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Josh Donaldson took a shot at Buxton and Kepler and nobody cared

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And why sanitization of our local media does more harm than good

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A lot has been said about the arrival of Josh Donaldson to the Twin Cities. He has an intense nature, a storied career and apparently is not above being completely petty to umpires when he feels it’s warranted.

What I’ve noticed is that he has been just as advertised, and if you took out his first week, he’d be considered better than, at a slash line of .269/.415/.596. He’s been fiery and pissy and you know he’s salivating about playing the Yankees in a week. If you subscribe to the theory that Twins were “just too nice” in the Joe Mauer era to win in the playoffs (I do not), then Donaldson and Rich Hill are your tailor-made solutions.

Donaldson also called out his teammates according to Audra Martin a few nights ago when asked about the team’s offensive struggles, and the quote has gotten suspiciously little play. (The quote is in the top of the second inning of Saturday’s game):

“Quite honestly I feel like we have just struggled to get guys on base all year and then in the games where we do have players on base we can’t seem to get timely hitting. Goal number one has to be getting on base, then number two to drive them in, and then the third goal is hitting home runs. In my opinion, those home runs should be predicated on having quality at-bats.”

Poster child of this philosophy, Max Kepler, then proceeded to loop out on the first pitch, a two-seamer on the black. We don’t know what impact that quote had in the clubhouse, but it could have been a source of significant tension. The Twins offensive savior these past few weeks, Byron Buxton, certainly is not having quality at-bats, swinging early and often, hoping for the best. He does at least have a newfound two-strike approach whereby he grounds the ball to the left side and busts it, but you can’t imagine Donaldson is overly impressed. Kepler was praised for his ability to ambush pitchers last year, and this year Buxton has a 12/2 home run to walk ratio. The fact that Donaldson said anything is significant, and the fact he pointed it at two specific (and important) players even moreso. You wonder how Donaldson’s wannabe Michael Jordan type of leadership style conflicts with Nelson Cruz’s Tim Duncan. What if JD meant to take a shot at Nellie’s protégé, Sano, with his comments? And why isn’t the Twins media running with this story?

Here’s a story: Donaldson called out his teammates, and the next day Buxton drove in an insurance run by going the other way on a 3-2 count after Kepler started the rally by driving a double the opposite way on the sixth pitch of the at-bat- On the road against a first place team and a pitcher coming off of a no-hitter. Donaldson would probably give you a quote about that if you asked.

But instead all the coverage is about how the Twins are going to playoffs (as if it was in doubt) and that people have opinions on Donaldson showing up an umpire who is bad at his job. I don’t normally care about what Twins media chooses to focus on, but as a romantic I see conflict as necessary to test the mettle of a quality sports team, and the media can help set the storyline. If the Twins are to play up to their offensive standards, there needs to be a reason for the change. A team meeting. A player coming back from injury. A shrewd trade. An especially great start by a pitcher. The last one there is what the Yankees got a few weeks ago when Deivi Garcia, making his third major league start, went seven innings against the Blue Jays, causing his team to avoid a sweep and having their record fall below .500 for the first time in 70 years or something. The New York Post clumsily summarized the win as follows:

“Hopefully, for the Yankees, a game that was chockablock with good feelings and better moments can lead to something bigger, something better. The Yankees have been waiting for a night like this. They don’t seem inclined to let it pass without it meaning something.”

What did Michael Jordan do when he needed a spark? He invented a chip on his shoulder, whether that be him disagreeing with the front office or taking offense to the (made-up) actions of an obscure Washington Bullets player who had a career game. Maybe Buxton and Kepler were angered by Donaldson’s comments and they are playing with something to prove. It would be nice considering both of them are amazing athletes capable of amazing things about to enter into a tournament where nobody knows what is going to happen, almost assuredly against a team that has ruined many an autumn for this writer.