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Baldelli: Pros/Cons and what I think about his future with the Twins


cHawk

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With the Buxton turmoil recently and much of the negative eye on the FO, there hasn’t been much talk about Baldelli. However, Baldelli has received just as much heat from this site over the past 7 months as the FO has. I’ve touched on Baldelli before in this thread, but that was incredibly one sided toward Baldelli and I never really talked about some of my criticisms toward Baldelli. Also, that was written in May. It is now November. Time has passed and we have more to look at. Baldelli now has his first losing season.

I’m going to look at some of the things I think make Baldelli the right guy for this team and I’m also going to look at some of the things I think make Baldelli not the right guy for this team.

Why he’s the right man for this team

The Twins had a real clunker of a season in 2018. Paul Molitor was fired as a result, and Baldelli was hired. Many other changes were made to the coaching staff as well. In 2019, the team looked much better and played really well throughout the year, en route to 101 wins. The team simply played much better under Baldelli, which implies good things about the manager. Even if you include the awful 2021 season, the team has averaged 88.6 wins per season (162 games) throughout three years under Baldelli. That’s better than any season they had from 2011-2018.

This might not look like much in terms of the things going for Baldelli, but the case here is that it doesn’t need much explanation.

Why he’s not the right man for this team

My first critique of Baldelli is that his team, particularly in 2021, looked poorly prepared. IMO, it hasn’t been talked enough how much this team struggled with the fundamentals of baseball. Failing to make the most basic of plays. I watched every game through late May (after May not every game, but most games) and I saw this team fail at the fundamentals, comedically at times. This could be attributed towards a coaching staff as a whole, but Baldelli is a pretty big part of that.

I talked about how the team performed better under Baldelli in the Pros section, but there are times where I wonder if Baldelli is getting less out of his team than the sum of its parts. To me, the biggest example of this is the 2020 Wild Card Series against the Astros. The Twins were favored to win, but they didn’t even show up to the ballpark. They lost the series without a single victory. Many on this site lamented about poor relief work, and while I agree that the bullpen was not good, you can’t overlook the fact that this team scored 2 runs in 2 games against a pitching staff composed entirely of Zack Greinke, Ryan Pressly, and a bunch of rookies. The Twins offense was underwhelming in 2020, but they were at least competent, especially at home. This is not a case of an incapable lineup being exposed, this is a case of everyone performing well below their talent level in a situation of high magnitude. It’s been obvious since January of 2020 that Mike Zimmer would consistently get less out of his Vikings than the sum of their parts, and I’m wondering if the same thing is happening with Baldelli. The 2020 Wild Card Series isn’t the only example of this, I also think that parts of the 2021 season are an example. This team had dog**** offensive performance after dog**** offensive performance for much of the beginning of the season, with the occasional 12-run blow-up.

All and all, those are my thoughts about Baldelli. What do I think his future should be on the Twins? As of right now, IDK. I want to say he would be on the hot seat for 2022 but right now, next season is on the FO. They need to untangle themselves with the Buxton situation and fill out a pitching staff. If they can do that, Baldelli should then be on the hot seat at the start of the season. But if they can’t and decide to punt 2022, it wouldn’t be Baldelli’s fault if the team doesn’t do well.

That was a lot. I think I’m going to go eat a cookie now.

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OK I was in upper management for many years. One thing I saw was that new managers would rely to heavy on their assistants early on, sometimes to the point that I would have to move their assistants to another location to make a decision on the new managers ability to lead. I think I see a similar situation here with the Twins. Rocco came in with an established veteran team with a couple of guys (one in particular) in the clubhouse that could kind of act as his assistants. Last season he lost his bench coach, his #1 assistant, and kind of had to navigate things as he went with a new assistant. Then when he lost Cruz and Berrios he lost 2 more "assistants" that helped steer the ship. However, I was encouraged by the way he responded after the trade deadline and seemed tp step up and take more control. Though I don't always agree with his decisions I'm not his boss, if the FO doesn't agree then its up to them to communicate to him what they expect him to change in his management of the game and the players.

