Tuesday, April 27, 2004

The Middle-Infield Dilemma

Let me begin by stating that I can no longer defend Luis Rivas. It takes a lot for me to abandon one of my favorite players and this is still not one of those times. When he first came up there was a fire in him. He played baseball like it was supposed to be played. There seemed to always be a huge smile on his face and he had a knack for getting a big hit and occasionally driving the ball into gaps. His defense was close to spectacular. The sky was the limit. This is why I fell in love with him and refuse to believe he can't still be great player for the Twins.

Both middle infielders have been terrible to this point and something needs to be done. The Twins have options. They are not necessarily attractive. Making a change at this point would send a message to both players that it is time to step up their play. The in-house replacements include Michael Cuddyer, Jason Bartlett, and Nick Punto. The team also has a glut of outfielders available to trade.
The Twins should demote Rivas much like was done with Tori Hunter and Joe Mays in 2000. Both players were terrible at the times of their demotion. After spending time in the minors building back confidence they came back to star for the 2001 team. The biggest support for Rivas comes from him being so young. So young that it is too early to give up on him. He hasn't had the at-bats to accurately show what kind of major leaguer he can be. He appears to be mentally strong enough to handle a demotion and come back stronger. The Twins should send him down and let him play his way back to the majors. After feasting on AAA pitching for a month or so he might be ready to return to the majors and play at the level everyone expected 3 years ago. That would be a huge upgrade over anybody who takes his spot in the meantime.

Cristian Guzman is an enigma. Ever since hurting his shoulder on a head first slide in 2001 he hasn't been the same player. Before that he was a rising star. People forget that his injury was largely the cause of the team's second half collapse. The young Guzman was fast, exiting and an igniter for the offense. The question is whether or not he is capable of getting it back and if he can do it while still playing with the Twins.

Guzman was a better hitter when he was driving the ball; he needs to start doing it again. He is terrible because he has been told to hit the ball on the ground. That he doesn't particularly like to work hard is also a hindrance on the situation. Somebody needs to tell him to take the reins off and just play. If he gets hurt again that's really too bad. Right now he is playing his way to an early retirement. Is he capable of being the Guzman of old? Yes, but probably not this year which means it will more then likely have to happen for another team which is sad for anyone who saw him before. Guzman is not likely to see time in the minors anytime soon though so the Twins need to decide what to do with his position.

No matter how much people hate to hear it Cristian Guzman is still the best option at shortstop for the Minnesota Twins. The only way the team upgrades the position is through a trade. With Rivas in the minors the team is going to have to play Nick Punto at second about half the time. Punto has never hit at any level. What he brings to the table is speed and hustle. Cristian Guzman on the bench is worthless to the team; they might as well replace him. He doesn't play any other positions or steal bases. Benching him may cause him to slump even further to the point that the team might as well release him, which would leave an even greater void at the position. It's better to leave him out there and pray.

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