Terry Leach

Yes, Terry Leach will be included in the 1991 Minnesota Twins anniversary bobblehead set

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This story is less interesting because of the baseball and bobblehead angle than it is for something else, but first the background:

The Twins are selling a set of bobblehead dolls commemorating the 1991 World Series championship team. And it has every player plus manager Tom Kelly! At least now it does. At first it was only going to have 24 players plus Kelly, leaving out one: reliever Terry Leach. They subsequently fixed that, and now Leach will be included, but why was he originally left off?

Here’s where it gets interesting to me.  Here’s the story from the Star-Tribune:

At first, team spokesman Chris Iles said the collection was limited to 25 dolls, so the team bumped Leach to make room for Kelly … A few hours after the announcement, the Twins executive in charge of the promotion said Leach was omitted only because the team mistakenly sent to the factory in China a roster that included just those who played in the ALCS [which Leach did not].

While it may be more polite to Leach to suggest it was an oversight, does the second explanation make sense to you?  If you’re commemorating the World Series champions, why would you look at the ALCS roster?  At the same time, it does make some logical sense to me that a special order of some plastic knicknack from some Chinese (or wherever) factory would have to come in lots of 25, because that’s the kind of number that lots of things might come in. Part of me wonders if someone said “crap, if we go to lots of 26 the packaging is all messed up, we have to order custom and that’s gonna cost a lot. Who do you think we could leave off without someone noticing?”

To be clear, I have no idea what really went down and I am not for a moment suggesting that the Twins were doing anything sketchy. The part of me that wonders that sort of thing is the part of me that is cynical. And the part of me that gets a good chuckle at silly stuff, such as the prospect of people having meetings about bobblehead policy in which nefarious plots are hatched.  That part of me thinks that the first explanation was the truthful one and that someone made the judgement that Leach was expendable, never thinking it would be a big deal.

But even more interesting to me in this the role of the public relations professional.  I’ve had some dealings with these sorts of people in the past. Mostly corporate spokespersons, but some political too.  It’s a tougher job than you think, because they’re so rarely given complete information.  Sometimes by design — it’s not a lie if the person saying it doesn’t know better! — but usually it’s because stuff that needs PR attention happens fast, it’s hard to get full information from the people in charge and the PR person is forced to think on their feet. Often that leads to explanations of things that are plausible but aren’t exactly, well, truthful.  They did their best with the information given, ya know? Like this, which is one possible thought process that went into that second explanation:

“Why is this my problem?  How am I supposed to know why there’s no Terry Leach bobblehead?  I’ve been working on this Justin Morneau rehab update all day.  OK, think. Think.  Hmm, maybe Leach wasn’t in the World Series. I was five-years-old when that went down, so let’s look that up.  No, he was in it. Damn.  ALCS?  Hmm, he didn’t pitch in the ALCS.  That might work.  Heck, it’s not like anyone will notice this or make a big deal out of it. I mean, who has so pathetic a life that they they’re going to sit for 25 minutes and scrutinize a press release about a freakin’ Terry Leach bobblehead doll?”

Oh. Man. I hate it when I actually insult myself when writing other people’s imagined inner-monologues.

In other news, you can buy the bobblehead set — Terry Leach included — for $391 starting Monday at 9 a.m. at www.twinsbaseball.com/1991. Proceeds will go to the Minnesota Twins Community Fund.

Who Should win the Rookie of the Year Awards? Who Will?

LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 05:  Corey Seager #5 of the Los Angeles Dodgers reacts to his three run homerun for a 6-0 lead over the Arizona Diamondbacks during the fifth inning at Dodger Stadium on September 5, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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With the regular season ending on Sunday and most of the playoff spots locked up, there’s really only one big thing left to argue about: postseason awards. So let’s spend some time looking at who should win each of the four major awards and who will win them. Which are often totally different things. Next up: The Rookie of the Year Awards

This is a whole heck of a lot easier than the MVP and Cy Young Awards, that’s for sure. It’s a two horse race in the AL and a one-horse race in the NL.

Who should win the AL Rookie of the Year Award?

It seemed like Tigers starter Michael Fulmer would be the no-brainer choice for a good long while, as his low ERA and solid performance helped carry the Tigers when their starting pitching wasn’t doing them any favors. But then the Yankees called up catcher Gary Sanchez at the beginning of August and all he’s done since then is hit .303/.378/.672 with an astonishing 20 homers in his first 51 games. Fulmer has continued to be solid — he’s just short of qualifying for the ERA title, but does have the league’s lowest ERA at 3.06 — but Sanchez has been spectacular.

The MVP and Cy Young Award require full season contributions. Not everyone takes the Rookie of the Year Award quite as seriously, it seems, and are thus more willing to entertain smaller samples of excellence over large samples of solid work when it comes to the award. That’s how Bill and I think about it anyway, giving the nod to Sanchez’s historic two-month run. Ashley, however, favors Fulmer’s larger volume of work. You can’t really go wrong with either choice:

Craig: Sanchez
Bill: Sanchez
Ashley: Fulmer

Who will win the AL Rookie of the Year Award?

Hard call. I have no idea what voters will do on that quantity/quality calculation. I’ll guess Fulmer, but it’s just a guess. I could just as easily see Sanchez given some quasi-MVP credit for helping the Yankees remain relevant after the trade deadline and throw it his way.

