Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Leo Durocher's Proving Ground

Based on the series of Star Tribune articles emanating from Ft. Meyers, the Twins have spent the offseason accumulating the greatest collection of saints and gentle souls since Pentecost. Yesterday I mentioned the piece on Tony Batista, who in the Strib's telling is a gentle, itinerant preacher man of a ballplayer who dispenses wisdom and mammoth home runs in equal measure. In the past few days, we've been regaled with tales of the gentlemanly Rondell White and Luis Castillo, who can dominate games from the second base position, all while maintaining a level of decorum and dignity that would make Mother Theresa seem to be a malcontent.

Should we be the least bit cynical about any of this? Yeah, I think so. While I have no reason to doubt that all of these gentlemen are indeed fine fellows and we should all be grateful for their presence, baseball is not necessarily a gentleman's game. Indeed, some of the best teams of recent history have been known more for their contentious behavior than for contending for the baseball equivalent of the Lady Byng Trophy. Indeed, since 1970, you would be hard pressed to name a team that has won a World Series with a choirboy reputation. Even the Twins teams of 1987 and 1991 had tough, gruff customers in key positions - the 1987 edition featured crusty Don Baylor and Gary ("Rat") Gaetti, while the 1991 squad had surly righthanders Scott Erickson and Jack Morris leading the charge. It was no accident that the White Sox passed the Twins once they acquired the attitudinally-challenged A. J. Pierzynski. Teams that win usually have an edge - think of the Finley-era A's, the Yankees of the 70s and late 90s, the Big Red Machine.

So what do we make of the Twins charm offensive? Well, I'd suggest wishing them well, but remembering the words of Dale Carnegie dropout Leo Durocher, who said that in baseball, nice guys finish last. The Twins won't finish last (thank you, Royals!) but I'd be surprised if they won the division this year. You will start to see boxscores later this week, so we'll have an idea soon enough.

1 comment:

Lee said...

Maybe appropriate Durocher quote is: "Buy a steak for a player on a different team after the game, but don't even talk to him on the field. Get out there and beat him to death." - As long as they're only such nice guys on their own time...