There's No Baseball, But the Twins Are Winning
The Minnesota Twins, as an organization, are making me exceedingly proud.
On this site, we spent the past four weeks looking back at every Twins season since 2000. (The last installment published over the weekend, and you can find links within to all past entries.) In running through this two-decade span, one comes to clearly see the profound change that has taken place.
At the start of 2000, the Twins were a soft-tossing small ball outfit with the lowest payroll in baseball, facing possible contraction. By the end of 2019, they were the greatest slugging team in history, with a staff full of hard-throwing strikeout pitchers. In 2020 they were set to follow with a record payroll.
The growth and progress of this organization is evident to see, and that goes beyond baseball.
Nate Palmer wrote a story here recently about offensive comments made by former Twins owner Calvin Griffith in 1978, and the friction they caused with Rod Carew. Pretty brutal and indefensible stuff from Griffith. It would be nice if we could chalk his attitude up as the vestige of a less enlightened bygone time, and to an extent we can, but it's naive to think the systemically ingrained issue of racism has disappeared in this or any other organization.
That is why I'm so heartened by the direction the Twins franchise has moved under current ownership, with 2016's complete overhaul – which involved bringing in outsiders to modernize the entire baseball ops department – serving as an inflection point of sorts.
For decades, the Twins had developed a culture that was fiercely loyal, but stiflingly insular. A complete reinvention was needed, and it came.
Minnesota's advancement is reflected in these remarks from Torii Hunter and LaTroy Hawkins, during a recent roundtable conversation for The Athletic:
Hunter: We had a situation, LaTroy and I in our organization — no names. But we had a situation where players were getting called the n-word or being told, “Turn your kind of music down.” Different things like that. And now we’re in that front office. We said, “Hey, do something about it.” And we went to (chief baseball officer) Derek Falvey right away. Bam! Derek Falvey did something about it. That’s what we need.
Derek Falvey got the information, didn’t cover it up. He got (this guy) out of there because we can’t do that. It’s time for change. That’s why I have so much respect for Derek Falvey, for listening to LaTroy and I, listening to some of the players on the team, that voiced their opinion about what this guy was saying to them, their problem, their complaint. That’s what it’s going to take.
Hawkins: You’ve got to talk about Thad also, Torii (general manager Thad Levine). He went to the high school “Remember the Titans” was about (the movie, released in 2000, was based on the true story of an African American coach and his attempt to integrate a high school football team in Alexandria, Va.). He understands social injustice and wanting everybody to be comfortable in their workplace.
When Falvey and Levine came aboard, they pitched themselves on communication, transparency and respect. The perspectives shared by Hawkins and Hunter, who both started as players with the Twins in the mid-90s, speak to an evolution this new leadership helped facilitate.
I can't pretend to know how the Twins as an entity, or their most visible faces, would've reacted to an unprecedented crisis-within-a-crisis like we now face, but I do know that I am endlessly impressed by their current handling of this turbulence and tragedy.
The Twins were one of the first MLB teams to commit to paying minor-leaguers throughout the lost season. This helped build toward a momentum that eventually nudged the misguided Oakland Athletics into following suit. Doing the right thing sets an example.
As matters devolved in Minneapolis, Twins manager Rocco Baldelli was quick to speak out about the injustice of George Floyd's murder, and all that led up to it. An infrequent tweeter, Baldelli was also not shy in later following with what should be a completely uncontroversial statement: Black Lives Matter.
A day later, the Twins were broadcasting that same message to 650,000 followers and fans, with Falvey standing front-and-center.
Words matter. Actions matter more. And that's why I find myself so grateful to the Minnesota Twins and their ownership for the step they took last week: The Pohlad family has pledged $25 million to the cause of rebuilding our broken community and pursuing racial justice.
At a time where the 2020 MLB season is in doubt due to frustrating monetary disputes, it is incredibly refreshing to see this purpose-driven generosity on display toward a city in need from our hometown baseball club, and those behind it.
Some might argue it's a small gesture in the grand financial scheme. Sure. So is paying minor-leaguers their tiny slice of the pie. But to the people benefitting, these actions mean a lot. And for those stepping up, it is by no means obligatory, nor conventionally expected. These are important and significant statements, magnified through the platform held by the Pohlad family and Twins in Minnesota.
Doing the right thing sets an example.
MORE FROM TWINS DAILY
— Latest Twins coverage from our writers
— Recent Twins discussion in our forums
— Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
- woolywoolhouse, JW24, nclahammer and 3 others like this