Keys to 2019: Rocco's Modern Managing
Image courtesy of Daniel Clark-USA TODAY SportsTwins owner Jim Pohlad said Paul Molitor would continue to manage the club when Derek Falvey and Thad Levine took over the Twins front office. Molitor would win the AL Manager of the Year Award in 2017 as the Twins surprisingly qualified for the final Wild Card spot. It was hard to dump him at that point so Falvey and Levine stuck with him for one more season.
Even with the Twins finishing second in the AL Central, the writing on the wall was clear: The new front office wanted a more forward-thinking manager to steer the Twins back into contention. Molitor was removed from his managerial duties and the Twins went on the hunt for a modern manager.
Enter Rocco Baldelli.
Baldelli’s once promising playing career was cut short by illness and injuries. He joined the Tampa Bay Rays as an assistant and then was a coach in the years since he was forced to retire. Last season, he was given the title of major league field coordinator. This allowed him to work with the manager on in-game strategy while continuing to work to develop the team’s younger players.
Now the 37-year old is tasked with turning around a core of young Twins players that need their own development. Players like Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano underachieved throughout 2018. So far this off-season, Baldelli has visited both of these players at their homes. Just one of the first signs of his abilities to connect with players.
Baldelli should also bring some new ideas to the Twins managerial position. Tampa Bay has long been considered a hotbed for forward-thinking coaches. Baldelli played almost his entire career in the Tampa Bay organization and even played under Joe Maddon, who is considered one of the game’s best managers.
One of the new things Baldelli could bring to the Twins is a comfort with a concept like the opener. This was originated with the Rays last season and Minnesota has some in-house options that could slide nicely into an opener role. Minnesota started using openers throughout their system last season but Baldelli might make this a regular occurrence for big league pitchers.
He’s also mentioned that he wants players to be more mentally prepared for the game. Baldelli even mentioned that the players might not always be ready physically, but he needs them to have their heads in the right place for this team to find success. As a player, he fought through plenty of injuries, so this seems a likely focal point for the new manager.
Baldelli will need to establish his culture in spring training and the early months of the season. He’s been saying all the right things but winning isn’t going to happen overnight. Minnesota’s window of opportunity is just starting to open and the club needs Baldelli to take them to the next level.
What can Baldelli do for the club in 2019? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
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