Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Heat Index is 115 Degrees—Let’s Play a Double Header!

In the stands at Target Field, basically.

Last April, the Twins rescheduled a rained-out game against the Indians for July 18, 2011, setting up the double header that was played yesterday.

Conveniently, the heat index was 115 degrees.

It was hot. It was sooooo hot. How hot was it? Consider:

  • The photograph accompanying an Associated Press story on the heat wave was of fans at Target Field.
  • Dozens of fans needed medical attention. ESPN 1500 reported the number as fifty for the noon game alone. At least several fans were taken to HCMC.
  • Anthony LaPanta and Roy Smalley fried an egg.
  • Players were offered IV bags in-between games. Michael Cuddyer opted for one.
  • At least one player—Tsuyoshi Nishioka—did not play the second game due to fatigue (although he was later seen inexplicably wearing a sweatshirt during a meet-up with a youth soccer team from Japan, which was in town for the Schwan’s Cup in Blaine).
  • The Star Tribune has a poll up asking fans if they miss the Metrodome and its AC ("No" is winning, but not by all that much).
  • Oh, and the Twins lost both games of the double header to the first-place Indians.

Playing multiple games in this heat will likely wear the Twins players down significantly. On the bright side, however, Joe Mauer did go 6-for-8 yesterday, raising his batting-average to .290.

The Twins play again today at 7:00pm. The heat index forecast is 113 degrees.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Opinions are like…

This post is about the current debate over replacing Tsuyoshi Nishioka with Trevor Plouffe at shortstop. Yes, I know many of my posts this year have been about Nishi. But no, I’m not in love with him and he isn’t my favorite player. I just find all the hoopla with him especially interesting. And I’m addicted to Google Translate. Seriously. (Side note: I just realized today that when Google-Translated Japanese reports on the Twins mention “Libya,” they are actually referring to Ben Revere.)

Over the past couple days, it seems everyone has expressed some sort of opinion on Tsuyoshi. Aaron Gleeman is worried, but still thinks it is too early to write Nishioka off. Sid Hartman talked with Chiba Lotte Marine president Ryuzo Setoyama—a close personal friend in town to present Tsuyoshi Nishioka with his 2010 championship ring—and he thought Nishioka needs to relax and will in time become a good major leaguer. Tom Powers of the Pioneer Press second-guessed the Twins’ decision to sign Nishi, but also reserved the right to second-guess his second-guess in case Nishi improves. Phil Mackey of ESPN 1500 talked about some stat-head gobbledegook that apparently proves Nishioka isn't actually as good as he played last year. Nick Nelson of Twinscentric advocated sending Nishioka to AAA and calling Plouffe back up to play shortstop. Twins Outsider advocated against replacing Nishioka with Plouffe, believing it wouldn’t be an upgrade.

And, of course, the ever delightful Jim Souhan took a little break from calling Joe Mauer an overpaid, lazy son-of-a-[redacted] to verbally poop all over Nishioka.

In fact, Souhan’s remarks were so scathing they were quoted and described by several Japanese media outlets. One report went so far as to describe the STAR TRIBUNE WEBSITE COMMENTS on Souhan’s article. So now the Japanese are really in-the-know.

Curious as to what Japanese fans thought, I googled around until I found a Japanese message board post commenting on Souhan’s remarks. Now, I don’t know exactly what was being said because I don’t know Japanese. But what I did discern was pretty interesting—the comments left by Japanese fans seemed pretty much the same as the comments by American fans: "Nishioka has been painful to watch," "It’s still too early to judge Nishioka," "Nishioka is just another Kaz Matsui," "Nishioka will come around," "Joe Mauer is batting even worse than Nishioka," "Nishioka should be sent to the minors," and "Come home Nishioka!" I even found a comment suggesting Plouffe as a replacement (comment number 889).

So yes, opinions are like... well, you know. We all have them.

Here’s my opinion: Nishioka has only played 19 major league games. Replacing Nishi with Plouffe is not going to propel the Twins to a division championship. I’m not convinced Plouffe’s minor league numbers overshadow his major league struggles. Nishioka did alright in spring training and in his minor league rehab stint; I’m not convinced the Twins need to send him to the minors. Gardenhire and the Twins are 100% justified in treating these two very different players in a different manner. Everyone knew Nishioka would have quite an adjustment period, and I certainly didn’t expect that period to be over in fewer than the equivalent of three weeks of major league games. The Twins suck this year anyway. Just let the kid play.

I believe that whether Nishioka can succeed in the majors will depend in a large part on whether we start to see him making adjustments in the coming weeks, even if those adjustments don’t necessarily fix everything right away. I just want to see, for now, what his effort and ability at adapting will be. From everything I’ve heard and read, he seems to have a good disposition for making changes. The story of how being cut from the World Baseball Classic team in 2009 and struggling later that season caused Nishi to reflect on his playing and lifestyle, and then go on to have a career year in 2010, makes me think he has a promising reaction to failure.

Adjustments can start with Nishioka swinging the bat without looking like the final stages in a game of Jenga. Seriously. It's freaking me out Nishi.

So yes—maybe Nishioka will end up just being another Kaz Matsui. But maybe he won’t. No one knows what will happen, but feel free to leave a comment with your opinion.