I’m writing this from the Detroit airport, where dreams and civility go to die amidst vaguely futuristic architecture and mural-sized screens showing Piers Morgan interviews. It’s already 9:30, the plane (already late) might get here at 10:45. It might get here at 11:07. It might not get here at all. It’s beyond depressing.
I imagine that, eventually, this is how Jim Riggleman is going to feel, after the initial rush of resigning his job in Washington and telling GM Mike Rizzo to shove it wears off. As I laid out yesterday, Riggleman will be left with few options, with no real control over his fate, and existing in baseball only on someone’s whim. It will be a sobering thought that, after his small revolt, no one is likely to hire him for years, if at all. Perhaps he’s aready made his peace with that, or maybe a stark reality will be made clear this offseason, when he doesn’t even get an interview.
Riggleman’s Rebellion strikes me as a huge miscalculation on the former manager’s part. But he can take some comfort in knowing he’s not alone.
Chamberlain, the British Prime Minister from 1937-1940, is famous for traveling to Germany and signing away the Sudetenland in 1939 to Adolf Hitler. Chamberlain espoused Hitler for his honesty and promised that Britain would enjoy “peace in our time.” This, of course, was completely wrong. Chamberlain had completely misjudged the Germans. Hitler moved next against Poland, then France. He turned his attention on Russia and England.
While his initial moves to appease Germany were popular in Britain, Chamberlain is generally regarded as one of history’s great dupes. He trusted the enemy and was surprised when the scorpion stung the frog halfway across the river, when clearly it was in the scorpion’s nature.
While Jim Riggleman’s error was in resisting his opponent, he too seems to have misjudged the Nationals and Mike Rizzo. Expecting that he could get some redress of his grievances, and that the Nats might give him some security for 2012 in the face of an ultimatum, Riggleman was certainly disappointed and surprised when Mike Rizzo refused to negotiate. With losing credibility the only other option, Jim Riggleman was essentially forced to resign.
And in the face of this resignation, he has his supporters. Much of this is a knee-jerk “screw the man” reaction. Riggleman lived out the dream of millions of employees who wish they could tell their bosses to shove it. But given that Riggleman has effectively destroyed his chances of working as a manager ever again. Indeed, in the 20-20 hindsight of history, it’s almost certain that Riggleman will look like a fool.
Twins GM Bill Smith and the 2011 Twins are like Napoleon and his Grande Armee.
Napoleon and his 500,000 man Grande Armee seemed unbeatable. He had spent the last several years kicking Europe’s collective butt in every major battle. Greedily, he turned his eyes on the stepes of Russia, invading the Ukraine in June of 1812. When the French forces were unable to reach St. Petersberg, Napoleon was forced to march his army toward Moscow. Along the way, the Russians scorched the earth in front of him. In September, Napoleon and his forces defeated the Russian army and entered Moscow to find the city largely evacuated and on fire. With no way to resupply his army or reinforce his troops to cover for his losses, Napoleon was forced to retreat back through Russia in the dead of winter. When he finally left Russia, Napoleon had less than 30,000 troops left. Approximately 380,000 had perished, while another 100,000 were captured.
The balance of power in Europe shifted quickly. Napoleon was threatened by a coup in France, and a coalition of nations rose up to oppose him in 1813. He was defeated, deposed, and exiled to Elba. While he would return, he would never enjoy that level of success again, and he died in exile in 1821.
Like Napoleon, Bill Smith and the Twins were seen as nearly invincible in the AL Central. They had won X of the previous 9 division titles, and were bringing back the core of a franchise that had won 95 games in 2010. Justin Morneau was coming off of a debilitating concussion, but was expected to come back strong. Joe Nathan was going to be back from Tommy John surgery. The Twins were going to benefit from the upside offered by new middle infielder Tsuyoshi Nishioka, and were going to hold steady with the reacquisition of Jim Thome and Carl Pavano.
But the baseball season is incredibly long, and can prove punishing even for young teams. For a veteran club like the Twins, so reliant on players in their 30s or who have proven fragile in the past, going into the slog of 2011 with this group of players has been disasterous. Beset by injuries and ineffectiveness, the Twins have struggled to look like even a .500 club, let alone a contender. And even as they won victories over the last three weeks, they’ve lost more players (Morneau, Thome, and Jason Kubel) for extended stretches. Players age, injuries linger, and the season grinds on. And by the time the Twins get out of 2011, they could finish with a completely different 25 players than they started with.
In the middle of the Crimean War, a communications gaffe caused the 600-700 horsemen of the Light Brigade of British Dragoons to charge through the “Valley of Death” between the Fedyukhin Heights and the Causeway Heights to attack Russian positions at the far end. While this would have been difficult in and of itself, they were unsupported by the rest of the British army, and were fired on by Russian cannons from three directions. Still, the British managed to reach the Russians at the far end, before turning back. They were fired at once again from three sides on the return trip. More than two-thirds of the British forces, including three-fourths of their officers, were killed, wounded or captured. The charge was, of course, immortalized by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, into one of my favorite poems. While a terrible tragedy, it also is kind of funny that they rode all the way down the valley and all the way back, when it was so clear how terrible an idea that was.
Somewhat like watching the confusion, panic, and incredible awkwardnes of Ruben Rivera’s baserunning: