Angst, Acrimony and Accountability

I started writing this post as Wednesday’s “getaway day” game with the Tribe was playing out and the way that game unfolded, maybe it will provide the necessary salve to make the rest of what I have to say below no longer applicable to the Twins and, specifically, Twins fans.

But I doubt it.

Expecting this one game to make it all better would be like expecting a glass of milk to cure chronic acid reflux.

The high level of general dissatisfaction with all things Twins related did not come about because of one bad pitching performance, one mishandled fielding opportunity, one ill-timed ground ball in to a double play or even, believe it or not, one “WTF were you thinking?” bunt by the reigning AL MVP. This has been building for several weeks and one game will not make everyone feel better.

Frustration is not exactly a new sensation for Twins fans. Even throughout the past decade, while the Twins have been perenial contenders, it’s tough to recall a season that didn’t include periods in mid season where fans were prone to considerable angst over the team’s performance, the holes in the lineup the GM seemed oblivious to, or ownership’s perceived fiscal ultraconservatism.

But I’m not sure I’ve ever seen things this bad among the Twins “faithful”… if indeed we can even be considered worthy of that term at this point.

I suppose it isn’t really surprising. Everyone, from front office to coaching staff to players on the field to the media to every one of the (seemingly) 100’s of Twins-related bloggers and virtually every fan of the team, had high expectations for this season. Solid returning nucleus+new ballpark+new revenues+new (and better) free agent additions=World Series level expectations. And for several weeks, it certainly looked like those expectations were reasonable. Everyone was happy. Even if we disagreed with a particular decision or if this player or that player wasn’t performing at the level we felt they should, any disagreement was tempered with a sense that this team has so much going for it that it can overcome things that they may not have been able to overcome in previous seasons.

I guess you could say the Twins are certainly putting that theory to the test.

No, the angst is really nothing new. But I’m seeing and hearing more acrimony than I recall in prior years. Yes, we’ve all taken our potshots at whoever the favorite target du jour has been at any given point over the years. Nicky. DY. Jason (pick a Jason, any Jason… anyone named Jason has served time as a target). Cuddyer. Crain(wreck). The list is long, if not distinguished. The manager and GMs (past and current) certainly have always been favorite whipping boys, as have individual members of the coaching staff.

Criticism is part of being a member of a professional sports organization. It comes with the territory and even the lowest compensated of the group are very well paid by the everyday fan’s standards. The players and coaches know that some segment of the fan base is going to find fault, rightly or not, with their performance. We, as fans of the team or particular players/coaches, also have had to acknowledge that our blind affinity for Tiny Superheroes and dimpled outfielders is going to be occasionally tested and mocked. Around here, we try to do that kind of thing in a good-natured way and accept that we all have our favorites… as well as those who may have placed themselves so deep in to our respective doghouses that they can literally never redeem themselves.

That’s all part of the fun of being a fan and being a part of a community with other fans.

But the criticism lately seems to be getting well beyond the norm. It’s downright ugly in some quarters. I’ve seen it get personal. I’ve heard venom that, frankly, I thought was reserved for the worst of Yankee and Red Sox fans. I thought “we” were better than that. While I believe the tone has been much more offensive (to my sensibilities, anyway) in and on other blogs than it has been here at Knuckleballs, there have been a few isolated comments made that made me cringe a bit. To be honest, I’ve been guilty of it myself as my own frustration level has heightened lately.

I haven’t spoken to my fellow “Knuckleballs” bloggers about this yet, but I’m going to go on record saying I won’t allow the vitriol to become worse. Not here. Not on a site I have any level of say over whatsoever. Whether it’s in comment sections or GameChats, I believe we all should be entitled to expect a certain level of civility, not only toward one another, but toward the team in general.

The people who run this blog… the people who visit us here… the people who participate in GameChats with us… the players and coaches themselves… we’re all real people, not just fonts, pictures, avatars or numbers on a uniform. And as people, we have a responsibility, I believe, to treat one another with a degree of respect and civility, even when we’re being critical of  (or poking a bit of fun at) someone.

Does this mean we can’t express frustration (or even something stronger) toward individual actions (or inactions, in the case of our manager and GM)? Of course not.

When your superstar lays down a bunt in just about the dumbest situation one can imagine a superstar deciding to lay down a bunt, we can call it what it is.

