Recently, some interesting news trickled out of Twins HQ. Prior to the 2022 season, Minnesota quietly—so quietly we didn’t hear about it until now—signed manager Rocco Baldelli to an extension through the 2025 season. The news couldn’t have come at a worse time, what with the team’s recent struggles to stay atop baseball’s weakest division. I was nonplussed at the news, because depending on how 2023 plays out for the Twins I’m not sure Rocco is the right skipper going forward.
When I examine this Twins team, I see a lot of talent. The starting pitching is clearly strong, the bullpen has one dominant reliever and a bunch of gas-throwers, and the offense routinely puts Byron Buxton & Carlos Correa in the same lineup amongst other proven or heralded players (Polanco, Kirilloff, Vazquez, Gallo, & Kepler/Larnach/Wallner). Yet, for the second straight campaign—third, if you can’t forgive 2021’s pandemic-adjacent troubles—victories have not been the end result.
Pardon my sport-swapping here, but the last time I encountered this issue was the 2020-2021 Minnesota Vikings. Those Kirk Cousins, Dalvin Cook, Justin Jefferson, & Adam Thielen units couldn’t reach .500 despite oodles of playmakers. As soon as long-in-the-tooth head coach Mike Zimmer was swapped for the positive, upbeat culture of Kevin O’Connell? A 13-win 2022 effort that had me questioning my sports loyalties.
I realize that Rocco Baldelli cannot hit, field, or throw for this ball club. He is utterly at the mercy of others in terms of job performance. Yet, the specific failures of the 2023 Twins point to a coach staff—of whom leadership must be assigned to the manager—that seems to be struggling.
A few examples...
- Defensively, this team is a wreck. Despite an infield that features Vazquez, Gallo, Correa, & Farmer and an outfield that often deploys Taylor and Kepler, mistakes abound. Seemingly every throw to nab a potential pilferer skips into the outfield and an extra base is taken. Balls hit into the gaps or down the lines are often misplayed into extra bases for the opposition. Throws to first base require a combination of breath-holding and sphincter-tightening.
- Offensively, in terms of runs scored and OPS, the Twins are roughly middle-of-the-pack. But they lead the world—even the Oakland A’s—in batter strikeouts and are 7th-worst in batting average. They seem to have no coherent approach to their stick-wielding and score runs in either massive outbursts or extreme scarcity. With the bases loaded? Embarrassment. Recent track-meet victory over San Francisco aside, the Twins are also only in front of the Colorado Rockies in team stolen bases.
- Despite being the easiest area to fix on a ball club, this is the third year running where the Twins have been extremely shaky on the back end of contests. God only knows what things would look like without the Gray-Lopez-Ryan-Ober starting quartet being so spectacular. Recently, the Twins pen issued bases-loaded walks three times in the span of a calendar week—the kind of thing that should happen once or twice a season.
I hear the argument all the time that “managers don’t really matter all that much”—and for the most part I believe it. But the inverse of such a statement could also justify a change. If swapping skippers isn’t an enormous needle-mover, than perhaps jettisoning Baldelli & staff might shake up a culture that seems okay with just coasting along in a bad division.
Frankly, I’ve had enough of the team’s sloppy play to make this statement: if the Twins do not win the ‘23 AL Central crown, I would buy out the remaining years of the Baldelli extension (this happens in baseball all the time) and assemble a new staff.
But let’s put it to a vote...
If the Twins don’t win the AL Central this year, would you...
Hang on through ‘24 or ‘25