In the end, the main issue for Bartlett wasn't his hamstring injury. Gardenhire said this team needs a shortstop with a commanding defensive presence, and Bartlett just hasn't shown it.I don't really know what to make of this. Gardenhire's reasoning is flawed in so many ways. Over the course of their careers, Castro is a .230/.271/.339 hitter, and Bartlett is a .233/.308/.322 hitter. That is in 1,871 at-bats for Castro and 236 for Bartlett. Based on his minor league performances, most people agree that Bartlett could hit at least .280 given a full season of at-bats in the Majors. Anything above .240 for Castro is surplus.
So then, it comes down to defense. I'm not going to argue that Bartlett is a better defender than Castro, but I think he clearly has better range (Bartlett's zone rating at SS last season: .865; Castro's: .813). Range will be key with the sluggish Tony Batista manning third base. Even though Bartlett will probably not be as consistent with the glove as Castro, I think that is an affordable luxury considering the tremendous upgrades the team has made defensively at third base and second base.
"[Bartlett is] a quiet kid," Gardenhire said. "But in the middle, you have to be vocal. You have to lead, and that's what I told him you need to do. 'You go down there and take control of the infield. You be the leader. Once you start getting that part of the game down, you'll be more confident all the way around.' "
Gardenhire compared it to the presence of a quarterback in football. He referred back to the Twins infields from their World Series teams of 1987 and 1991, the way Kent Hrbek served as the infield leader.
He also mentioned former Twins shortstop Cristian Guzman.
"Guzy controlled the game out there with [Luis] Rivas, and that was hard to do; Luis wasn't always on the same page," Gardenhire said. "As quiet as [Guzman] was, when he saw something, he'd run to the mound if he didn't like something."
The Twins have contradicted this attitude several times in the past. Doug Mientkiewicz was a vocal leader in the infield, but the Twins traded him to make room for a quieter, lesser defensive player who could hit. Luis Rivas was, by all accounts, very quiet and indifferent in the field, and yet he was the everyday starter at second for almost five years.
I cannot comprehend why Gardenhire feels the need to put the impetus on the 26-year-old Bartlett to be a vocal leader and quarterback of the infield when it is something that clearly has not been asked of many of the team's young infielders in the past. It's particularly confusing when you consider the fact that Bartlett would be surrounded on either side by experienced veterans who were brought in in the offseason largely due to their defensive qualities.