Numbers, numbers, numbers, they dictate everything in baseball today. What pitch, how far a runner takes his lead, and everything in between is controlled by analytics and NUMBERS. This makes modern-day baseball the perfect medium for a manager like Rocco Baldelli.
Scenario time. It's the 6th inning, the score is 3-0, and the starter is at 75 pitches. However, the opposing leadoff hitter is now walking toward home plate for the 3rd time of the day. Baldelli discreetly puts a finger to his earpiece as a mysterious voice tells him, "Do it…." He lifts his finger from his ear, spits out his bubblegum, and slowly walks to the pitcher's mound. The starting pitcher's day is over. Derek Falvey can be seen grinning ear to ear.
This scenario plays out across baseball, not just in Minnesota. There are many other examples like it, but the 3rd trip starter yank is the perfect showing of how analytics drive every decision in baseball. You don't have to like it, hell it infuriates me, but it is not changing any time soon, so why fight it? Instead, let us enjoy having Mr. Baldelli as the Twins' manager for as long as possible.
Baldelli is only 41 years old, and it was not too long ago he was running around center field in Tampa and ripping doubles into the gap. Going so quickly from retirement to management makes him the perfect player's manager. His job is to be laid back, allow his players to do what they need to, say the right thing to the media, and tell the replay booth to F-off occasionally.
The Twins hired him, with that being the expectation. They wanted a manager to gel with the players and serve as a pseudo interpreter/boxing bag between the front office and the media. Someone that would not be rattled by media pushback on their new style of play. That is all his job is, and it is all it needs to be, and it is perfect for modern baseball, where 99% of decisions are coming from the iPad anyway. He is the perfect guy to not get in the way of the players.
The polar opposite can be seen with the absurd hiring of Tony La Russa by the White Sox. For some inexplicable reason, that organization thought it was a good idea to resurrect a corpse to manage one of the youngest and most talented teams in baseball. It did not go well.
Somehow, a no-doubt Hall of Fame manager and an elite level of youth and talent came together to create losing baseball. It wasn't a coincidence that when La Russa had to take a medical leave last year, the team immediately started winning.
Yes, the Sox had some critical injuries, but in today's game, an old-school manager who makes great 'gut feeling' decisions is not what young players vibe with (Dusty Baker is GOAT and an exception). Young players want a manager like Rocco. Someone just old enough to listen to and respect but young enough to have perspective and understand what it's like on the player side of a clubhouse. He is akin to a tuxedo t-shirt. It says, "I can be serious, but I'm here to party."
Next time you feel like losing your mind at Rocco for yanking your favorite Twins starter, remember this. That is not his decision alone and is a product of the current regime. It does not matter whose butt Falvey/Levine have their hand up; someone will be their puppet. Let it be Rocco. By traditional standards, he could be better, but by the new standard, he is perfectly fine. That is what makes him great.