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Souhan Stirs It Up

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Late last night, Jim Souhan posted what can only be described as a baffling article on the relationship between Carl Pavano, Drew Butera, Ron Gardenhire, and Joe Mauer. The content of which basically destroys all conceptions which we had primarily in regards to Pavano and Butera, but the result is that Souhan paints Gardenhire in a not-so-good light.

There’s a lot of legitimate content here. Souhan snagged some fantastic and telling quotes from all members of this love square, bar Butera. And by the end there isn’t much doubt that, whatever buttons Souhan was pressing, they were ones that annoyed the hell out of Gardy.

I’m not going to replicate the content here, because I want you to click through and read it for yourself in its entirety. It’s a very, very interesting read, by far the most interesting thing I’ve seen from Souhan in a long time. He questions Gardenhire’s motivations in how he fills out his lineup card, he questions Butera’s designation as Pavano’s backstop, and he seems to get Mauer to admit that there isn’t a real plan for how he gets his breather.

Let's reflect on all this after the jump.

Here are the problems I have with what Souhan’s written.

Even if Pavano had requested Butera as his catcher, of course he’s not going to say he prefers him to Mauer. That’s not a reflection on Pavano’s confidence in Drew’s ability to call the game, but of course he won’t mind if he has Joe’s bat in the lineup either. There is no winning answer here, although I think Pavano handled it very well.

By the same token, of course Mauer is going to say he wants to play and catch everyday. And of course he’ll say he’d rather DH than not play at all. Any player is going to say that, and while it sure comes off as incriminating in Souhan’s context it’s not new information. We already knew this.

Souhan readily quotes the players and manager, but he doesn’t quote what he asked them. We know that Souhan has played the wind-up merchant in the past, printing things simply to get a reaction and stir things up, so I’m not prepared to blindly believe that these answers are in a complete and accurate context. At least not all of them. Maybe they are, but we don’t know.

It’s interesting what conclusions you can draw from something like this. Personally, the first conclusion I’m drawing is that if Pavano hasn’t requested Butera as his catcher, then he deserves on hell of a lot of professional credit for never saying anything about getting paired with him more often than any other hurler over the last half of 2010.

Butera and Pavano matched up in thirteen of Carl’s final fifteen starts of the year, including twelve straight between July 11 and September 10. Now, this is the only time I’d really ever say they were battery mates, so it’s not like this is something that’s been tried and true for as long as Pavano’s been a Twin. Yes it’s recent, but Butera also caught Liriano seven times last season, Slowey six times and Baker nine times. Due in large part to injuries Butera picked up 44 starts last summer, so it’s not as though he and Carl were exclusive.

None of this is, of course, the point. The point is that Pavano and Mauer delivered measured and expected responses to the questions Souhan makes us think he asked, and that he thinks Gardenhire made (and will continue to make) mistakes in filling out his lineup card.

Gardenhire, for all of his loveable foibles, isn’t stupid. He knew exactly what Souhan was doing to him, which is why he was clearly a little on edge with him. Pandering emotional tripe to a mass audience is easy to do, and when you’re putting responsibility in the hands of a journalist you’re not always going to have an honest product. Yes, Souhan had some telling quotes, but the only thing that makes them interesting is Gardy’s obvious distain for the man and the context in which Souhan put his article.

I don’t always agree with what Gardy does, and I certainly didn’t agree with giving Mauer his second day off in game number six (at the same time he sat Jim Thome, by the way), but he does need to be given the freedom to rest his players as he sees fit. Ultimately, that’s one of the biggest responsibilities of the manager: to determine which players can go, who needs a rest, and how to keep them at their best over the course of a full season.

In regards to Joe Mauer in the minds many fans, this is a no-win situation for Gardenhire: either he doesn’t play Joe enough, or Mauer gets hurt and he should have been more careful. Mass audiences aren’t the most forgiving.

I’ll leave it to you to determine how much meat or substance there really was in Souhan’s article, but I’m taking it with a grain of salt. I don’t ever remember seeing anyone say Pavano asked for Butera, no player is going to claim he wants days off when being questioned by a reporter, and no player is going to throw his manager or another player under the bus if they can help it.