Friday, October 25, 2013

Game 2: Ex-Twins rise and fall

Craig Breslow threw 13 pitches in his disastrous
one-third of an inning Thursday, just six for strikes.
There are two former Twins involved in this World Series, and both play for the Boston Red Sox.

David Ortiz, of course, is Boston's DH, cleanup hitter and unofficial face of the franchise. Craig Breslow, left-handed reliever, is one of the bullpen arms manager John Farrell relies on.

On Thursday night, Ortiz homered in the sixth inning to give Boston a 2-1 lead in Game 2. In the top of the seventh, Breslow came in with two on and one out; he allowed a double steal, yielded a walk, gave up a sac fly to tie the game, committed a throwing error to put St. Louis ahead, and allowed a single to plate yet another run.

And that was all St. Louis needed, because Boston got nothing more. John Lackey is the official losing pitcher, but Breslow — who had a terrific regular season (5-2, 1.81) and had not allowed a run in seven innings in the playoffs — should bear more of the blame.

Breslow has a 2.82 career ERA, slightly better than the 2.89 mark he put up with the Twins in 2008-09 before they blundered by putting him on waivers. I have long believed (and frequently written) that the Twins lost out on the 2008 division title because Ron Gardenhire wouldn't use Breslow in game situations. I've never understood why Gardenhire didn't trust Breslow more, or why Breslow had such a short leash in '09.

A familiar sight over the years: David Ortiz
gestures to the sky as he reaches home
plate after a home run.
More Twins fan complain about how the Twins gave up on Ortiz than about the Breslow fiasco, but it's worth remembering that when the Twins cut Ortiz loose after the 2002 season, nobody wanted him. He cleared waivers and signed a minor league deal with the Red Sox just before spring training began.

Ortiz has fueled the second-guessing over the years by criticizing Tom Kelly in particular and the Minnesota organization in general for insisting that he learn to hit to left field. In the Ortiz version of history, he got to Boston and the Sox let him pull the ball, and the rest is baseball history.

It's not that simple, and Thursday's home run — hit to left field, over the Green Monster — is a good example. Ortiz has become a legend in large part because he's not simply a pull hitter. He actively looks to go the other way, especially in Fenway. The cozy old yard has long been a boon to lefties with that approach, and Ortiz realistically should be grateful he encountered Kelly's philosophy in his formative years. (And perhaps he is, and clings to the slight of being cut loose as incentive.)

There are valid grounds to criticize how the Twins handled Ortiz, specifically the decision that he wasn't a good enough defensive player to DH. Boston made him a full-time designated hitter; that's something the Twins were unwilling to do.

Would Ortiz have become a star had the Twins stuck with him? He has a career slash line of .313/.409/.591 in Fenway; in all other games, his slash line is .268/.361/.519. That's certainly good enough to play, but not the stuff of legends.


  1. I would argue the sheer number of players the Twins gave up on who have shined elsewhere shows something is amiss -besides the three straight 90-plus losses - in the Twins organization.

  2. Why is it worth remembering no other team wanted him after the Twins cut him? I remember wanting him. I remember thinking he finally looked like the answer to the left-hand power void after Kent Hrbek's retirement. I remember he was affordable. I remember Torii Hunter being surprised and POed when Ortiz was non-tendered. I remember Ortiz being a great clubhouse presence. I remember we all knew by then that Doug M had a light bat. I remember thinking the people that called for LeCroy to replace Ortiz at DH were blind. I remember not being a bit surprised that Ortiz turned into a great home run hitter.

  3. Maybe it's worth remembering there was a time when other teams couldn't believe the Twins would be so stupid?