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I'm pretty lukewarm on Baldelli over a variety of in-game management items but I don't think he actually does much fieldwork with the players, which tends to deflect some of the blame over poor fundamentals from Baldelli to the field coaches. Sure, obviously Baldelli is the manager and takes some of the blame for anything that happens but if he's not the one doing the work and he's not the one picking his coaches, blame should probably point upward toward the front office.

While I can't really evaluate Baldelli's management style, his teams always seem to hang in there through a long season. That should probably be a point in his favor; the fact the Twins played better in the second half of 2021 with a bunch of rookies and cast-offs was a pleasant surprise.

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I think that almost every manager succeeds or fails on the basis of things not seen by the fans (example Jace Tingler in SD). In those areas, I believe Baldelli is solid. He has the respect of the players and as someone not far removed from playing, he probably has more understanding and empathy for the modern player. Rocco seems to wear well over the course of a long season.

Obviously, he's not perfect and some players aren't going to respond well to his laid-back (public) approach. Further, he's made some glaring tactical mistakes. IMHO, two areas where Rocco has not been aggressive enough is pinch-runners and defensive replacements. Part of that may be the roster he had, but I saw Nick Gordon sitting on the bench too many times with a tying or winning run on base and one of the Twins' slow runners on base. Having a double bonus of running for Sano and having a better first baseman in the game never happened that I recall and there were opportunities for that to happen. With the gift runner rule, taking out a slow runner for the tying or lead run makes more sense because said slugger seldom got another chance to hit.

Management of the pitching staff, I think, was pretty good. He didn't overwork his bullpen despite many, many short starts from the rotation and by and large, he put pitchers in positions they could succeed. 

As I mentioned earlier, the baseball season is a long grind. We, as fans and particularly on game threads, want to see our guys win every game and go to the nth degree to do some on each and every contest. Players and managers know that it really doesn't work that way for six months. I think Rocco did a good job managing for the whole season, not trying to win one game and lose two more by eliminating players for future games. 

I think his seat will be warmer if and when the 2022 season gets going if the Twins disappoint again. Let's hope the front office gives him an improved roster and that the team is competitive this season and beyond.

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There's a few things I didn't like about Baldelli. But I don't know how many were his fault or if they were FO. And if they were Baldelli's, I still believe if the FO knew what they were doing they'd step in and intercede. Although many say he's a player manager but still I didn't like how he treated some that weren't in his circle especially Maggi.

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Your commentary on Baldelli is a good start.  But, in addition to the comments already offered by subscribers, I'd add that Baldelli relies far too often on analytics.  I buy into their importance in today's game but not to the exclusion of having a sense of the flow of players and the game.  Baldelli too often pulls pitchers who are on a roll for the sake of pitch count or bullpen use.  I also agree with stringer bell's comments about his failure to make timely and smart substitutions.  For the record I totally agree with comments about the lack of sound fundamentals.  That's costs runs and runs cost ballgames.  Perhaps it is the contrast to the emphasis recent managers placed on fundamentals but nothing irritates me more than watching multi-millionaires playing sloppy defense because they're not called on it.  Let's get back to the fundamentals and get these guys more pitching depth as a platform for winning more games!

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Not sure how Baldelli can be labeled a players manager.  Too much laptop managing.  Also the way he mishandled Gordon especially early on was disgraceful.  His refusal to get Maggi in for his major league debut in an otherwise meaningless series was inexcusable.  And how about his handling of Shoemaker?  On his last game for the Twins he left him out there as he was getting blasted embarrassing him and the Twins.  I think he totally mishandles players.  But I'm for giving him some more time.  Let's put the blame squarely where it belongs: ownership and the Front Office.

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56 minutes ago, Whitey333 said:

And how about his handling of Shoemaker?  On his last game for the Twins he left him out there as he was getting blasted embarrassing him and the Twins. 

