet another reminder that we'd be better off with J.J. Hardy rotting away on the disabled list (along with the rest of our team) than we would be with Jim Hoey in our bullpen. Hoey displayed his usual power fastball, accompanied by his usual lack of command and inability to get an out. He's now allowed 11 hits and walked two in just 5.1 innings of work. It's a small sample, but it's not as if this is a surprising outcome. He may once have been a promising bullpen prospect, but injuries and surgeries look like they've hindered that dream. At the very least, the Major Leagues aren't the place to work out his issues. It's a shame, and honestly, this post isn't going to be a knock on Hoey as a pitcher or a person. No one can discount the tremendous amount of pain and hard work he's gone through to reach the Majors after those injuries. It's an admirable display of dedication, drive, and desire; I imagine that when it comes down to it, few would be able to endure such trials.
No, this post is here to question why, oh why, Hoey was ever standing on the mound in the first place. Hoey's presence on the mound is just one of a slew of managerial decisions last night that should have everyone's head spinning. More after the jump.
Let's start from the beginning: Ron Gardenhire kicked off the day by penciling Matt Tolbert's name second on the lineup card. Tolbert entered last night's contest having reached base just five times in his last 33 plate appearances. His 0-5 on the night dropped that to five of 38 (that's a .132 OBP), but Gardy again filled out his lineup by position rather than logic, and in doing so ensured Tolbert's bat the second-most trips to the plate of anyone on the team.
I realize that going up and down the lineup, there's not many pretty OBPs, but I'd honestly prefer almost anyone on the roster in that spot. Even Ben Revere, despite his struggles thus far in the Majors, has the minor league track record to suggest he can get on base at a passable rate. But there was Tolbert in the two-hole, all the way through his last at-bat -- a three-pitch K against Hideki Okajima in the 10th that closed out his evening with a tired whimper.
But let's not get ahead of ourselves; it was the eighth inning when the Twins tied the game thanks to He Whose Name Not Need Be Mentioned (could it be anyone other than Jason Kubel?). With
Ted Williams Kubel at first, the decision was made to pull him in favor of Alexi Casilla, who, in case you're wondering, is indeed still a Major League player. Or at least he plays one on TV.
Twins fans on Twitter erupted at the thought of
Mantle Kubel being removed from the lineup. There were already two outs as Casilla took his place at first and Justin Morneau walked to the plate. And, in case you haven't noticed, Morneau's numbers are down a bit from 2010. Gardenhire defended the decision, stating: "We were going to steal second. That's why we put him out there. And that's what he did. We had a chance to win the game with Morneau. Pretty simple stuff, really." (Hat tip, MLB.com's Rhett Bollinger on Twitter -- follow him if you don't already)
Casilla did indeed swipe second, but Morneau whiffed, rendering the steal inconsequential. If you're a believer in Murphy's Law (which also happens to be the Twins' team motto this season), then you already knew the two-on, two-out situation with Casilla in the 10th was coming. And if you've seen most of Casilla's 1,200 career PAs, you anticipated the weak chopper to third base that ended the inning, and basically the game. For the record, Casilla entered that plate appearance 2-20 on the year as a right-handed hitter. Rene Tosoni remained on the bench because the Twins apparently felt like playing match-ups in that spot. Excellent.
Bringing this back full circle, though, the Twins found themselves with Hoey on the mound for the 11th inning, while $7.15M closer Matt Capps sat in the bullpen. Saving your best pitcher for the 9th inning (or whenever the save situation arises) is an outdated, flawed mentality in the first place, but it's even more mind-boggling when coupled with Gardy's explanation of pulling Kubel from the game.
The Twins exhibited a "win now" mentality, not worrying a lick about any future problems that may arise by removing their best hitter from the lineup, but elected to let Hoey pitch the 11th while their best reliever spectated. Worse yet, we're only two weeks removed from a day when the Twins were prepared to use Capps for two games in one day, but they felt like they couldn't pitch him for two innings tonight? On a night when he hasn't pitched since May 4th?
Of course there's the possibility that Capps blows the game anyway and we're still sitting here wondering how the Twins can possibly have baseball's worst record on May 10th. But rather than pull out all the stops to win, they elected to cross their fingers and hope that Jim Hoey of all people wouldn't be overmatched by Boston in the bottom of the 11th inning at Fenway Park.
Gardenhire had been tossed prior to the 11th inning, so there's no way to be certain that the Hoey decision wasn't solely on Scotty Ullger. Regardless of who made the call, the Twins can't have it both ways. If you're going to pinch-run for your team's best hitter with your third-worst and cite a win now mentality, you can't employ a wait-and-see mentality as you reserve your best remaining reliever in case he gets an opportunity to acquire a meaningless statistic. You can't pump the brakes once you cross that threshold. But that's what they did. "Pretty simple stuff, really."
Steve Adams also writes for MLBTradeRumors.com and contributes at 612Sports.net. You can follow him on Twitter: @Adams_Steve