Jump to content

Providing independent coverage of the Minnesota Twins.
Subscribe to Twins Daily Email

The Forums

Catch rule

Minnesota Vikings Talk Today, 07:33 PM
I'm amazed at how dumb that rule is and that they still haven't fixed it. Two feet, knee, elbow, break the plane and incomplete.
Full topic ›

Article: Twins Select RHP Tyler Kinley In Rule 5 Draft (L...

Twins Minor League Talk Today, 07:32 PM
See updates below...The Twins lost two players in the Major League portion of the Rule 5 draft and added a right-handed pitcher. In the m...
Full topic ›

Article: Twins Sign Closer Rodney To One-Year Deal

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 07:29 PM
The Twins headed into the Winter Meetings with almost zero closing experience on their roster. They will exit with a wealth of it.On Thur...
Full topic ›

What will it take to get Gerrit Cole?

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 07:23 PM
The NY Post reported the Yankees are working on a deal to acquire a Gerrit Cole. Players mentioned include Clint Frazier and Chance Adams...
Full topic ›

OOTP Baseball -- Who Plays?

Other Baseball Today, 07:10 PM
Who plays out of the park baseaball?   Personally, I love it and found out about online leagues. Is anyone else interested in joinin...
Full topic ›

A Road Well Traveled: Rebuilding The Twins

When it was leaked that the Twins had hired 33-year-old Derek Falvey to oversee their baseball operations, it was easy to make comparisons to 1985, the last time the Twins went outside their organization to hire a new leader. That time, they found 32-year-old Andy MacPhail. But parallels between the two situations don’t end at the winning candidates' ages, and the challenges and solutions that MacPhail faced and came up with provide some interesting insight as to what we might see next.
Image courtesy of Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
The Situation
The situations are eerily similar. The year before, the 1984 Twins had a very successful year, raising hopes. In fact, they competed for a postseason spot right until they were swept in their last series of the year.



***This is an excerpt of one of several features from the Twins Daily Offseason Handbook. To read this and more, be sure to download your FREE Twins Daily Offseason Handbook now.***


(P.S. In fact, they lost their last six games, a streak which started when they were just a ½ game from the division lead. That included perhaps the two most heartbreaking losses between the years 1970 and 1992, and they were back-to-back. One was yet another blown lead by Ron Davis and then the Twins blew a 10-0 lead with Frank Viola on the mound. After that game, Gary Gaetti offered his appraisal of his own throwing error that led to a seven-run inning: “It’s hard to throw with both hands around your neck.”)

(P.P.S. “Twins Worst Losses.” How did Twins Daily not produce that series in this year of all years? Apparently, it’s also hard to blog with both hands around your neck.)

The success in 1984 raised hopes, because the team was filled with promising youngsters. Kirby Puckett had debuted that year. Kent Hrbek had been snubbed for the All-Star team. Seven of the nine starters in the lineup were 26 years old or younger.

But 1985 started poorly. After winning their first two games, the team fell into a nine-game losing streak. (Again – sound familiar?) They rebounded with a 10-game winning streak, but on June 20th, they were only 27-35 and in sixth place in the division. Like this year’s team, a change was made, but in their case it was the manager who was fired. Billy Gardner was replaced by Ray Miller, and the team limped to a fourth place finish in the division, fourteen games back.

By then, the new owner, Carl Pohlad, had determined that the organization needed to modernize from the decades-old management structure that Calvin Griffith had in place. But rather than fire team “interim” president Howard Fox, he looked for young blood to help evaluate things first.

That included interviewing the relatively inexperienced MacPhail. MacPhail was probably best known for his father, Lee MacPhail, who built the Orioles powerhouses of the 60s and 70s. Andy didn’t exactly have high hopes about the interview. In Doug Grow’s book “We’re Gonna Win Twins”, MacPhail admitted, “I’d never managed anything. I was flattered they wanted to talk to me. I came in, I met with Carl and Jim, answered a series of questions, and went back to Houston.”

Sure enough, the Twins didn’t get back to MacPhail for months. But in June, they interviewed him again once they got a better feel for how the baseball-side was (or wasn’t) working. In August, MacPhail was hired, but not as General Manager.

The Organization
MacPhail was the Vice-President of Player Personnel. That position still reported to Fox, but ultimately his position was closer to the one Falvey will inaugurate: examining, organizing and overhauling the ball club with a long-term view, instead of paying attention to the more immediate roster needs.

MacPhail started with the scouting department, and that’s when the Pohlad’s fears were confirmed. Again, in “We’re Gonna Win Twins”, MacPhail recalled his reaction to seeing the Griffith-era scouting reports:


“They had their scouting reports on little 3 x 5 cards,” MacPhail said. “And I don’t mean a 3 x 5 card for each player. Each card was for a whole team. It was just incredible. I don’t mean to put them down. That organization came up with great players over the years. But things were changing in baseball. I think the median age for their scouts was about seventy-three. They had two scouts living in North Dakota, which is not exactly rich in baseball talent. But they didn’t have anybody in Texas.”


To clean up that mess, MacPhail plucked someone from another organization. He tapped the New York Mets midwest scouting supervisor: Terry Ryan. Ryan was also only 32 years old, but that wouldn’t be the most controversial of his younger hires.
Adding New Blood
At the end of the 1986 season, the Twins decided to make another change at manager. Ray Miller had never really worked out and so Fox designated third base coach Tom Kelly to hold down the position for the rest of the year. MacPhail was charged with finding the next manager for the 1987 season.


