So far this offseason, it feels like the chatter around the Minnesota Twins has primarily centered on the lack of major acquisitions. This is probably fair, considering the club seems to have money to burn even after acquiring C.J. Cron, Ronald Torreyes, Jonathan Schoop, and more recently Nelson Cruz. They also acquired Blake Parker; but further bolstering a bullpen that was very close to utter disaster last season, or adding a dependable starting pitcher, would seem to be goals yet to be accomplished.
I completely understand that sentiment. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Twins fanbase so desperate for a big splash either via free agency or trade. After years of Terry Ryan (no big moves), Bill Smith (bad big moves), and now Falvey & Levine (timid, organization-building moves), this is a baseball area starved for a solid, winning baseball team.
Here’s the thing, though: For the most part, this team is still currently constructed around a core of youth in Buxton, Sano, Kepler, Rosario, and Polanco (as well as Berrios on the mound, of course). Sadly, the fact that Rosario and Polanco are the “surest bets” of that bunch right now says something about how that group has come together (or, more specifically, failed to). At least for the very short term— the 2019 season—it won’t really matter how many free agents or new players the Twins bring in. Success or failure will still be determined by how those core pieces perform.
With all that in mind, I was scrolling through my Instagram feed over the holidays—probably trying to avoid the probing in-law queries after the family dinner—when I noticed a post that brought an enormous smile to my face. I almost cannot even begin to describe how important this single picture (as well as the attitude it conveys) could be to the immediate future of this franchise:
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I’ve been off of social media for a while but these posts are a must. First I want to thank my new baseball coach Rocco Baldelli for taking time out of his busy schedule to come visit me here in the Dominican Republic I really enjoyed the moment we spent talking baseball. Also want to let the Fans of the Minnesota Twins and my personal fans I’m working in silence really hard here in my hometown to give us all en exciting year god willing. LETS GO TWINS!!
One of the biggest reasons Paul Molitor was dismissed as manager seemed to stem from his inability to connect with the young players on the ball club. Falvey and Levine all but said as much after his firing, from what I recall. With all due respect to Paul, I have a hard time believing he would ever fly out-of-country simply to “check in” with Miguel Sano and chat. The fact that new skipper Rocco Baldelli was willing to head to the Dominican Republic on his own time speaks volumes towards his reputation as a guy who really cares about his players and knows how to interact with them.
Of course, at this point some of you might be thinking “why does Sano deserve any special treatment?” or “why should a manager have to dole out any personalized attention to players who underachieved?” My answer to that? We are all human—even multi-millionaire baseball players—and most of us respond positively to reinforcement and conversation.
Plus, consider this: Last season, the Twins soaked a few bridges in kerosene with their star prospects. The match was never struck, but neither side ventured across the platform, either. Sano was unprecedentedly demoted all the way down to High-A ball at one point, while the Twins yo-yo’d Buxton around all season and when he was finally healthy refused to call him up over service time issues.
Who was right and who was wrong—player or team—in those scenarios? I’ll argue that the answers to those questions are not nearly as important as what happens next. How do both sides throw some flame-retardant material on that proverbial bridge and each walk to the center? The answer to that scenario may very well define the 2019 season (and thus beyond) for this Twins franchise. If somehow, someway, Baldelli can be the motivator and front office mediator he was hired to be and get everyone on the same page again, I firmly believe the Twins can be competitive next season.
So to me, that picture of Rocco and Miguel smiling in the Dominican Republic, arms around each other’s shoulders, is worth much more than a few infield reinforcements and one potentially big bat. In what will almost assuredly be a make-or-break year for many youngsters (eventually Falvine and Levine will have to decide whether this core can be trusted to perform long-term and move on accordingly if not), that IG post was the best possible sentiment for starting the process off on the right foot.