I really don’t get/like the idea that the team would’ve done better had Baldelli put in a different pitcher with a 7+ ERA. You might as well leave him out there to eat innings if the game is out of reach.

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I'm not a big fan of Baldelli.  I believe he is a very smart baseball man, and that he is in tune with todays game, but I'm not a big fan of todays game either.  I prefer more of a Tom Kelly style.  Sound fundamentals, and more traditional style of play.  Not a great interview, IMO, but great manager.  Also liked Gardenhire.  I like what CWS have done.  Bringing back La Russa.  Love baseball from my early days in the 60's and still do.  Just don't like all the drastic changes in the game.  Especially the extra runner in extra innings, and 7 inning double headers.  Maybe a little too much analytics for my taste.  Also I believe that bunting needs to be taught and practiced much more.  To me,  that is by far the best way of beating the infield shift.  So,  I could warm up to Baldelli, but please bring baseball back to baseball.

 

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Its a difficult evaluation, in a sense like Buxton.  Twins and Rocco have won at a good clip when Buxton is on the field.  So my assessment is Rocco isn't a miracle worker.  And that's ok, few can do much more than write down the names of who you have.  I just want to see him kick some dirt and yell at an umpire.

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I think evaluating Rocco is really hard. I think people underestimate how much input the FO has on the way he manages. I believe it was on The Athletic, but there was an article talking about the late Mike Bell and having a bench coach in general. There was an interesting part in it where they talked about Rocco not having his right hand man to be in the clubhouse and be able to put out small fires. They talked about how it was even worse happening in this season because he spent so much time in his office with the FO people figuring out how to get the season back on track and pitching plans, etc. I don't think its crazy that a bench coach is so important.

I know many fans have a problem with him managing "by the numbers" so much and want someone different for that reason. This FO is never going to hire a La Russa. If your complaint is "laptop managing" you're going to be mad about any manager brought in by this FO. They will always bring in someone who manages that way as it's how they build their team and believe a team wins.

I think Rocco is a fine manager. Doesn't change the Wins and Loses at the end of the year really (I don't think there's any manager that really changes performance that much). I don't like the "it's his fault the team is bad at fundamentals" argument either. If millionaire athletes can't do what they're paid to do it's on them, not the manager. The Twins have been a pretty veteran team during his time here. I think it's reasonable that he expects veterans to have their routines down and be ready to perform without him having to hold their hands. If he has to hold their hands they're the wrong players to have on the team. It made sense he required BP and infield/outfield work for young players as the season transitioned last year. To me that's a sign of a good 2021 manager. Managing, coaching, whatever athletes in 2021 isn't a yell and scream situation. It's just not done that way anymore. So I think Rocco does fine. Wouldn't be upset if he's on the hot seat in 2022, but also don't think it's crazy if he isn't.

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Well reasoned post, that I mostly agree with. Generally when I’m in the should I fire an employee the question is (a) can I trust them? Or did they break an unbreakable rule? (b) can I get someone better? What are the alternatives?

for the exercise, A isn’t relevant that we know of, so let’s use B.

In terms of how I make my decisions, I tend to fall on the analytical side. Not that I don’t use my instincts too, but my instincts only start the search for the data. They aren’t the decisive factor. If I’m looking for a manager, I want someone who uses the same toolset that I use, but can challenge my assumptions to present a logical argument contrary to my beliefs. Homogeneity leads to incomplete decisions.

in that context, I don’t believe Falvine would want a Tony LaRussa, I think the FO would want someone less tied to tradition and instinct. I believe the FO values the Baldelli type and would  look for similar skills in the future.

so with that framework, I don’t believe there is another manager in a similar vein as Baldelli that is available and better than Baldelli.

For those that want Baldelli to go, they need to wait for the trust in Baldelli to fade. Another season of losing and a lost clubhouse or two seasons of losing (punting ‘22 might already be in the plan) might see Baldelli get fired. More likely he gets poached by another team and the Twins find their “next Baldelli”

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