***To read the rest of this feature and more, be sure to download your FREE Twins Daily Offseason Handbook now.***


  • mickeymental likes this

  • Share:
  • submit to reddit
Subscribe to Twins Daily Email

Subscribe to Twins Daily Email

4 Comments

The 84 collapse wasn't considered heartbreaking by many.  At that time the Twins had not been to the postseason for as long as anybody could remember.  People in the Twin Cities were generally not paying attention to the Twins and those who were had been expecting them to collapse, being used to the fast-starting teams having terrible second halves, or vice-versa.  Even though the Twins were in contending late in the year, few were surprised by the end result.  

In any case, the 84 team did not have many holes.  With any other closer in the league, they probably make the postseason.  They were a good team.  

 

By the time the 85 season was rolling, people had mostly forgotten about the Twins again and few were expecting much.

It was not until late in the 87 season before fans in the Twin Cities truly started paying attention full-time.  The instant the Twins made the postseason, there was an electricity in the air that you had to experience to truly understand.  *Everyone* was excited.  I think in many ways, the residents of the Twin Cities needed that championship.  It was quite a party and the beginning of a new era -- not just for the Twins but for the Twin Cities.

As I have pointed out in this forum over and over again, the reason why the Twins have not even come close to following the 1987 Twins road map is that they have played it too safe and too conservative.  From a low point in 1982, the Twins went from a 100+ loss team to World Series Champs in 1987, and repeated with the same core players in 1991.

 

As this article points out, the difference between the 1983-1986 teams, and the 1991 from the 1988-1990 temas, was some fine tuning.  It takes time to be able to be able to evaluate your prospects at the MLB level.  Because some of the prospects, even the highest rated ones, fail for one reason or the other the process is completely dynamic.

 

But the modern Twins management approach has been too conservative.  The 1982 team moved players like Hrbek and Laudner from A+ ball directly to the major leagues.  College level prospects like Gaetti and Viola jumped levels in the minors and then moved to the Twins lineup from basically AA ball.

 

Not all of the prospects worked out.  Jimmy Eisenreich didn't work out because of illness.  Brad Havens looked like the best pitching prospect in 1982, but injuries inhibited his effectiveness.  Other players, like Lenny Faedo, just were not good enough,  But, by moving these guys up quickly, Eisenreich from A- ball at 23 years old, Faedo as basically a 21 year old AA player (who jumped from RK to AA as a 19 year old player) we were able to find their replacements quickly. 

 

The current Twins management would have moved the 19 year old Faedo, their 1978 first round pick, one level per year and then bounced him back and forth between MLB and AAA. He would not have even got a September call up until he would have been 24 years old and even considered for a starting position until the next season, which would have been 1985.  Then a year or two of evaluating, and the year would have been 1987.

 

But, fortunately for the Twins of that era, they moved Faedo in quickly.  FOund he could not play, and by 1985 23 year old Greg Gagne was the starting shortstop and in 1987 he had 3 full years of MLB experience.  

 

Kirby Puckett emerged in 1984.  The other players:  Brunansky, Hrbek, Gaetti, Viola, etc improved and the missing pieces, like veteran Bert Blyleven were added as needed once the team built.

 

 

mlhouse - Griffith knew how to build teams with great defense, particularly in the infield.  He was also not bad at all with building a starting pitching staff.  He struggled a bit with bullpens and was terrible at hiring managers.

 

Crossing the bridge between a good defensive team and a team that can fire on all cylinders doesn't necessitate making huge moves, as you say.

 

This team, however, has had holes all over the place on the field.  Bad defense, bad hitting, bad pitching.  Of course today's team isn't impossible to fix (and a few more years of growing up will go a LONG way), but as you suggest it's going to take more steps to get there.  

 

mlhouse - Griffith knew how to build teams with great defense, particularly in the infield.  He was also not bad at all with building a starting pitching staff.  He struggled a bit with bullpens and was terrible at hiring managers.

 

Crossing the bridge between a good defensive team and a team that can fire on all cylinders doesn't necessitate making huge moves, as you say.

 

This team, however, has had holes all over the place on the field.  Bad defense, bad hitting, bad pitching.  Of course today's team isn't impossible to fix (and a few more years of growing up will go a LONG way), but as you suggest it's going to take more steps to get there.  

 

It will, but in some ways 2016 was equivalent to the 1982 Twins season.  THe only difference is that the 103 loss season is the 5th out of 6 years of 90+ loss seasons.  The rebuilding that happened in 2016 should have started sooner.

 

Here is an example of the problems the Twins management have had.  Adam Brett Walker.  Now I get it, Walker's problem with making consistent contact in the minor leagues probably indicates that he was never going to be a major league hitter, and a guy with a 33% minor league strikeout rate isn't likely to get better at the major league level.

 

But then, his OBP rate wasn't terrible.  He had tremendous power, hitting 25 or more home runs in each of his full professional seasons.  His career OPS was almost .800 and he had 5 home runs and a .800+ OPS in 2015 Fall Instructional league.  Reasonable speed and probably would have been an adequate corner outfielder.

 

Again, I get the negatives probably far outweigh the positives.  

 

But the Twins never gave him a chance, not even a September call up.  Before you go on about roster spaces and such, we had roster space and September at bats for Logan Schafer, a guy who hit 32 total minor league home runs in 2444 PA.  We had a roster spot for Darin Mastrioanni, a 30 year below replacement level player who had 23 home runs in 3801 minor league PAs.  Yet, we didn't extend a September call up to a guy we sent to the Arizona Fall League the year before, who played well at every level of his professional career in the Twins minor league system, and had an unknown upside at the MLB level.

 

That is what has been wrong with this organization for the past 6 years.


Similar Articles


by Matt Johnson , 12 Dec 2017
Photo


by Seth Stohs , 10 Dec 2017
Photo


by Nick Nelson , 07 Dec 2017
Photo


by Ted Schwerzler , 16 Nov 2017
Photo


by Ted Schwerzler , 19 Oct 2017
Photo