Monday

8-16-10: To No-No, or Not to No-No...

Hello again everybody...

Welcome back. Hope you have a restful weekend. Mine was as laid-back as I've had in a while and it couldn't have come at a better time.

Don't get me wrong, it was great hanging with the family last weekend. But it'd been a few weeks since I had a full 48 hours of nothingness to occupy me, and I was more than happy to chill on the couch for a couple of days.

What made it even better than usual? Three words... Star Wars Marathon.

Thank you Spike-TV!!!

Oh, and the Twins swept Oakland. That certainly didn't hurt!

Included in that sweep, was a very interesting game yesterday with one particular decision that caused something of a kerfuffle amongst Twins fans.

And if you're thinking that it might be a good topic for a column... you'd be right!

I'll explain...

Right after the quote.

”Accomplishing the impossible only means that the boss will add it to your regular duties.”
- Doug Larson (1926 - ), American newspaper columnist


With all due respect to my fine readers who occupy management positions, Mr. Larson couldn't be more right!




To No-No, or Not to No-No...

These are two of the texts I received yesterday during the Twins/A's tilt...


“I'm soured at this decision to yank Slowey with a No-No intact.”
-Frank in Maple Grove


And...


“I wouldn't have [pulled Slowey after seven innings], but I can be convinced otherwise. Looking forward to your breakdown.”
-The Hammer in Burnsville


Thanks Hammer!

For those of you who didn't watch the game, allow me to set the scene...

Kevin Slowey pitched seven innings of no-hit baseball before being lifted for a reliever. He walked three, struck out five and hit one batter, but not one Athletics hitter reached base via a base hit over the seven innings Slowey was in the game.

So why on earth would Ron Gardenhire take Slowey out of the game when he had a No-No going?!

Two reasons: elbows and pennants.

Slowey had been skipped in his last turn in the rotation due to what was diagnosed as a mild form of tendinitis in his elbow. It was mostly a precautionary move, but a pitcher's elbow is nothing to mess around with (see: Liriano, Francisco; Neshek, Pat; and Nathan, Joe).

At the point Slowey was taken out of the game, he'd thrown 106 pitches, 64 of them for strikes. That's a lot of pitches (and not a great strike-to-ball ratio) over seven innings for a pitcher who's fully healthy. For a guy coming off a missed-start due to a balky elbow, it's a ton of pitches.

It was easy to understand why Gardenhire was troubled by the situation. He doesn't want to deny one of his pitchers a shot at history, but at the same time, he's got to consider the guy's health.

Gardy was pacing around the dugout more than usual, and made a trip to the mound to talk to Slowey in the seventh. It's awfully rare to see Ron go to the hill for any reason other than an injury or a pitching change. But this wasn't either of those things.

Instead, his trip to the mound followed Slowey's third walk and a hit-batter. With two on and one out and Slowey clearly laboring, Gardenhire had to come out and ask him if he wanted to keep going. Sure there was a no-hitter in progress, but a No-No isn't worth a trip to the DL because Slowey's elbow flares back up again.

Gardy must have liked what he heard, because he left Slowey in, and Kevin rewarded him by inducing a ground-ball double play to get out of the inning.

The question then became, would Slowey come back out for the eighth?

The answer came pretty quickly when FSN cameras caught multiple Twins players and coaches hugging and congratulating Slowey in the bottom half of the seventh while the Twins were hitting.

There were more than a few boo-birds making their feelings known when Jon Rauch came out in the 8th, got hit pretty good, and had to be lifted by Gardy for Jesse Crain. Gardenhire addressed those boos in his post-game press conference:


“I would boo too. I mean, I was booing myself. But I also know what’s right, and that’s why I (pulled him) ... I wanted to see a no-hitter myself, but I also know that I’m responsible for this young man’s arm.”


(Quote courtesy of Phil Mackey [@PMac21])

As the 8th went along, I got bombed with Twitter messages, Facebook messages, and text messages like the two I referenced above. My brother even called to ask what the hell was going on. (Sometimes I forget my cell phone can actually make and receive calls!)

I gave them all the same answers I'm giving you: elbows and pennants.

We have to remember the big picture here. The Twins are a ballclub in the midst of a hotly-contested pennant race*.

(* - Many thanks go out to the Detroit Tigers for taking two of three from the Whities over the weekend, allowing the Twins to extend their division lead to three games.)

If the Twins are going to maintain their lead - and more importantly, make a deep run in the playoffs - a healthy Kevin Slowey is going to be essential. You need five capable starters during the regular season, and anybody who saw Glen Perkins' start this past Wednesday, can't have much confidence in Perk being one of those guys.

