Baldelli Is More Coddling Millennial Than Field General
Image courtesy of © Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY SportsThe victories keep piling up, the lead in the American League Central keeps increasing, World Series odds keep improving and you’d better believe other teams across baseball are taking notice. If the Twins’ success continues, don’t be surprised if Millennialball becomes the new Moneyball.
Baldelli eats avocado toast, talks about empathy and has allowed a nap room to be created at Target Field. He’s gone out of his way to be inclusive and encourages an atmosphere in which players are comfortable to be themselves. He’s given everyone on the roster their own trophy for making the team, and before each game the team holds hands and talks about their feelings.
OK, that last sentence isn’t true. Well, as far as I know.
You probably read the headline of this article and expected it to paint Baldelli in a negative light. That’s because for most people both “coddle” and “millennial” are loaded terms with a lot of negative connotation.
Well guess what? Baldelli’s job is to manage a bunch of millennials. Well, everyone except Nelson Cruz, one of the last active Gen Xers in baseball. But even Cruz is a big proponent of rest, as the nap room was his idea. Anyway, if you’re going to be a manager in 2019, you’d better have some strategies on how to deal with people from the millennial generation. Being associated with that term should not be viewed as a negative.
As far as coddling, the definition of that word is “to treat with extreme or excessive care or kindness.” That doesn’t sound so bad, though I could see where that could be viewed in a negative way in the sports world. Call me crazy, but by that definition I kinda want my team’s manager to coddle his players to some degree. Paul Molitor probably could have afforded to coddle a few guys over his tenure as manager.
People have been trying to find explanations to why the Twins have gotten off to such a great start. In reality, it’s more than likely a blend of several different things, but I believe this all stems from Baldelli and the clubhouse environment he has cultivated. The exciting thing is how they’ve got to this point.
We’re less than two months into Baldelli’s tenure as manager of the Twins, so a lot can change, but if there’s one thing that’s special about him I think it’s his focus on the long haul. The number of scheduled off days for the position players has been staggering and workload among the relievers has been pretty spread out. He almost seems obsessed with keeping people fresh.
Think about that for a second.
The Twins are one of the best teams in baseball despite setting out to create both a less mentally and physically stressful atmosphere. They’ve put an emphasis on long-term health and performance and yet they’ve still managed to thrive in the short term.
They’ve let up on the gas pedal and yet are somehow increasing acceleration.
But here’s the thing about Baldelli: I don’t actually think he’s anything special as an in-game manager. I don’t care for his lineups. There’s really nothing that appears particularly unique about his bullpen management. The one thing he’s doing much more than the average manager is shifting the infield, and even that’s just surrendering to the numbers. I’m not saying I think he’s a bad in-game manager, I just don’t believe this team’s success has much of a correlation to any buttons he’s pushing between the National Anthem and the final out.
If I were to describe Baldelli’s management style, I’d say he’s hands off. He’s the ultimate macro manager.
Baldelli doesn’t pinch hit a whole lot, and when he does, it’s typically in very low-leverage situations. The Twins have attempted just six sacrifice bunts and 19 stolen bases all season. They have the third-fewest relief appearances in baseball and the pitching staff’s percentage of plate appearances with the platoon advantage is right at league average. Baldelli seems to be motivated to simply stay out of the way.
Baldelli treats his players both as grown men capable of policing themselves and as professional baseball players who can be trusted to execute. Weird. When you think of it in those terms, it’s no wonder why this Twins team appears to be so comfortable and confident.
Is it possible that what’s done during the game is among the least important aspects of a manager’s influence on his team’s success? Perhaps being a tactical taskmaster is overrated, I’m not sure, but I do think it’s maybe time to re-evaluate how we perceive the manager’s role. There’s a lot that they do outside of filing out lineup cards and making pitching changes.
It might also be a good idea to change the way the terms “coddle" and "millennial” are viewed. The Twins sure are making them look like positive things so far this spring.
- MileHighTwinsFan, Harrison Greeley III, Sconnie and 5 others like this