Friday, April 16, 2010

Juggling the Lineup

Remember playing organized baseball as a little kid? You know, the days when everyone had to play in a game out of "fairness." It was annoying enough to be pitching on a team as a 12-year-old and you lose a game because the little bastards behind you can't make an f-ing play...um...sorry I digress.

My point is, sometimes it seems like Ron Gardenhire manages like he coaches a Little League team.

Yes, Major League players need to get playing time in order to get into a groove, but there is also such thing as "over-juggling." Not everybody gets a chance to play in every game. When there are 25 guys on the roster, some guys are going to play less. They just are.

It is hard to really complain when the Twins are 7-3, but the way Gardenhire has shuffled playing time between Delmon Young, Jim Thome, and Jason Kubel has been unnecessary.

Instead of having a set lineup, everyone is left to wonder which of the three will be playing on a given day. And for a lineup this good, that is not a question mark they need. These guys should have defined roles.

Take for example yesterday. Thome was in the lineup in favor of Young. On Jackie Robinson Day. I mean, come on now, that's just...well...um...actually I should probably stop before I piss Orlando Hudson off.

In all seriousness though, the Twins need to find a set lineup. Especially when you consider the fact that Young has been one of the Twins hottest hitters to start the year, and he is still trying to prove that he can live up to his talent. Until he begins to stumble, he should be in the lineup every day.

Like Young, Kubel, the Twins third best hitter, should be in the lineup every day. Pitching matchups be damned, Jason Kubel should not sit.

So what does this mean for Thome?

I'm not saying that Thome should NEVER play. But playing Thome for the sake of playing Thome is not why Jim Thome is around. He is a bat off the bench, and that is how he should be used.

Need a pinch-hit-for-Punto? Call big Jim.

Someone need a day off? Call big Jim.

The fact is, Thome can get plenty of at-bats without being detrimental to Kubel, Young, or anyone else. Between guys needing days off and pinch-hitting, Thome will get his at-bats. You don't need to find Thome at-bats, the at-bats will find him.

Having Thome on the team is a good thing, assuming he is utilized correctly. The fact is, however, that when you start inserting Thome in the lineup because he "needs at-bats" you are doing so at the detriment of other players, and often the team.

Only nine games into the season, it is hard to say the Twins have found their lineup routine yet, but at the rate they are going the lack of continuity could get out of hand.

The Twins need to set a day-to-day lineup, and allow Thome to slide into his rightful role: a slugger of the bench.

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