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Updated: August 21st, 2011 12:58pm
Gardenhire tired of repeat mistakes; 'I want them to pay attention'

Gardenhire tired of repeat mistakes; 'I want them to pay attention'

by Phil Mackey
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MINNEAPOLIS -- With his team sitting 15 games under .500 heading into Sunday -- despite finally beating the Yankees 9-4 on Saturday night -- you'll have to excuse Minnesota Twins manager Ron Gardenhire if he has a few things to get off his chest.

Prior to Saturday's win, Gardenhire spent time discussing his frustration with some of the mental errors being constantly committed by his team, and he elaborated more on that subject before Sunday's series finale.

Rather than summarizing and/or paraphrasing, here are the manager's words, straight from the source:

The conversation first turned toward baserunning again, specifically players not being in a position to score or advance multiple bases on extra-base hits -- a baseball crime committed in recent weeks by Trevor Plouffe, Joe Mauer, Danny Valencia and possibly others.

"Their first instinct is to run back to back to the bag. Your first instinct should be to freeze, see what's going to happen. If that guy catches the ball over his head, I've got plenty of time to run back and tag up, right? How do you not score on a ball off the wall? Hold your ground, see it, and then once you realize he's going to miss it, take off and haul ass and score.

"They get caught running one way, and them ball lands and we're trying to turn around and run back. How many times do you have to say it? Over and over. Those are the things ..."

Those things are being taught this in the minor leagues, right?

"Sure they are, they're just not paying attention. This is the stuff. They should learn to run the bases when they're growing up through the minor leagues, but they don't pay attention. Maybe we have to be more forceful in the minor leagues about this stuff."

It really doesn't make sense, with one out, to be tagging at second base on a ball hit over the right fielder's head, right?

"The old rule was halfway with one out and tag up with no outs, but you can still hold your ground. You can still get back and tag up if he catches it. You're going to see a guy get underneath a ball. There might be that one play out of every 15 or 20 that the guy snags a ball at the end and kind of catches you a little bit, or reaches right at the end, but still, if you're holding your ground and waiting, he catches the ball and you're five yards (off the base), you can run back, tag up and still go to third. We've had that, Mauer did it, Plouffe's done it, Danny. I mean, it's non-stop. That can't keep happening. And you keep talking about it."

Are these mistakes mostly a product of having so many younger players on the roster?

"There's a lot of younger players. But they've been playing long enough, they've been in spring training long enough. Paul Molitor and Jerry White do baserunning almost every day in spring training and go over and over these things. The hardest thing to do is simulate situational baserunning. It's really hard to do, and you have to pay attention in the games and watch. You can talk all you want to, but the game situation is different. But if you watch and you see a guy, and you're constantly saying, 'Hold your ground, hold your ground, wait and see what happens before,' and you see them run back, that's panicking. Just total panic. ...

"I just want them to listen and understand. When we hand them a report and make copies of these reports, read it. Where you going to play a guy? This shouldn't come up and all of the sudden a guy going, '(blank stare).' Read it. It's right there, we gave it to you. You should know. And the same thing about holding runners. Why do I have to stand in the dugout going, 'Hey, hold him.' When I played, no one had to tell me. I look at a runner and would go, 'I can't let him do that.' And I'd go get him. That's what I don't get.

"It's like you have to go, 'Hey, one of you two has got to hold him.' And you shouldn't have to. Those are the things I want them to pay attention and do."

When Gardenhire first took over as manager back in 2002, he was handed a roster loaded mostly with young and inexperienced players, so this isn't necessarily a new experience.

"We had (Corey) Koskie, guys like that, when they first came up it was every pitch. He would say, 'Gardy I'm going to look at you, you tell me.' I'm like, 'When are you going to figure it out? I'll tell you right now, but you need to do it yourself.' And eventually he didn't have to look at me anymore. ...

"With Koskie, it took longer than most. But I mean, he got it. He knew. He would go in and back and played the game. He knew how to play, and it took about a half a year for him to figure it out, but we didn't have to worry about him anymore. There would be times when I would go, 'I don't think so, go ahead and back up.' But not every pitch."

Do players understand the importance of this stuff?

"You preach it, and you talk about it enough, the fundamentals of the game. But you also have to understand, these guys are trying to get their feet in the door and keep them in the door, so their focus is more on getting hits than it is anything else, because numbers speak for themselves. 'I'm hitting .280,' or whatever.

"We saw that with Plouffe earlier when I sent him down and he said he was blown away that I sent him down the first time, because he had five or six home runs already. He was only hitting .220 or .230. ...

"That's the thought of the offense. It's all about offense and not the fundamentals, and that's what we're beating into their head. It's about both sides, both sides of the game, the defense and the offense. And they're learning. They're understanding that, because we don't let up on them. The things that I tell (media), I tell them."

Wouldn't managers in other line of work say the same thing you're saying?

"No doubt. Same thing. It's not just baseball. We relate it to everything. Just like your bosses. They want you to go cover the Twins, but they don't want to have to tell you who you need to talk to, right? They want you to figure that out. They want you to come up with something, so that's the same thing we want with our players.

"I want to write their name in the lineup, and I want them to look at the pitcher they're going to face and then know where we're going to play (on defense) without me, or Jerry having to wave a towel. It does happen every once in a while, but it shouldn't happen all the time."

Phil Mackey is a columnist for He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
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