As the trade deadline approaches, there’s a lot being written about what the Twins’ “needs” are as they head in to the final couple of months of the season. Do they need pitching? Do they need more power at the plate? Yeah, maybe. But there are two things this team needs more than anything else right now. Leadership and accountability. Since there’s no way I could limit myself to a reasonable number of words appropriate for a single post on this topic, I’ve split this essay (some might call it a novel, but I think that’s a bit harsh!) in to two parts.
If you decide to read on, be warned: I’ve been watching way too many old movies lately and it has affected my thinking… and my writing. But you’ll get extra credit if you can correctly name the movie from which this post’s Title was taken (but be warned, it’s sorta-kinda a trick question… and no fair Googling!) – JC
UPDATE: Babs wins the contest (see comment section and click to see this clip)!
Whenever a popular sports team is viewed to be underperforming, there will be no shortage of people willing to point fingers at those deemed responsible for that team’s shortcomings. That’s true of teams from youth leagues, on up through high school and college, and certainly at the professional level. It has always been true. New media channels (such as the exploding blogdom) haven’t caused this, they’ve merely amped up the volume. The troubling aspect, for me, is that this has led to almost a mob mentality. Loud voices, whether or not well informed or rational, embolden those with louder voices.
Pretty soon, you’ve got a bunch of blacksmiths, barbers and storekeepers marching to the sheriff’s office and demanding that the stranger awaiting trial for killing a local good old boy be turned over to them for hanging. It takes a sheriff in the mold of John Wayne to stand out front and say, “if you want him you have to go through me to get him, but I’ll take 6 of you with me before you get by me,” before the mob disperses and calm is restored.
One problem we have here is that there is no sheriff to point out to the mob that it isn’t their place to demand summary execution of anyone and everyone they feel is guilty of causing the Twins’ current state of mediocrity (to be generous). There’s nobody in authority to stand up and sternly point out that the media critics (both traditional and nontraditional) are full of crap and they all should chill out and let the people who DO have responsibility for “administering justice” (in this case, that would be addressing roster, lineup, rotation and other performance issues) do so.
And if anyone DOES try to make that point, the mob just shouts louder and adds accusations that such person is part of the problem because they are just team/management lackies.
So the question for those of us who believe we are of reasonable and rational mind becomes, how do we strike a balance? Where is the line between fair criticism and just being a boorish ass? When does pointing out what we feel are legitimate deficiencies, whether directed at individuals or the Twins organization as a whole, become “piling on”?
The Joe Mauer “bunt heard round the world” is a perfect example.
When it happened, I was very vocal in our GameChat about my feelings toward it. You could say I was speechless, but that didn’t stop me from typing a few choice observations. I’d say based on reactions around Twins Territory, including among many people with much better credentials than I (yes, I admit there are a few), that my views were widely shared.
I’d have felt the same about it if Orlando Hudson had done the same thing. But I think it’s safe to say that if Lando had been the offender, it would have drawn some criticism, but it would not have been featured on SportsCenter and countless media talk shows. In short, there would have been no “mob” seeking to impart their own western justice like there has been with Mauer.
Likewise, if the Twins had a 10 game lead in the AL Central, the mob would not be looking quite so quickly to latch on to the issue nor as reluctant to move past it. I’d also hazzard that if Mauer were hitting .350 with 15 HRs right now, fans would be much more forgiving of this one brain fart (though clearly the fact that he’s NOT hitting well went in to his decision making process at the time).
My point is that this is merely the latest opportunity for everyone to vent their frustration over what appears to be turning in to a disappointing season. We could have a reasonable debate about whether that’s fair to Joe, but it should come as no surprise to anyone.
But if the goal is not to determine fair or unfair, but to address the root cause of the problem, what needs to be done?
Well, they say winning cures everything, so a nice 15-game winning streak would be nice, but I think there’s something missing in this organization that is at the heart of the Twins problems, on the field as well as off. They need John Wayne.
Yes, I know, you’re thinking, “the Twins have enough dead weight in the organization without adding someone who would take that term to a new, far too literal, level.” And you’re right. But you’ll have to wait to read Part 2 for a better (or at least a more realistic) answer. – JC