Local columnist tells injured Twins to “suck it up and play”

31 Comments

I’m told Ron Gardenhire spent part of today’s pregame media briefing angrily addressing Tom Powers’ column in the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

Gardenhire ranted about it despite Powers not being in attendance, but after reading the column I can’t blame him.

Injuries have decimated the Twins, with Joe Mauer, Delmon Young, Tsuyoshi Nishioka, and Kevin Slowey on the disabled list and Justin Morneau missing six straight games with a flu that has also hit nearly everyone on the roster.

Powers’ column is devoted to telling the injured players to “suck it up and play” because “we’re all sick of hearing about tweaks, strains and IV bags.”

Seriously. Here’s an excerpt:

You know what? This is getting ridiculous. Hey guys, just go play baseball. We’re all sick of hearing about tweaks, strains and IV bags. Suck it up and play! The Twins have to quit babying these guys. Either they can play or they can’t. And if they can’t, get somebody up here who can. The problem is that guys walk into Gardenhire’s office and tell him when they can play and when they can’t.

To me, that’s a case of overcommunication. Unless the trainer specifically says a certain player needs to sit out, Gardenhire should just make out his best lineup and expect his players to go out there and perform. He has pitchers telling him they can’t pitch and hitters telling him they could use a day off. It’s April, for God’s sake. It’s not September. This garbage started in spring training.

Powers makes a decent point about the Twins keeping injured players on the active roster rather than placing them on the DL, which is something they’ve done for years now. However, any logic gets completely lost in the “get of my lawn!” attitude of a veteran newspaper columnist accusing an entire team of sitting out games with injuries they should be playing through and criticizing a manager for not forcing them to play, as if that doesn’t just lead to poor performances and more injuries.

But wait, there’s more:

“We’ve got a bunch of guys sniffing and coughing up there,” Gardenhire said, nodding toward the clubhouse. Did Ted Williams ever sniff? Anyone ever hear Willie Mays cough? … The Twins’ approach to injuries can be summed up in three words: caution, caution, caution. How do you feel? Think you might play today? Want to give it a try?

Enough! Gardenhire needs to do what Vince Lombardi used to do as coach of the Green Bay Packers. Just barge into the trainer’s room, tip a couple of tables over and order everybody out. As Lombardi would scream: “Nobody is injured here!” Then write their names into the lineup and refuse to take them out unless the medical staff advises otherwise.

Criticizing players missing time with a team-wide flu by writing “Did Ted Williams ever sniff? Anyone ever hear Willie Mays cough?” was almost enough to make me think the whole column was parody, except I’ve read enough of Powers over the years to know better. And really, an anecdote about Vince Lombardi screaming at injured football players 40 years ago? I’m sure Ron Gardenhire taking that same approach would go over really well in the Twins’ clubhouse and, obviously, knocking over tables will fix everything.

I’m ashamed of myself for even giving Powers’ column attention and clicks, but not nearly as ashamed as a veteran journalist with a prominent local platform and a large audience should be for writing that cliche-filled, rabble-rousing drivel.

Rays beat Mets 8-5, clinch 1st AL East title in 10 years

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Leave a comment

NEW YORK — Confetti instead of champagne. Silly string instead of beer.

The Tampa Bay Rays, long accustomed to doing more with less, figured out a way to maximize the division-clinching celebration they were allowed to enjoy during a 2020 season shortened by the coronavirus.

Randy Arozarena homered twice and the Rays clinched their first AL East title in 10 years Wednesday night with an 8-5 victory over the New York Mets.

“I’m completely dry right now, which I’m not a huge fan of,” center fielder Kevin Kiermaier, the longest-tenured Rays player, said with a grin. “But you have to adapt to what we’re asked of.”

With teams instructed to celebrate in a muted and socially distant style, the Rays went old school – or maybe elementary school – with their clinching party.

The team filed slowly onto the field after Nick Anderson fanned Andres Gimenez for the final out. A couple of players shot off canisters filled with confetti that eventually dotted the grass and dirt at Citi Field. Hugs and handshakes were exchanged before the Rays doused one another with silly string and lit some cigars in the visiting clubhouse.

Later, hooting and hollering could be heard from the visitors’ dugout.

“We’re little kids trapped in grown men’s bodies,” Kiermaier said.

Joey Wendle and Brandon Lowe also went deep for the Rays to back Tyler Glasnow‘s six solid innings. Tampa Bay will be home at quirky Tropicana Field for a best-of-three first-round playoff series beginning next Tuesday.

