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  • Mackey: Twins respond to Hardy/Ortiz comments

    ESPN1500's Phil Mackey details the Twins perspective in what has become 'going-the-other-way' gate.

    In terms of J.J. Hardy, according to hitting coach Joe Vavra, the Twins were trying to balance out the hitter who was completely lost at the plate.

    "When J.J. came from Milwaukee, he really had a lack of confidence after getting sent back down to the minor leagues," Vavra said. "So what we were trying to do is get some balance back in his swing. We definitely tried to get him to use that pull side, but I think he hit some balls in our ballpark that didn't go out. ... Plus, he hurt his wrist....I was pretty happy with him. I think he had to learn a little bit more balance, using (opposite field) to get his pull side back, because he was probably getting out front a little too quickly. ... First it was get his old presence back, because he lost it. He had lost all the confidence. I said, 'We're not going to try to do anything different, we're just going to try to get that confidence back.'"

    Hardy was a mess at the plate in Milwaukee the year before the Twins acquired him. The Brewers made attempts to adjust his swing, even sending him down to AAA Nashville to correct what they perceived was a detrimental "arm bar". Shortly after the Twins traded for him, I had the chance to sit down with assistant GM Rob Antony, who said on Hardy:

    TC: Working with Inside Edge, we noticed that Hardy was struggling with pitches on the outer-half of the plate, particularly from lefties, an area of strength for him in the past. Do you guys use information like that in any capacity? Do reports come in that show a hole in a swing that you might provide to [batting coach] Joe Vavra to look at further?
    Vavra: I think we look at some of that, but I’m not sure it plays a role in whether we acquire or not acquire. I think it’s more “Joe [Vavra], here’s all of the information we’ve got, we want to fix this guy, he’s had two good years and they’ve obviously figure out ways to pitch to him.” Joe talks to different people, finds out his swing got long, started to bar out a little bit and he’s a guy that is tough on himself when he starts to struggle. He never rebounded from that.

    TC: Quite a snowball effect.
    Vavra: We’re hoping for a fresh start, number one. Number two, work on some of the mechanics. Joe’s looked at some footage of him. We got all that stuff, almost every at-bat from last year. They can break it down, sit with Joe and our people and go over all that stuff. That plays a role.

    So the Twins were not alone on thinking Hardy needed some adjustments. The Brewers were also guilty of trying to change things up which likely made Hardy more open to advice from people like Rod Carew. Good or bad, Minnesota simply went about it by trying to get him to hit the 'Twins way' rather than re-connecting him to his previous strengths like Baltimore did.

    Mackey also addressed perhaps Patient Zero of the 'going-the-other-way' approach in David Ortiz. Ortiz famously told the Boston Globe that:

    "Something in my swing was not right in Minnesota. I could never hit for power. Whenever I took a big swing, they'd say to me, 'Hey, hey, what are you doing?' So I said, 'You want me to hit like a little bitch, then I will.'"
    On with 1500 recently, former manager Tom Kelly said of the Ortiz situation:

    "Well we begged David to be able to hit the ball to (opposite) field," former Twins manager Tom Kelly said in an interview with 1500 ESPN on Friday. "But you're set up to drive the ball to (opposite) field. ... And then if they leave it inside, or they hang it, and something clicks, (you pull it) -- and that's experience, and that's knowledge, and that's trusting yourself."
    As Mackey so appropriately points out, Ortiz has developed into a damn good opposite field hitter with Boston, holding a .408 wOBA when going the other way dating back to 2003.

    Feel free to Comment here.