As for the post-season, while it's fashionable for some “old-school” baseball pundits to favor a three-man rotation in a playoff series, the only way it makes sense is if you have a clear, dominant ace (which the Twins lack) who you want to pitch three games in a seven game series.

Otherwise, you need four solid pitchers to get you through a post-season series. Carl Pavano and Francisco Liriano are locks. After his complete-game shut-out on Saturday night, Brian Duensing is on the verge of becoming a lock. That leaves Scott Baker and Kevin Slowey dueling for the fourth starter spot.

Having two guys battling for that spot gives the Twins some depth, but only a little. And the last thing you want to see is Baker handed that spot because Slowey damaged his elbow going for a no-hitter in August.

Regular readers know I love baseball, history, and pitchers duels. So, naturally, I love me some no-hit baseball. But I couldn't agree with Gardy more on this one. A no-hitter would be fun, but it's not worth risking a guy's health. Not in the middle of a pennant race, and for those of us who care about the health of players - not ever.

So what do you think? Was it the right call? Do you think I'm a pathetic apologist for the skipper? Click on the comment link below and leave your thoughts!


That's going to wrap things up for today. I'm back on Wednesday with more of the usual nonsense.

Until then, thanks for reading!

7 comments:

  1. Hey, Dan--really enjoy your blog! Two things: First, absolutely the right call. 1. He had 106 pitches through 7, which means he's going to be at 130-140 through 9 at least. I don't think that's smart at all, so might as well pull him early if you're not going to let him finish. 2. I propose that anyone calling a no-hitter a "no-no" be sentenced to 3 pad-less punt returns. It's just a stupid phrase and I've never liked it, but I do like the idea of punt returns as punishment.

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  2. To each their semantic-own.

    Thanks for the comment!

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  3. No, I think you're a very good apologist for the skipper.

    I am in favor of player health, too. No hitter, seven innings in the book, 106 pitches. You're looking at 30 more pitches to close the deal, at the rate he was using them up, and that's a lot.

    I'm thinking, knowing the condition of his arm as "shaky at best", that R.G. was probably erring on the side of caution.

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  4. There's my new byline!

    "A quality apologist"

    I like it!

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  5. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  6. In the immortal words of Babe Ruth in The Sandlot "Heroes are remembered but Legends live forever". You HAVE TO, HAVE TO, HAVE TO give a guy a chance to do something historic. You know why ?? Because the opportunity to even ATTEMPT it doesn't come around very often, if at all, in your career. If it was Slowey's decision to come out of the game, then by all means, it is what it is but as a manager, I can't fathom the decision to rob a guy of the chance to do something truly memorable. Approximately 400,000 times in Baseball's 141 Year Life a pitcher has climbed a mound to start a game. And in that 400,000 or so attempts, 268 No Hitters have been accomplished. That percentage of success, is simply staggering. So to take the ball out of a guy's hand who has a chance to do something that happens ONCE every 1,500 times a guy hits the mound is deplorable. Elbow Tendinitis, phooey....if HE thinks he has enough juice left in the tank you gotta give him a chance to sink or swim. Matthew Stafford thew a touchdown last year the play after he separated a shoulder, Schillings bloody tendon in the ALCS, Ronnie Lott tearing off part of his finger to continue a play-off game. Playing through pain and being hurt is part of what makes some guys legends and other guys Ryan Leaf and Joe Crede. Using the "in the midst of a hotly-contested pennant race" as a rational for for ripping away a truly once in a lifetime opportunity for this kid (He's no Nolan Ryan, let's be honest) is inexcusable and selfish beyond belief as an organization. You ask these guys to be great and then when their feet are in the fire and they get their moment to rise above and do something monumental, you pull the rug out citing "I’m responsible for this young man’s arm" and "I would boo too. I mean, I was booing myself." Well, if Gardy ever gets canned as a manager he'll have a great career as a publicist. Trying to side with the people who pay to see you by SAYING you were with them while doing the exact opposite....Spin Zone at it's finest. Slowey, my boy, only you know how much gas was left in the tank. This "playing it safe for a pennant run" thing makes about as much sense as drafting Ricky Rubio. Slowey should have had his shot at greatness because he is guaranteed no tomorrow...especially in the world of sports. So, now if that tendinitis flares back up...not only do we lose him anyways, we, as fans, also lost a chance to see history.

    ~ Goresy

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  7. LOVE your passion Frank. I really do.

    I heartily disagree with caring about one no-hitter over damaging a team's chances at a pennant however.

    Thanks for the comment!

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