May 16, 2021

What would former Twins manager Billy Martin do?

I’m tired of waiting. I’m tried of waiting on the defensive shift and the interminable number of “out” pitches that pitchers seem to throw. I’m tired of waiting on the hitters as they wait for the right pitch to hit. In fact, I’m tired of waiting for the game to come to the Minnesota Twins as they continue to lose.

All of this waiting has me thinking about former Twins manager, Billy Martin, who wasn’t going to wait on anyone or anything when it came to the game of baseball. For Martin, who spent nearly a decade with the Twins as player, scout, base coach, minor league manager and finally manager of the Twins in 1969, the game was anything but static. He was committed to putting the game in motion and did in ways that seem strangely anathema to the modern game.

But why? When a team is in a funk like the 2021 Twins, why don’t we see a team try ANYTHING? Why don’t we see the bunt, the hit-and-run play, base stealing, the squeeze play and other tricks of the trade to keep the other team off balance?

Most of all I’m surprised we don’t see more bunts against the game’s extreme defensive shifts, particularly for weaker hitters, including those in the Twins lineup. I wouldn’t ask Miguel Sano to bunt because at his size, he’s likely to get thrown out at first base anyway. But for the fleet of foot, like Ben Rortvedt, or Max Kepler, or Andrelton Simmons, or Jake Cave, doesn’t it make sense to try?

I’m sure Martin would’ve added the bunt against the shift to his bag of tricks, according to his biographer, Bill Pennington, author of the 2015 book “Billy Martin: Baseball’s Flawed Genius.”

The 1969 Twins were a very different team, according to the book:

In one game, with the bases loaded, they attempted a triple steal, Pennington writes. The runner on third did not break until the catcher, a bit confused and not sure where to throw, heaved the ball toward third base. Everyone was safe. Billy tried another triple steal three games later. This time, the catcher threw wildly over the third baseman’s head and two runs scored.

Extra innings…

-Well, the Twins finally snapped their five-game losing streak with a come-from-behind 5-4 win over the Oakland A’s on Saturday. They go for the series win on Sunday. The Twins looked dead in the water on Saturday until Miguel Sano hit a three-run home run late in the game. The win went to Alex Colome, the save to Hansel Robles and starter Jose Berrios fell just short of a quality start after he allowed four runs over seven innings.

-The Twins are now 13-24. A win helps, but they also have a long way to go.

COMMENTS

Hi, I’m Rolf Boone, Twins fan.

I became a fan of the Minnesota Twins after a friendly wager in the early 1980s. I survived Ron Davis, the meltdown in Cleveland, Phil Bradley at the Kingdome and then marveled at a rising generation of stars and two World Series wins in 1987 and 1991. Brad Radke made the 1990s bearable, while Kirby Puckett’s eye injury, exit from the game and eventual death made it almost too much to bear. The new century ushered in more talent — Joe Mauer, Johan Santana, Joe Nathan, Torii Hunter, Justin Morneau — and consecutive seasons of playoff baseball, followed by consecutive seasons of losing baseball. A winning season returned in 2015. So here we are. Go Twins.