    This article was originally published in forum thread: Mackey: Twins respond to Hardy/Ortiz comments started by Parker Hageman View original post
    Comments 13 Comments
    1. Jim H's Avatar
      Jim H -
      I remember Kelly saying something like that back when he was managing (probably on his pregame show). Ortiz had just had a game where he had hit a couple of home runs that he had pulled. Kelly said that he hoped that Ortiz didn't get pull happy. He(Kelly) said that Ortiz was so strong he didn't have to pull the ball to hit home runs and that he was a much better hitter if he didn't try to pull everything.
    1. AndrewGross's Avatar
      AndrewGross -
      Nice write-up. The more Vavra quotes and interviews that I read, the more confidence I have in our coaching staff. This whole idea that our coaches prevent hitters from putting the ball in the seats seems to be a big oversimplification. My impression is that when someone like Thome isn't having problems at the plate, the coaching staff won't try and change their approach, but when guys like Hardy and Ortiz are struggling, the staff will try a bunch of different approaches to get them hitting again.
      At the end of the day, the reason that Hardy and Ortiz weren't hitting the cover off the ball in Minnesota has to do with where those guys were physically and mentally at the time, and not because the coaching staff was inferior.
    1. FranTheMan's Avatar
      FranTheMan -
      I think both Hardy and Ortiz were cases of them being healthier and of Twins' instruction paying off too late to help the club. There is an implication from both that the Twins Way is wrong or incompetent and that is absurd. Would like to see all players take personal responsibility for their failings, show some appreciation, and not point fingers after the fact. Not classy. At all.
    1. tobynotjason's Avatar
      tobynotjason -
      Obfuscation and dissembling. He starts off sounding like there's nothing at all to The Twins Way: [OF COURSE] "We definitely tried to get him to use the pull side."

      But what does that really mean? Well, as everybody knows you have to "use [the opposite field] to get [your] pull side back".

      See, it's just a matter of perspective. Hardy's perspective was that they wanted him to hit the other way. Vavra has helpfully clarified that all that hitting the opposite way was just the secret path to pulling the ball. Riiiiight.

      (Of course he's correct that LCF in target field didn't help Hardy, but straightaway LF isn't going to hurt anybody, either.)

      Mackey using a SSS (one season's worth) of Ortiz's field-splits as if it in any way meaningfully offsets a career's worth of numbers leading to the well-established opposite conclusion (DESPITE the presence of the green monster) is just kind of silly.
    1. whydidnt's Avatar
      whydidnt -
      Bah, I think the comments just prove what Hardy and Ortiz said. The Twins staff has a blind spot, rather than coaching to a guys strength, they try to make all hitters use the exact same approach. Thome is a horrible example. He came here with 500+ HRs and as an established star, of course they weren't going to mess with his swing. The proof is in the results and it has been a LONG time since the Twins developed a home grown power hitter. It will be interesting to see what happens with Delmon in Detroit for a full year. But, I'm having a hard time thinking of any young players the Twins have brought up, or acquired via trade that have seen any positive increases in power as Major Leaguers in the past few years.
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      I did the following exercise a few years ago (probably like 4? and I cannot find the link unfortunately).

      Looked at OPS and IsoP of hitters that the Twins acquired and of hitters that the Twins let go. And in almost all caces, their OPS number before joining the Twins or after leaving the Twins were higher than while with the Twins. And I would probably add Delmon Young to the pile as well....
    1. ssmart's Avatar
      ssmart -
      I remember that Jim H !
      Ortiz was constantly in TK's dog house. He pretty much ran him out of town
    1. Jim H's Avatar
      Jim H -
      I don't know if Ortiz was in Kelly's doghouse or not. I certainly haven't watched Ortiz that much since he went to Boston, but it doesn't seem like he tries to pull that much. He is strong enough to hit the ball out of just about any part of the park.
    1. Paul's Avatar
      Paul -
      There's more to the Hardy situation. He was an allstar in 07. In 08 he put up as good as, or better, numbers. We're talking about corner OF like numbers. He was undoubtedly one of the top SS in baseball, on BOTH sides of the ball. Then 09 happened. The Brewers had young SS Escobar in AAA whom they felt was near ready for the show. Management let everybody within earshot know he was their future SS. But the idiots didn't handle their current allstar guy first. They tried to convince him to move to 3B and he balked. Rightfully so. His performance to that point made him an elite SS and a move from his natural position would cost him millions in future revenue. He had Brewer management in one ear saying "For the team, for the team" and common sense and his agent on the other side. He slumped under the pressure. They demoted him to AAA one day before he would've qualified for arbitration. ONE DAY. This set his free agency back one year and cost him bookoo bucks, He continued to struggle. They got him on psych drugs. Then they traded "problems with upside" with the Twins and exchanged him for Gomez. Now, you can make a case that Hardy should've been tougher mentally...but I say the idiot Brewer management team almost ruined one of the best SS in all of baseball. He got off the psych drugs but still came to the Twins with a "lack of confidence". He had an injury setback with the wrist thing, but with a little "TLC" and healing he got back to his old self the second half of 2010. JJ Hardy was and, proven in the last half of 2010 and 2011, still is a plus SS on D and a plus SS on O. Something, save one year from Guzman, the Twins have not enjoyed since Zoilo. Then the Twins fired him. Because, they say, he wasn't worth 6 million per year. Unless there were extenuating circumstances or character issues unexpressed, to me, the team showed a horrendous lack of patience with this guy. IMO, he was the missing linchpin in 2011. Players at that level recognize the contribution and value of a plus plus SS. I'm sure questions were asked. Hardy and Mauer are the same age and good buddies, and go way back playing together on national teams. I'm speculating here but, I betcha Mauer spoke up and Smith responded with something along the lines of "This is a business. You do your job and I'll do mine". I think they lost Mauer. And then the clubhouse. And went from Hardy and 95 wins to no Hardy and 99 losses.

      And I'm still pissed about it.
    1. FranTheMan's Avatar
      FranTheMan -
      Yup. "Idiot" Brewers and "idiot" Twins. The player was the victim, twice. Fired, twice. For no good reason, twice.

      Speculating here, but I think everyone, Hardy especially, will be better off when this dead horse story is buried. It does him no favors.
    1. Paul's Avatar
      Paul -
      Quote Originally Posted by FranTheMan View Post
      Yup. "Idiot" Brewers and "idiot" Twins. The player was the victim, twice. Fired, twice. For no good reason, twice.

      Speculating here, but I think everyone, Hardy especially, will be better off when this dead horse story is buried. It does him no favors.
      Fran, I really enjoyed your take. Your implication that Hardy is indeed responsible for his condition made me realize I have been discounting the obvious. My upset is lessened. Thank you for that. Something may be obvious to you that I am missing, or you may be privy to data that I'm not, but facts remain that support my position. There is such a thing as victims. There is such a thing as mismanagement. So what if your SS needs special attention. So what if your catcher needs coddling. Or your firstbaseman. Or your centerfielder. This stuff comes under the heading of what management does for a living. It's hard to get your subordinates to follow the course you chart if they believe you are working against them. Not that these two things are mutually exclusive but, I imagine with all the dollars involved in MLB it must be a primary concern of management to keep the team dynamic alive and not let the guys turn into only mercenaries. It seemed to me that this exact thing occured last year with the Twins. Do you disagree?

      Anyhow, from what i can see and the data I have, I accuse the Brewers of severe mismanagement. And the Twins, at the minimum, of a lack of patience.

      I think with just a little more oomph from Twins management in this area the debacle of 2011 could have largely been avoided.
    1. FranTheMan's Avatar
      FranTheMan -
      I think the 2011 debacle resulted mostly from multiple injuries that forced the Twins to field a largely minor-league/not-ready-for-primetime line-up for much of the season.

      If the real issue is as you speculate, hopefully the players still around were given a reality check by management. Baseball or elsewhere, employees cannot be given the impression they're in charge. They're not.

      But, again, my advice to Hardy is if/when the past is brought up, he just say "no comment." He has his boucoup contract in a low-pressure environment, with a perennial also-ran. Away from mismanagement and impatience. He should count his blessings, play baseball and cash big paychecks.
    1. Paul's Avatar
      Paul -
      Fran, on the surface you are most certainly correct on the cause of the debacle. But two phenomena are evident if you look closer.

      1) Health is influenced by state of mind. If you're happy you're healthier. If you're unhappy you're, to a degree, less healthy and more accident prone.
      2) People who excel at anything will not thrive under the whip. They check out real fast.

      Professional sports differ from business in this way. If business is performed competently you win. You make money. Theoretically every single business can make money. And win. You can beat people into making money. Doesn't work that way with professional sports. Every single game played has a loser. The synergy of a team is required to win. Every player in the ML has excelled at every previous level. It's the job of the coach to secure their acceptance of the team dynamic. To get them to "buy into the program". For the players to accept "the program", they need to believe you have their interests in mind. You have to convince them of that. These guys are all under contract. You can't just fire 'em en masse and hire new guys.

      So, my guess is the reality check you hoped for probably required the exit of Smith. And a lot of communication. And convincing. And coaxing. And no whip until the program was accepted. And maybe some kind of understanding that the Hardy for the black SS hole of "11" was a learning experience that would not be repeated.

      As to your advice to Hardy, I agree 100%. But to be fair to him, we don't know what was said...only what was reported by the reporter. Further, from the quotes I read and an interview on the radio a while back, Hardy said only the truth in a non-disparaging way.

      Besides, "no comment" isn't always harmless. Check out the Mauer / Souhan thing going on.
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