I did not want to write about this. As you can tell with my exasperation while writing this--or at least I hope it comes through in my writing--is that people are turning a simple baseball play into proof that a player sucks or is stupid or...well, I'm not sure what point they're trying to make by obsessing over one play in a game...because I think it didn't affect the game at all. It didn't affect how I think about the player. It didn't change ANYTHING for me. I thought it was simply a decision that didn't turn out as well as the player hoped, but I also think that it didn't ruin anything, either. In fact, I think fans making a big deal out of it, may change how other fans think about the player, which may affect the player's confidence in himself which will affect his hitting, and possibly his defense. So, really, all you're doing is making an odd situation worse.
I'm going to lay out a situation for you. It's the seventh inning. Your team has just tied up a game 3-3, and you have runners on first and second with one out. Coming to the plate is a man who, in the past month, sports a .258 batting average, and through the entire year has hit into a 17 double plays (tied for fourth in Major League Baseball, tied for second in the American League). The infielders are playing back. The player lays down a bunt. It's clear he's trying to bunt for a hit--he's not a speedy guy, but he's not slow, either. Alas, his bunt only goes about ten feet, and he's easily out at first; the runners are now on second and third for a man who's been hitting .274 that month. He grounds out to first, to end the inning.
When the second guy was out on his non-sacrifice bunt, I turned to my friend and we both expressed relief that he had not grounded into a double play, which is what we expected (remember the 17 double plays he has already hit into?). Imagine my surprise when I got home and found out that the entire rest of the world was apparently irate because he bunted. They were even more irate when his reasoning was that he had not been hitting well lately, and the bunt was simply poorly executed. He should not have been bunting!
The play in question happened Tuesday night. The player that bunted was Joe Mauer. Now, we're used to Joe Mauer being the perennial batting champion. It is positively inconceivable for people to imagine that he's not hitting well. But face if, he's not. Delmon Young, annual whipping boy, has a higher batting average (it's not hard to have a lower batting average than Delmon Young this year--he's tied for 11th place in the American League). 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 for the year and while he might not know he's hitting .258 in July, he knows he's not hitting well). He's hit into a *lot* of double plays, and he knows this. So, he decides to get a hit in a way they're giving it to him by playing the third baseman back--a bunt. He fails to lay down a bunt, but advances the runners. Fans, media, and probably people in Germany are irate that JOE MAUER BUNTED. (Which is funny--I couldn't find it in my scorecards from last year, but I'm pretty sure he had a successful bunt single last year because he looked at the fielders, who were playing back, and took a shot. And it worked. And we all giggled that the batting champ bunted. What I *did* see was a note on my scorecard--on a Joe Mauer home run--that "he showed bunt on ball 2". So maybe he didn't successful lay down the bunt like I thought, but we still thought it was pretty smart of him to keep the fielders on their toes by saying "If I decided to bunt here, I'd get a hit.")
So, here's how I see it: Tuesday night, Mauer made an out while advancing the runners. Let's say Mauer didn't bunt. Let's say he swung the bat. Now, in his best year, last year, his on-base percentage was .444. That means that six times out of ten, Mauer was going to cause an out even in his fantastic MVP season. Thus, it's more likely he was going to make an out rather than get a hit--especially this year, but even last year. Let's say he flew out to left field, which is not inconceivable (he likes to hit it the opposite way). Denard Span's chances of advancing on the tag are pretty low. By letting Mauer try to get a "real" hit rather than trying to bunt for a hit, we suddenly have two outs with runners on first and second--a force-out at any base for Jason Kubel. Hmm, we don't like that so well. Let's say Mauer walks--which is less likely than a hit. Again, a force-out at any base, so when Kubel grounded out to first to end the inning, the ball may have been thrown home--and maybe a 3-2-3 double play had been started--or at least a 3-2 out. (I don't recall how hard the ground-out was--and it would depend on if Span was running on the pitch or not.) Best case scenario is a hit, which happens about two and a half in ten times, so don't count on it, or a walk, which happens less than three times in ten so again not to be counted on. Second best scenario we're looking at is...making an out but advancing the runners. Which, strangely enough...IS EXACTLY WHAT HE DID.
We just don't like how he did it, because we expect him to be a good hitter. (Funny, I bet if Nick Punto--a career .248 hitter--had done the same thing, no one would've batted an eye.) It's our expectations that are off. We're looking at what we want out of our reigning MVP. We're not looking at the fact that this year, he's not an MVP. It wasn't lack of intensity. It wasn't stupidity. It was a failed play, like happens approximately seven out of ten times for batters.
What's funny? If the lad had hit into *another* double play, no one would remember it today--we would've groaned about it happening AGAIN and moved on. Instead, Mauer gave Kubel (someone who is hitting better than him--.274 in July) a chance to get the runners home. And everyone's mad about that.
I do not get the ire. I'm happy he took a risk. I'm happier that he didn't hit into another @#$@#$* double play.* I never swear, really, so if you were talking to me, it would probably be "another stupid double play." I have no idea what swear word that's being substituted for. You're on your own to fill in your own adjective for the anger you feel about Joe Mauer (and the Twins in general) hitting into double plays. Unless you're not a Twins fan in which case you're looking for something like "awesome" and I hate you and your team.
Labels: G-g-g-girl, Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins