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Same Old Story: Another Abject Postseason Failure


Nick Nelson
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It didn't matter that the names and faces had changed. It didn't matter that they were facing a clearly inferior team, with home field advantage, in a series where two mere victories would've meant advancing. It didn't matter that they had just about everything going in their favor.

 

At the end of the day, the Minnesota Twins did the same thing they've done in their past eight postseason appearances: came up short with a lackluster performance that screamed 'the moment is too big.'Over the past two regular seasons, Minnesota has gone 137-85, winning 62% of their games and capturing back-to-back division titles. In the postseason, those same teams have gone 0-5, extending the franchise's streak of postseason futility to 18 games while rarely even making the Yankees or Astros or sweat.

 

The Twins have trailed almost constantly in all of these games. They are not dramatic affairs. These teams aren't getting outplayed by high-caliber opponents that are stepping up. It's bad baseball and a chronic deluge of self-inflicted pain.

 

One thing that was different this time around was the quality of starting pitching: Kenta Maeda and José Berríos both brought it on the big stage. Nearly everything else, however, was all too familiar. A lineup that went completely silent, with key figures disappearing. Defenders failing to execute in critical spots. Normally reliable relievers lapsing at the worst possible moments.

 

Yes, the Twins had their share of misfortune, with Josh Donaldson unavailable for the series and Byron Buxton unable to start the second game. That's certainly been a recurring theme in their endless playoff struggles. But good clubs rise up and overcome. I mean, the Houston team they faced off against in this latest series was without its bona fide ace and single most valuable postseason asset in Justin Verlander.

 

Here are just a few of the characteristically vexing blunders I counted in two losses against Houston:

  • Tyler Duffey, who never allowed four baserunners in an appearance all season, gave up three hits and a walk (plus the game-tying run) in his one inning of work Tuesday. He finished his outing by issuing a leadoff walk in the eighth to Jose Altuve, who posted a .629 OPS in the regular season. Duffey now has a 2.31 ERA and 0.94 WHIP ratio in 80 regular-season appearances over the past two years. In four postseason appearances: 3 ⅔ IP, 6 H, 5 ER, 3 BB.
  • Jorge Polanco, a 2019 All-Star whose game has taken a massive step backward this year, was especially flat. He went 1-for-7 with a single at the plate, and committed the most costly gaffe of the series when he failed to cleanly deliver a throw to Luis Arraez 15 feet away at second base, leading a decisive three-run inning for the Astros.
  • Sergio Romo, a heralded postseason performer who's generally been effective for the Twins, was on the hill for said three-run inning. While Polanco's error didn't help him, Romo also didn't help himself. He gave up two hits and a walk while recording just two outs, and the walk brought home the go-ahead run (for the first time in MLB postseason history – another ignominious record for the Twins). Oh, and it was the weak-hitting Altuve who drew that walk, his second of the game.
  • Eddie Rosario, known for his big-game theatrics and clutch moments, went 0-for-7 at the plate before getting himself ejected in the sixth inning of Game 2. Batting fourth and fifth in the two contests, he was a total nonfactor at the heart of the order. It's likely that we've seen the last of Rosario in a Twins uniform, and if so, his career in Minnesota ends on a very sour note.
  • Even Rocco Baldelli – whom I hold in high esteem as a manager – had a tough series. It's easy to judge in hindsight, but nearly every questionable decision he made failed to work out. Despite both starting pitchers looking stellar, he went to the bullpen early in each game – relievers couldn't hold ties or leads. He went through several relievers twice without ever turning to Tyler Clippard or Matt Wisler, who were among his most effective all year. He pinch-hit Mitch Garver for Ryan Jeffers early in Game 1, then pulled Garver for Alex Avila immediately afterward, leading to the eventuality of Willians Astudillo coming up as the tying run in the bottom of the ninth.

 

These were just a few notable lowlights from another collectively uninspiring and underwhelming all-around performance. The Twins failed to capitalize on any of the numerous mistake pitches that came their way, went 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position and stranded 13 men on base. They left the bases loaded without scoring in the first inning of both games. They ran into multiple outs on the base paths, squandering opportunities that were in short supply. Nobody other than Nelson Cruz drove in a run.

 

The Twins made things so easy on Houston that Dusty Baker almost never had to go to his bullpen, using only six total pitchers as long relievers cruised through successful innings.

 

These are just the indicators of a team that wasn't up to the task, and sadly that's been a perpetual reality for the Minnesota Twins in October (or, in this case, late September). It's unfortunate that the current coaches and players have to bear the weight of 18 consecutive postseason losses spread across 17 years, but they've done their part in contributing to it. So it goes.

 

There's always next year. Until then we can only sit and wonder how this cursed run of impossible ineptitude keeps on snowballing, and when it will ever end.

 

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I thinPlayers didn't play.   That's just baseball.   k you sugar coated it a little bit.    Duffey also gave up all 3 of the inherited runners from Dobnak last year which were credited to Dobnak.    Very little of this is on the pitchers.   They gave up 7  runs and at least 4 of them were preventable with good defense.   Twins scored a total of 2 runs.   Houston might have pitched well, but they didn't pitch that well.   We recently scored more of two Cy Young front runners.   Its on the players.   Wait til next year.

 

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I agree completely with Nick on this assessment. While I'd like to say that I'm surprised by this development, I'm really not.

 

Something needs to be done to significantly affect the heart and soul of this team because it seems more often than not in recent years that when the going got tough, especially in the post season, the Twins collapsed like a house of cards. I don't have an answer for that, but I sure hope someone in the organization does.

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Some hard (or maybe not so hard) choices need to be made in the off season.  I'll preach it again, but the way they are structured today is not fundamental on offensive side of the ball.  It's homer or bust.  Come playoff time it is bust.  The "Bomba" mantra has too many guys looking to hit a 3 run homer when no one is on base.  Can't happen in playoff baseball.  Mgr moves were head scratchers, so is that youth at the helm or relying way too much on analytical data.  

 

Eduardo Perez play by play talked about how Dusty Baker (can't stand Baker, wearing wrist bands and OJ Simpson gloves as a manager fashion statement) talked during todays game about Dusty managing game one more on gut that the numbers.  Sometimes your gut tells you the better moves. The shift in certain scenarios led to runs being scored, when runs are a premium in playoffs.  Kudos to weak seeing eye singles, but they should have been outs and no damage.  

 

Walking to dugout on ground balls (Rosario) and not getting benched, mind boggling. Severe lack of plate discipline by most hitters, not all is fundamental.  Bunt a guy over, force the other team to play defense, doesn't happen.  

 

Times a changing, turn the calendar over and now time to hit the links and head home.  Crappy way to end the season

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Rocco didn't make a single good decision in either game. If this streak doesn't end next year I don't see how they can keep him in 2022.

 

Otherwise, goodbye Rosie and look to get off of Sano's deal. Might not be bad seeing what Polanco and Rogers would fetch too.

I really don't see this team making post-season in 2021. I think the White Sox are a team on the quick rise and Cleveland should be great as always. I think it's definitely time for a rebuild. 

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Some thoughts:

 

1. I want a bullpen full of guys who throw 95 plus, not 83. I don't want reclamation projects and waiver wire pickups to be "brights spots" for a month or two in the pen. I want weapons. Do you think the Yankees or Dodgers would be trotting out Sergio Romo in the 9th inning of a post season game? Caleb Theilbar? For all the talk about how Falvine have improved the Twins pitching, this part is a failure. Not getting bullpen help at the deadline this year was a brutal mistake, and we see the results. Late runs off the bullpen cost both of these games.

 

This becomes even more important in this day and age of starters not facing lineups a third time. That leaves 3 or 4 innings from your pen every game. Win those 3 or 4 innings consistently, and you will win a lot of games.  INCLUDING THE POST SEASON.

 

2. I want more tough outs in the lineup. 

 

3. The constant shifting isn't working. Used judiciously, great. As a constant, opening holes in the infield, with runners on?  No.

 

4. Conversely, if teams are gonna shift against the Twins, well, we see what happens when teams just hit it where they ain't. But you can't bleed a single through the right side if you're swinging from the heels on every GD pitch. Kepler and Rosario should have 25 bunt singles this season because of how often the entire left side is open.

 

5. I want the manager to manage with a greater sense of urgency, throughout the season and PARTICULARLY in the post season. Resting guys needlessly in the regular season is stupid, it doesn't mean they'll be healthy later (we of all people should know that) nor does it "save their legs." It's 4 hours of baseball, for 20 somethings for pete sakes. Regulars need to play at least 150 games, unless there's an actual medical reason to sit them. And in the post season, EVERY SINGLE AB matters. Every baserunner. Every pitch. Manage like it. 

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Bad defense at 1B (lack of foot work cost errors in both games).  Good bye Marwin.  No bitching about needed an ace for the big games.  Maeda and Berrios were great.  Remember pitch to contact?  How about hit with contact?  Put the damn bat on the ball.  And bring in the K Box as the umpire.  The calls for both teams were horrible.  Kiriloff looked like the best hitter we had and it was his first game above AA ball.  Pitiful showing by the Twins.

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Maddening.  Excruciating.   Soul crushing.   I am running out of adjectives to describe what it’s like to watch this team excel in the regular season then defecate all over themselves in the postseason.   I don’t know what the answer is.  Horrible at-bats by quality hitters.  Bad base running.  Untimely errors.   Dubious managerial moves.  Just a complete meltdown. 
 

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Time to see what we can get for some of our bigger names. This club has proven to be every bit the basket cases the other ones were. Maybe some new blood can lift this silverback gorilla off our backs. And Rocco gets one last chance. He’s been out coached in 5/5 playoff games.

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I guess we could argue whether these games (against this opponent) should have been tight in the first place...but for the most part, you're going to have to win close games in the post-season. And, yes, it won't matter if you don't find players that can make plays, but Baldelli was truly horrible. Shockingly, really. No confidence that anything but a truly dominant team can win playoff series with his approach.

 

Did someone tell Rocco the format was pool play?

It's a three-game series, Rocco. Ride your best players, ride your best pitchers, and get out of the way.

 

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I agree with some of the above, and maybe taking a step back and retooling a bit.  

Rosario is probably gone, they need to make a decision between Garver and Jeffers (I prefer Jeffers), Gonzales will probably go to a club that is closer to winning, and knows how, same with Cruz if the Twins cannot retain him.

Pitching, would like to see them resign Hill, and maybe extend Pineda.  See what they can do with Berrios and if nothing shop him.

Twins need to find leaders in the clubhouse, seem to be lacking except for a couple of veterans.  Should be an interesting offseason.

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Some thoughts:

 

1. I want a bullpen full of guys who throw 95 plus, not 83. I don't want reclamation projects and waiver wire pickups to be "brights spots" for a month or two in the pen. I want weapons. Do you think the Yankees or Dodgers would be trotting out Sergio Romo in the 9th inning of a post season game? Caleb Theilbar? For all the talk about how Falvine have improved the Twins pitching, this part is a failure. Not getting bullpen help at the deadline this year was a brutal mistake, and we see the results. Late runs off the bullpen cost both of these games.

 

This becomes even more important in this day and age of starters not facing lineups a third time. That leaves 3 or 4 innings from your pen every game. Win those 3 or 4 innings consistently, and you will win a lot of games.  INCLUDING THE POST SEASON.

 

2. I want more tough outs in the lineup. 

 

3. The constant shifting isn't working. Used judiciously, great. As a constant, opening holes in the infield, with runners on?  No.

 

4. Conversely, if teams are gonna shift against the Twins, well, we see what happens when teams just hit it where they ain't. But you can't bleed a single through the right side if you're swinging from the heels on every GD pitch. Kepler and Rosario should have 25 bunt singles this season because of how often the entire left side is open.

 

5. I want the manager to manage with a greater sense of urgency, throughout the season and PARTICULARLY in the post season. Resting guys needlessly in the regular season is stupid, it doesn't mean they'll be healthy later (we of all people should know that) nor does it "save their legs." It's 4 hours of baseball, for 20 somethings for pete sakes. Regulars need to play at least 150 games, unless there's an actual medical reason to sit them. And in the post season, EVERY SINGLE AB matters. Every baserunner. Every pitch. Manage like it. 

 

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What Rocco will say: “These guys BATTLED. We played them TOUGH and are looking forward to building on this next year. I am so PROUD of these guys.”

What Rocco should say: "That wasn't good enough and that's not acceptable. Changes our coming and the guys that are ALLOWED to hang around better figure this the **** out or they won't be here anymore. **** the Yankees. Go Marlins."

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Well that was quick, wasn't it? Winter will bring some changes, some big.

Rocco? He is alright. For all the worship he received he doesn't need to be scolded too harshly at this time. He is a young, relatively inexperienced manager. Tom Kelly, Ron Gardenhire, or Paul Molitor were all savvy, smart, and experienced. Rocco needs time; we shouldn't be comparing him at any point to his predecessors. 

The most difficult job falls to the front office now. There should be some opportunities.

The Twins do not have any untouchable players in their system. A long winter and a favorable turn in the state of our current pandemic could allow for renewed success from players such as Garver, Sano, Polanco, Donaldson, and Kepler. Falvine will need to balance the love of Bombas with range on defense, baserunning, and making consistent quality contact. Kirilloff debut was a sign of some funky management, yet he showed well.

Let the speculation begin. The current squad needs chairs for Duran, Balazovic, Colina, Kirilloff, Lewis, Larnach, and Rooker. Trades are bound to be explored, endlessly. The decisions this offseason will determine how well the Twins compete next summer with the improving Detroit and Kansas City youngsters and how they bump heads with Chicago and Cleveland. 

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I know this might sound crazy, but I think this team needs a compete rebuild. Just burn it all down.

 

I'm all for trading away guys like Sano, Rosario, even Polanco and heck maybe Buxton. If you can get something for Donaldson at the deadline next year get rid of him as well.

 

We need a new team that comes up together, gets their tails handed to them and loses 100+ games for a couple of years.

 

I know it sounds crazy but frankly we're not going to go anywhere just filling in the cracks with 1-year contracts and signing castoffs and free agents. Tear the whole building down and start over from scratch.

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I'm curious with an organizational answer. The Post Season failings are verging on 3 generations of line up, 3 managers, 2 1/2 front offices, Multiple high draft picks, and a dedication to analytics and 'new school thought'. Fine and good, but nothing has changed when it comes down to winning 2 of 3 games. Yes, everything is a crapshoot in post season, but we seem to roll the dice to crap the bed no matter who's managing, scouting, front-officing, or playing.

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I know this might sound crazy, but I think this team needs a compete rebuild. Just burn it all down.

 

I'm all for trading away guys like Sano, Rosario, even Polanco and heck maybe Buxton. If you can get something for Donaldson at the deadline next year get rid of him as well.

 

We need a new team that comes up together, gets their tails handed to them and loses 100+ games for a couple of years.

 

I know it sounds crazy but frankly we're not going to go anywhere just filling in the cracks with 1-year contracts and signing castoffs and free agents. Tear the whole building down and start over from scratch.

This is me being a prisoner of the moment but I can't help but agree.  I'm not sure Sano is salvageable and Buxton (although my favorite Twin of all time), will never reach his potential because of his inability to recognize pitches.

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