Tuesday, July 14, 2009

About Jason Bartlett

An interesting quote from former Minnesota shortstop Jason Bartlett in this Star Tribune piece about former Twins on this year's All-Star rosters:

Asked what the Twins must think of his success, he said, "It's kind of a pleasure for me. They needed Delmon [Young], and they wanted to get rid of me, and that was kind of something to push me."

The key phrase there: They wanted to get rid of me.

Now, the Twins front office has never described the inclusion of Bartlett in what is commonly known as the Matt Garza-Delmon Young trade in anything like those words. We can dismiss this as a version of that tired claim by a championship team, "Nobody believed in us but ourselves." Athletes will create underdog status for themselves as a motivator -- and Bartlett does say it was kind of something to push me.

That said, the Twins did give him up in that trade, and shortstop has been a problem for them since.

And I do think the Twins undervalued Bartlett. I think the Twins know about the sophisticated defensive metrics but prefer to judge fielders by the evidence of their eyes — traditional scouting. Bartlett shined with the Twins in the metrics, but in 2007 — the year before the Twins sent him to Tampa Bay — about a third of his errors came in the first two innings and resulted in unearned runs that put the Twins behind. I wrote about this at the time, how this doubtless stuck in Ron Gardenhire's craw.

And Gardy was slow to accept Bartlett as his shortstop to begin with. His rationale was that Bartlett didn't carry himself with the aggressive, take-charge attitude that Gardenhire regards as essential for the position. It wasn't until Terry Ryan, then the general manager, gave his manager no other choice that Bartlett got the job.

The Rays know traditional scouting; that's how they drafted and signed Young to begin with. They also, I believe, have a better grasp of the sabermetric virtues, and a willingness to accept newer ways of judging talentwhich was why they were willing to deal Young away, why they decided Brendan Harris was unacceptable at short, and why they wanted Bartlett.

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