When the manager continues to stick his best hitter so low in the order that he gets fewer plate appearances than guys who have no real reason to even carry a bat in to the batters box, we can point out he’s the most stubborn, pigheaded, “I won’t change because if I do, it means I caved to public opinion and I know more than all of you combined,” manager ever to take up space on a Major League bench.

In other words, we can and SHOULD hold everyone in the organization accountable for doing their job at or above expected levels. That goes for Bill Smith and Ron Gardenhire. It goes for Nick Punto and Jesse Crain. And yes, it goes for Joe Mauer, too.

I’ve got some thoughts on the subject of accountability (particularly as it applies to Mr. Mauer), on possible roster and lineup changes that I would propose, and just in general what we all need to see in order to get that enthusiasm back that we started the season with. I hope you’ll come back over the coming days/weeks to read what I have to say on those issues or any other thoughts that CapitalBabs, KL and I take the time to share here… and to join our GameChats.

But before I start in on the topics of what I’d like to see the Twins do going forward, I just wanted to start with what I’d like to make sure those of us here continue to do through the challenging days ahead. It’s really simple, actually.

Just play nice. :)

Thank you. – JC

3 thoughts on “Angst, Acrimony and Accountability

  1. This was wonderful, but may I just say this: As someone who watches many games, attends many games, etc., I would like to tell people to lay off the Joe Mauer bunt thing. I saw him–I believe last year, when he was, y’know, the MVP–lay down a bunt single when he realized the infield was playing back. Genius. But you know what I’ve seen out of him this year? A batting average lower than Delmon Young’s (which, really, isn’t hard this year because Young is hitting well, but from our usual batting champ, it’s impressive). A *lot* of doubly plays. So, when you have guys on first and second with one out, even in a good year six times out of ten he was going to be out (.400 on-base percentage; granted, he was probably closer to .450 in his best year–too lazy to look up stats).

    This brings us to Tuesday night, again. Mauer looked at the situation, and realizeed a way that he could get on base (a well-placed bunt) and advance the runners (to second and third). He realized he wasn’t hitting well lately (he is not unaware. He knows he’s hitting under .300). He’s hit into a *lot* of double plays–second on the team, I believe, or is he ahead of Cuddy again? I can never keep track. So, he decides to get a hit in a way they’re giving it to him–a bunt. He fails to lay down a bunt, but advances the runners.

    What’s funny? If the lad had hit into *another* double play, no one would remember it today–we would’ve moved on. Instead, he gave Kubel (someone else who has not hit well lately–in face, I think ever since he became the full-time right fielder, I think) a chance to get the runners home. And we’re mad about that.

  2. Thanks JC. Helpful reminders for us all.

    I would add a wish for everyone to keep some perspective. I LOVE baseball. Couldn’t make it through the summers without it. But I refuse to be more upset about a misplaced bunt than I am about the oil spill in the Gulf or the 8 million people who lost their jobs in the past few years.

    Please remember, baseball is a game. If you can’t enjoy it, including all its foibles and craziness, then you need to find some other way to spend your time. 162 games x 3+ hours/game is a lot of hours to be spending if it is making you miserable. Life is too short for the sort of vitriol I’ve been seeing (the mlb.com sites seem to be the worst, but it’s all over the place). It’s just not healthy, either for the ones spewing it or those of us who happen to hear/read it.

    For me, baseball is therapy. (It runs in the family. Dad calls Yankee Stadium his “Sanitorium in the Bronx.) During a game is the one time I become so absorbed in what I am watching or listening to that I don’t fret about the many things I could be fretting about. When other fans start losing their heads, spewing venom, and giving me agita, they ruin my peace of mind and my ability to enjoy the game.

    So I for one have appreciated that here at knuckleballs things have been (for the most part) pretty civil. Even when we disagree with each other, it usually doesn’t get ugly.

    Thanks to our moderators for keeping this site a pleasant place to share the game when we can’t actually be at the ballpark. Let’s all try to bring a bit of Ernie Bank’s “It’s a beautiful day, let’s play two!” to every chat.

    JMHO, dew

  3. whoops, that should have been Ernie Banks’ . . .

    grammar seems to be the first thing to go late at nite :)