The Free Press, Mankato, MN

February 19, 2008

The myth of veteran leadership

First day of official workouts, and Ron Gardenhire had to have a talk with Livan Hernandez about Livan's earrings and unwillingness/inability to keep up in the running drills.

Just a little reminder about the limitations of what the Twins broadcast mouthpieces lovingly refer to as "veteran leadership." If part of the rationale for importing Hernandez was to have an established starter for the 26-and-under crowd to model their behavior on, it's off to a rocky start.

The earrings are a minor thing. The running isn't. That's an issue that gets to the core of spring training. If Livan can loaf through his wind sprints, why can't Scott Baker or Glen Perkins or Mulvey?

Earl Weaver used to say that the most important thing in his managerial career was that in his first spring training his stars — guys like Frank Robinson and Brooks Robinson — went through all the drills, all the practices, with full effort. If the stars brought into it, the role players would follow. For a career minor leaguer like Weaver, it was vital; the Robinsons could have ruined his opportunity. Gardenhire's established now, and hernandez is no Hall-of-Famer in waiting, but the principle is the same.


A unique aspect of spring training 2008 is the fallout from the Mitchell Report. All over the game, guys named in the report as steroid or human growth hormone users are reporting to camp and hoping to make the issue go away in a hurry.

Andy Pettitte's apologia was the most high-profile, in part because of the Roger Clemens factor, in part because it's the Yankees, in part because he has admitted, under oath, use of HGH that went beyond what was in the Mitchell report.

But the basic rule has been to follow the Jason Giambi example: A vague "apology" for unspecific "mistakes" and "distractions." Paul Lo Duca. Paul Lo Duca. Eric Gagne. They're sorry they got caught, and that's the extent of their sorrow.

If gassy insincerity is all they have to offer on the subject, they should just shut up.

e-mail Edward Thoma