Before I start, it would be a crime not to mention the 2006-2007 Minnesota Golden Gopher Wrestling team National Championship earned over the weekend. Friday night was a tough night, and there were more than a few tense moments as I followed the play-by-play at intermat, but the team came back strong on Saturday morning and were able to eventually ice the third championship for Jay Robinson.
Now, back to baseball.
Last week Howard Sinker linked to a couple of stories from the New York media about one of my favorite former Twins: Doug Mientkiewicz. Dougie Baseball has, of course, landed in the Bronx for the start of the 2007 season, and looks to be getting significant time at first base (and the number nine hole in the lineup).
As it seemed to be during his time in Minnesota, Doug is getting some mixed reactions in his new home.
The first article was essentially a puff piece from the New York Times (you may need to register to see it). In it, Mientkiewicz reminisces about his time with Minnesota and the role he played in turning the franchise from a sub-.500 team to a perennial division contender.
Although Mientkiewicz lists his time with the Twins as a personal highlight, true to form, the New York writer focuses on his time with the Red Sox, particularly the World Series ball incident from 2004.
The second article comes from the New York Sun, and takes more of a skeptical tone in regards to Dougie’s potential contributions. In it, Tim Marchman lists the list of potentials for the “worst hitter of 2007” award. After discussing Jose Vidro, Craig Biggio, and Sammy Sosa, Marchman comes to Mientkiewicz:
Mientkiewicz will be 33 this year, hasn’t been even an average hitter since 2003, and his great defense exists in the same place Hernandez’s does — in the memories of adoring fans. While Vidro has his contract, and Biggio and Sosa have their big round numbers, Mientkiewicz has still more powerful forces working for him beyond his lack of the skill to be a major league regular — a great defensive reputation, an image as a scrappy, hard-working guy on a team on which literally every other position is played by someone with a real shot at the Hall of Fame, and manager Joe Torre’s seeming desire to get as little offense out of first base as he possibly can.
Putting aside the irony of a writer from New York discussing a player being overrated defensively (though, in fairness, Marchman agrees that the captain is not a great short stop), Mientkiewicz does seem like an odd fit in the Yankee lineup. He’s the anti-Sheffield, and that may well be his appeal. The problem is that defensive reputations don’t often solidify before defensive skill deteriorates. Truth is, Doug Mientkiewicz’s defensive numbers have been in steady decline since 2003,* and Twins fans are very familiar with what Doug brings offensively.
Still, it’ll be fun to see the number nine hitter in the Yankee lineup when the evil empire comes to town in early April.
Mientkiewicz Zone Rating, Out of Zone plays (Hardball Times)
2004- .774, 44
2005- .991, 38
2006- .824, 51