 

Who should win the NL Rookie of the Year Award?

If you say anyone other than Corey Seager, and his .311/.369/.519 26 homer batting line, the state has authorized me to have you taken to a hospital for 48 hours of examination, at which point your competence to reenter society will be gauged. But there is ice cream there.

Craig: Seager
Bill: Seager
Ashley: Seager

 

Who will win the NL Rookie of the Year Award?

If any BBWAA voter lists anyone other than Corey Seager at the top of his or her Rookie of the Year ballot, the state has authorized me to have them taken to a hospital for 48 hours of examination, at which point their competence to reenter society will be gauged. They will not, however, be allowed to have any ice cream because, really, they should know better. They’re professionals.

Jeremy Giambi vs. David Ortiz

jeremy-giambi
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The 2002 Red Sox won 93 games, only to finish 10 games behind the Yankees in the AL West and six back of the lone wild card. They named Theo Epstein the GM that November and allowed him to begin reshaping the team, then led by Pedro Martinez and Manny Ramirez.

The Red Sox didn’t make any big splashes that winter. Their biggest free agent signing was Ramiro Mendoza, who got $6.5 million for two years. They also signed Mike Timlin and Bill Mueller (who played behind Shea Hillenbrand at third initially). They traded for Todd Walker. They stole Bronson Arroyo off waivers.

What Epstein did totally overhaul was a first base-DH situation that held the team back the previous season. 2002 trade deadline pickup Cliff Floyd exited in free agency, as did disappointments Tony Clark and Jose Offerman.

Brought in was a three-headed monster of underappreciated, high-OBP, Moneyball-type players. First, the Red Sox traded Josh Hancock to the Phillies for Jeremy Giambi, who had just hit .244/.435/.538 in 156 at-bats after coming over from the A’s at midseason. He hit .272/.402/.475 in 684 at-bats total between 2001 and 2002, and he looked like he was still very much in his prime at age 28.

The day after the Giambi trade, the Twins made the move to release David Ortiz. No one pounced, though, and Ortiz remained unsigned for a month before joining the Boston on a one-year, $1.25 million contract. Ortiz, who was entering his age-27 season, hit .272/.339/.500 in 412 at-bats for the Twins in 2002.

While that was going on, the Red Sox were working to bring in Kevin Millar for first base. Millar hit .306/.366/.509 in 438 at-bats for the Marlins in 2002 and was even better the previous season, but he was a poor outfielder and third baseman and the team already had Derrek Lee at first base. So, the Marlins, rather than trade Millar for a player, sold him to Japan for some much-preferred cash. Millar, not realizing that he was a desired commodity around the league, went along with the plan. That’s when the Red Sox broke an unwritten rule and claimed Millar off waivers. It turned into a long ordeal, but the Red Sox were finally able to land Millar in February by buying him from the Marlins.

I remember at the time being most excited about the Giambi acquisition. He couldn’t play defense and he had gotten himself exiled by the A’s for some transgression the previous year, but he looked like an awesome offensive force with his terrific power and ridiculous walk rate. Ortiz was certainly worth taking the chance on, too, but I thought Giambi would be better and leave Ortiz with little to do.

Indeed, Giambi started over Ortiz on Opening Day. However, both got off to lousy starts and Giambi’s playing time quickly diminished. Giambi finished April at .125/.288/.292 in 60 plate appearances, starting only once in the final week of the month. Ortiz came in at .212/.311/.346 in 61 plate appearances.

Both players found their strokes at the beginning of May. For Giambi, though, it amounted to all of about two weeks of success. He peaked with an .828 OPS on May 16. Ortiz’s build was slower, but it lasted. He had a .942 OPS in May, a .961 OPS in June, a .987 OPS in July and a 1.097 OPS in August before plummeting all of the way to .977 in September. He finished 5th in the AL MVP balloting despite playing about half the time the first two months.

Giambi, finding himself more starved for at-bats after Ortiz heated up, landed on the DL in late June with a bad shoulder. At the time, it looked like it might have been a made-up injury to get him playing time in the minors for a spell. It wasn’t. He returned a few weeks later, but he still wasn’t right. He made his last appearance on Aug. 1, going 0-for-3 against the Orioles. He landed back on the DL and then underwent surgery to repair damage in his labrum and rotator cuff.

As it turned out, Giambi never played in the majors again. As he was trying to come back from the shoulder surgery the next spring, he developed back problems. He played in 17 minor league games with the Dodgers in 2004 and nine with the White Sox in 2005. That was it for him, and he was done at 30 years old. In early 2005, he admitted to using BALCO-provided steroids and said that he regretted it. The strength training likely played roles in both his emergence and his downfall, given the breakdown of his body.

Things worked out a little differently for Ortiz…

Ortiz through 2002 (age 26): .266/.348/.461, 108 OPS+ in 1,693 PA
Giambi through 2002 (age 27): .269/.381/.437, 114 OPS+ in 1,549 PA

Ortiz after 2002: .290/.386/.570, 148 OPS+ in 8,387 PA
Giambi after 2002: .197/.342/.354, 81 OPS+ in 156 PA

And those 2003 Red Sox? Well, they won 95 games, which was good enough for the wild card this time. Still, they lost to the Yankees in seven games in the ALCS. They were still one year away.