In the age of analytics, it seems that the prevailing viewpoint is that the playoffs are a crapshoot. The only way to win a championship is to build a team that is capable of making the playoffs year in and year out, and hope that you get lucky.
The Twins management seems to hold this viewpoint. Falvey and Levine are always talking about building a "sustainable winner." Baldelli has characterized this Yankees series as basically a random, unlucky roll of the dice. Here's a Baldelli quote on the series: "It's baseball, so that can happen. We've had other parts of our season where we played three games and didn't put very many runs on the board. You wish it doesn't happen in the playoffs, but it did." I think this thinking plays into his "I'm not frustrated" comment.
Yet, some teams succeed in the playoffs, and others don't. The Giants won 3 World series in 6 years earlier this decade. The Yankees won 4 in 5 years in the late 90s. The last 20 years, it seems like every time the Red Soxbuild a good/great team, they win a world series. What separates these teams from the great teams that failed? Dumb luck? The Mariners won 110 games, the Detroit teams earlier this decade sporting a rotations with of Scherzer, Verlander, Porcello, Sanchez and lineups with Cabrera and Martinez. Neither won a WS.
Many are saying that the Twins need a frontline starting pitcher to carry the team. As they say, good pitching always beats good hitting in the playoffs. I don't necessarily disagree with this, but I honestly think we just need a leader to carry the time in these spots. For the '87 and '91 Twins, the narrative is that Kirby put the team on his back and led the team to victory. I bet Bumgarner did the same for those Giants teams.
I would argue that this Twins team had the talent to succeed in the postseason this year, but they just lacked some sort of spark, a belief that they were better than those damn yankees. Who was the leader on this team? Cruz and Marwin should have been. Garver, Sano, Kepler, Polanco, Rosario could have been. All of these guys just looked defeated after that Didi HR in game 2, and after the 2nd inning based-loaded failure in game 3.
To be clear, I'm not arguing that random variance doesn't contribute to outcomes in short playoff series, I'm not railing against analytics, and I don't really know how individual leadership translates to that spark that galvanizes teams in the postseason. Heck, it may even be true that these stories of leadership and clutch performance are simply post hoc explanations of the random process leading to some teams succeeding over others in short series. (I don't like to think that this is true, though, because if it's all random it'd kinda take the fun out of playoff baseball)
In the end, you are judged on whether you get it done in the playoffs. If clubhouse culture and leadership influences the probability that a team wins a WS, then Falvine and Baldelli need to make this a priority. It looks we've got a talented core that can give us a few chances in the postseason, so now's the time to capitalize. Will someone on the current team lead us there? How about guys like Lewis, Kirillof, Larnach?