One of the first articles I ever wrote for Twinkie Town was a feature about Rocco Baldelli. Living in Rhode Island, as I do, a place where Rocco grew up, went to high school, and is truly a “favorite son,” it seemed like quite a natural thing to do. I was able to get access to friends, teachers, etc. from his days at Bishop-Hendricken High School in Warwick, Rhode Island.
The feature was intended to introduce Rocco to Minnesota shortly after his hire as Twins manager. While I wouldn’t characterize my own investigation into Rocco’s background as hard-hitting journalism, or even real journalism, I did discover a few things that perhaps were assumed but hadn’t been entirely verified, and I did interview a few folks who had only the best things to say about Rocco.
It seems that Rocco is a genuinely decent, hard-working, all-around outstanding fellow. It was extremely easy to find people who knew him, loved him, extolled his virtues, and generally thought few better people existed. As a life-long (and old) Twins fan, I knew this would make it difficult for me, as a fan, should I start to question Rocco managerial moves during games. After all, it’s difficult to criticize really quality people, and by all accounts, Rocco is a really quality person.
But this is baseball. The season is long. Criticizing the moves of the manager is basically what fans do. 162 times a year, we get to question when a pitcher is removed or not removed. We question each day’s line-up. In Minnesota, we question when Buxton sits out, and if his “off-days” should at least allow for a pinch-hit in a critical situation. In essence, we question everything. If I were a philosopher, I’d suggest that we think, therefore we exist.
Even though I personally think Rocco is a great human being, and frankly, a very good major league manager, I nevertheless find myself assuming my life-long role as completely unqualified but entirely interested baseball critic. That means that even Baldelli will not always escape my slings and arrows of outrageous criticism.
So, here goes: Don’t sit Buxton and Correa on the same day. If they are both healthy and able to put on their uniforms, don’t sit them together. They are the Twins’ two best players. They are the Twins’ two highest-paid players. In many ways, at least this year, they are the Twins best representatives of the Twins. I’m begging you, don’t do what you did on Sunday against the Royals. I know the game was ultimately won, but let’s be honest, that had as much to do with the Royals bullpen as it did with the Twins on the field. Until the eighth inning, the line-up was punch-less and lifeless.
I know it’s a marathon and not a sprint. I’ve accepted that Buxton will sit more than I’d like, and that even Correa needs the occasional day off. I’m with you, I’ve got your back. Just not on the same day. Please. Don’t do that again. The first seven innings of that game were almost unwatchable, and I know it because I watched them.
But, as always, I’m only thinking of others here. It’s not just me, Rocco, it’s your pitchers I’m worried about. Sunday, Bailey Ober had to look at his line-up and feel the pressure of needing to pitch a shut-out. That seems like a potential morale drain. I’m sure all of these guys are good character guys, but some of them (I don’t want to name names) can’t hit. Taking Buxton and Correa out has to leave the starting pitcher scratching his head, and muttering “why me?” as he takes the mound. As a fan, I found myself looking at that line-up and saying “why me?”
I like you, Rocco, I really do. Everybody likes you. I can’t find anyone willing to say anything bad about you. But, and I say this out of love, don’t do that again. Stagger the rest days for the best players on the team, or I will find myself loving you less.
Maybe you are indeed playing chess while I’m thinking checkers. It’s certainly possible. I mean, the Twins did win the game, and all’s well that ends well. Maybe the Royals are the perfect team against which to play the junior varsity line-up and rest the stars. They are not exactly the 1927 Yankees. But it just seemed like Sunday’s win involved too much good fortune and not enough common sense. Don’t make me ask this again. I’m begging you. Think of the fans. Think of the pitchers. Think of the children.