It is the third division crown for the thrifty Rays, whose payroll this season is just over $28 million – more than only the Pittsburgh Pirates and Baltimore Orioles. Tampa Bay, which began play in 1998, also won the AL East, home of two big-spending powers in the Yankees and Red Sox, in 2008 and 2010.

“It feels great to win the division, no matter what division you’re in,” Kiermaier said. “But especially the American League East – it’s just a different animal.”

After missing a chance to clinch Tuesday, the Rays went into Wednesday again needing just a win or a Yankees loss against Toronto to lock up the division championship.

The Rays (37-20) broke a 2-all tie in the sixth on Arozarena’s two-run homer off Michael Wacha and pulled away, taking care of business themselves while New York was routed 14-1 by the Blue Jays.

“At the end of the day, a clinch is a clinch,” said Wendle, who homered in the second. “But to do it on a win – everybody’s kind of riding the high of winning the game along with the division. We didn’t want to see it come down to them losing a game.”

Tampa Bay also is closing in on wrapping up the top record in the AL and the No. 1 seed in the playoffs.

Lowe, who had an RBI fielder’s choice in the third, hit a two-run homer in the eighth. Willy Adames added an RBI single later in the inning and Arozarena homered again in the ninth.

The insurance came in handy for the Rays when the Mets scored three times off Oliver Drake in the ninth – via an RBI groundout by Robinson Cano and a two-run homer by Todd Frazier – before Anderson closed the door.

“I think we had the game pretty much in control (and) certainly recognized what was going on in Buffalo, but I don’t know if you can ever prepare for a moment like that – it’s pretty special,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said.

Glasnow (5-1) allowed two runs on three hits and one walk with eight strikeouts.

Gimenez and Dominic Smith homered off Glasnow in the final home game of the season for the Mets, whose long-shot playoff hopes were further damaged with the loss. New York began the day 2 1/2 games out of an NL wild-card spot.

“We still have a shot with the four games left and we’re competing,” manager Luis Rojas said. “We’ve just got to do what we do – just keep fighting like we did in the ninth.”

Wacha allowed four runs on six hits and struck out four in six innings.

STABLE SHIRT

Rays pitcher Charlie Morton sported a T-shirt picturing a stable of horses as he spoke with reporters during a pregame Zoom call. Morton did little to discourage the notion the shirt was inspired by Cash’s viral rant earlier this month, when he declared the Rays have “a whole damn stable full of guys that throw 98 mph” after Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman threw near Mike Brousseau’s head in the ninth inning Sept. 4.

“The stable shirt?” Morton said. “It was in my locker last week and I like horses.”

With a grin obviously growing even behind his Rays mask, Morton said he rode horses as a kid.

“So I was ecstatic to see this shirt in my locker and I wore it,” he said.

As for the fireballers on the Rays’ pitching staff?

“We’ve got some guys that throw really hard,” Morton said.

ANOTHER LOSING SEASON

The loss guaranteed the Mets (25-31) will finish with a sub-.500 record for the ninth time in the last 12 seasons – a total matched or exceeded only by the Chicago White Sox (nine), Miami Marlins (10) and San Diego Padres (10). The White Sox and Padres have already clinched playoff spots and a winning record, while the Marlins are in second place in the NL East.

New York made the playoffs in back-to-back seasons in 2015 and 2016 and went 86-76 last year.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Rays: LHP Jose Alvarado (shoulder, lat) is scheduled to throw batting practice to 3B Yandy Diaz (hamstring) and 1B Ji-Man Choi (hamstring) at Tropicana Field on Thursday. Cash said all three players are progressing and he hopes they are available for the playoffs. . Brousseau (oblique) missed a fourth consecutive game. Cash said he would have been available off the bench if needed

Mets: RF Michael Conforto (hamstring) returned to the lineup as the designated hitter after missing two games and went 0 for 4. . The Mets activated RHP Dellin Betances (lat), who last pitched Aug. 29, and optioned RHP Corey Oswalt to the alternate site.

UP NEXT

Rays: After a day off Thursday, Morton (2-2, 4.64 ERA) is scheduled to get his postseason tuneup in the opener of a series against the Phillies on Friday.

Mets: Rookie LHP David Peterson (5-2, 3.80 ERA) opens a four-game road series against the Nationals. Peterson struck out a career-high 10 against the Braves last Saturday.