“The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know.”
This quote is attributed to Albert Einstein, noted physicist and go-to reference when a child needed a condescending response to a friend’s observation. It’s a quote that has stuck with me, acknowledging that even the experts in a field can recognize that they don’t have the answers to everything around us.
Some people are turned off by this. For example, a student of mine revealed that some of her classmates didn’t like me as a teacher because I “didn’t know anything” compared to the older and much more seasoned calculus teacher. Hyperbole aside, I pointed out that I didn’t really care about their opinion because I knew that I’ve admitted to my students when I didn’t know the answer to some of their questions. They took it as me showing a weakness that I was unqualified; I felt I was being humble and honest.
This past season of Better Call Saul, inconspicuous drug kingpin and chicken tender aficionado Gus Fring desired to build an underground meth lab beneath a laundromat. Fring knew it was a difficult task, essentially building a basement without anyone nearby knowing about it, and thus brought in several engineers to determine its feasibility. The first engineer stated that the project wouldn’t be a problem, while the second engineer immediately recognized the difficulty of the operation and questioned if he could even complete the project. Ultimately, Fring declined the first engineer yet hired the second.
I tell these anecdotes and quotes because I feel we’re seeing a parallel within the Twins organization. The first instance is this 2017 Sports Illustrated profile of hitting coach James Rowson. In the article, it mentions how Rowson would work in the cage with Twins hitters before suggesting an odd mechanical change. The hitter would incorporate the change, causing Rowson to then suggest another, likely unrelated tip. Its purpose was that he’d spout BS until the hitters would question him, teaching them that they shouldn’t blindly trust every suggestion that he’d make. Specifically, Rowson commented, “...if I ask you to do something and I can’t tell you why, you shouldn’t (sic) it.”
Fast forward to now with the hiring of new manager Rocco Baldelli. One of the traits that caught the collective eye of Derek Falvey and Thad Levine was, as Levine put it, “(He) was most comfortable telling us what he didn’t know.” Baldelli even demonstrated this during his first press conference as Twins manager while talking about getting Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano back on track. After fielding a question on how to fix the two young hitters, Baldelli responded by saying that he didn’t have any solutions at the moment but would figure it out after speaking with Sano and Buxton individually.
While I can’t speak for any others in the Twins organization or on the coaching staff, I still think I can make a safe assumption that Falvey and Levine aren’t only looking to get the team a leg up with analytics but also wants to create a culture where decisions are made with the evidence to back it up. Sports have lacked progressivism due to being entrenched in old mantras while never questioning their validity, and I feel the team is looking for an environment where curiosity reigns supreme. Not everyone accepts the humility in admitting they lack the answers, but it appears the Twins want to build trust that it’s okay to face the unknown.