Millennial Moxie: Reviewing Rocco's Rookie Year as Manager
Image courtesy of Jordan Johnson-USA TODAY SportsAhead of his selection as the 14th manager in Twins history, Baldelli was described in the Tampa Bay Times as "young, bright, sharp, communicative, confident, humble, versed in analytics." All of these traits came to fruition during his award-winning debut as Minnesota's skipper.
Tom Froemming wrote an article here in late May, entitled Baldelli Is More Coddling Millennial Than Field General, and I think it pretty well summarizes the 38-year-old's staunch departure from managerial norms. Baldelli is a quiet commander. Articulate and tactful, he navigates interviews in a way that mostly avoids single-out critiques.
He runs his program in a very player-centric manner, sometimes bucking entrenched norms in the name of comfort and convenience for his guys. I think Dan Hayes of The Athletic has captured this best: For example, his piece explaining Baldelli's "LAF" acronym (a designation for days where players are allowed to come to the park "Late as [eff]"), and his contribution to the Offseason Handbook, where Hayes details the rest-and-recovery model that helped produce an historic year from Minnesota's catchers.
In my limited interactions with Baldelli, I've been incredibly impressed. Ron Gardenhire and Paul Molitor were plenty likable, in their own ways, but the new Twins manager is connective. This story of his heartwarming encounter with a young fan at a restaurant won't surprise anyone who's spent time with Rocco. He is an authentic person – sharp and knowledgeable, yet perceptive and open-minded. These traits helped him build instant rapport within the clubhouse, despite being younger than his team MVP, and clearly Baldelli's presence was conducive to successful results. In his first year the helm, he oversaw the biggest surprise in baseball: a record-setting, 101-win team that immediately cements itself among the three or four best in franchise history.
This was a slam-dunk hire by the front office, in what has now become a trend. Granted, the trend has its downsides; Jeremy Hefner has become the latest in a line of coaches targeted for poaching by other teams. But Baldelli isn't going anywhere, much to the dismay of the numerous teams now turning over managers this offseason. His return next year, alongside what figures to be a largely intact roster, provides all the more reason to be confident in a sustainable winning product.
The standard for Twins managerial debuts has been set high. Tom Kelly won a World Series in 1987. Ron Gardenhire reached the ALCS in 2002. Paul Molitor guided the franchise out of four straight 90-loss seasons with a winning record in 2015. Baldelli has picked up the mantle with a worthy effort, and now has already joined that trio as recipients of a Manager of the Year award.
Cheers, Rocco. We're all excited to see where you take it from here.
- Parker Hageman, Monkeypaws, PDX Twin and 2 others like this