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Let the Learning Commence for Twins Brass


It’s easy to sit back and blame the front office or manager for the mess that has been the Minnesota Twins 2021 season. To do so rings hollow without context, and the time to learn has begun for future success.

Former Twins World Series MVP brought up the idea that the organization has failed and changed direction due to the results of 2021. He’s not alone in suggesting that narrative, but to say such a result reflects organizational failure also conveniently ignores what took place the previous four years of Derek Falvey and Thad Levine’s tenure.

There’s no denying that 2021 has gone poorly. Most importantly, the Twins pitching has fallen flat. The front office banked on J.A. Happ, Matt Shoemaker, and some mediocre bullpen additions to supplement a roster looking to rise. As injuries took their toll and ineffective play became prevalent, the entirety of the ship went up in flames.

Looking back, though, this front office helped to architect a 26-win improvement and Postseason berth in their first season, as well as having won the division in back-to-back seasons before this year. 2019 will forever go down as among the best in franchise history, and the installment of Rocco Baldelli in 2019 has led to a .550 winning percentage through his first three seasons.

Now that praises have been sung, and reality has been levied, it’s time for the trio to grow.

For the first time in their tenure, Falvey and Levine fell short. They flopped on Lance Lynn and Logan Morrison previously, but this is a club that had heightened expectations, and virtually every acquisition or move of substance from this offseason went up in flames. Without embarking on a complete rebuild, they’ve traded the club’s ace and now could be without Kenta Maeda in the year ahead as well.

The Twins don’t have the best farm system in baseball, and although they’ve been ranked closer to the middle, intriguing depth is there. Unfortunately, there’s been a host of arm injuries across baseball following the 2020 shutdown in the minors, and Minnesota’s best prospects have been hit especially hard. Falvey and Levine will need to work with internal staff to ensure those players' health and future projection while not relying solely on them for a return to relevance in 2022 and beyond.

The duo will need to make a better showing than their track record has proven on the acquisition front. Unfortunately, free agency is often a field of landmines, but some teams avoid hitting them all, and Falvey will need to stop the string of consistent blowups. Spending should remain relatively intact, but supplementing the Twins back to the top won’t come entirely through the dollar on the open market.

There should be belief in the infrastructure set up since Falvey and Levine have taken over. From baseball operations to the development and coaching staff, there are plenty of talented individuals guiding players down the right path. Putting moldable pieces in front of them should continue to be the goal, and the assumption is that the process will bear positive results.

In the dugout, Rocco has his first chance to grow as well. Having dealt with adversity that everyone experienced in 2020 is different than fighting through a season in which results consistently left something to be desired. Baldelli has done well to connect with his players, and he’s been praised for decisions when things have gone right. Unfortunately, all of the coin flips went wrong to start the year, and he’s doubled down with some questionable steps at times since.

For the former Rays star, the expectation should be that new faces (and possibly some younger ones) will filter into Target Field during the final month and into 2022. Baldelli will have to put his best foot forward when maximizing their potential while putting them in a position to best capitalize on the opportunity.

Right now, the answers aren’t immediately evident, and this writer doesn’t pretend to have them all. That said, it will be on Derek Falvey, Thad Levine, and Rocco Baldelli to show they have the chops to find them. Everyone feels content when things are going well, but through adversity, you’re able to grow and presented with it for the first time that trio has their most significant opportunity yet.

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Honestly, it probably doesn't matter much what I think of the front office. I don't expect Jim to give me a call and seek my advice on whether or not he should keep Falvey and Levine employed.

I don't really understand why people feel 2017 was a big product of Derek Falvey and Thad Levine. The only notable position player they brought in was Jason Castro. They brought in Hector Santiago to the pitching staff and he pitched poorly. It was basically the same team as 2016 with the same manager. It's not like Falvey's name on the plaque outside the GM's office door magically transformed the team. Pythagorean's showed +9 wins between 2016 and 2017 so that's undoubtedly a lot of the improvement, along with steps forward from the younger players inherited from the previous regime(s).

I expect Falvey and Levine are on a very hot seat right now. Their drafts have been mediocre to poor based on performace so far and next year is likely to be how the ownership views the cast offs they inherited, and what happens with the 40 man roster this year like do they leave Gordon and Palacios off?

  • Chargois - 40.2 IP, 2.43 ERA, 8.4 K/9, 2.4 BB/9
  • Reed        -  9.1 IP, 1.93 ERA, 9.6 K/9, 1.9 BB/9
  • Wells       - 47.0 IP, 3.64 ERA, 11.3 K/9, 1.9 BB/9 (could be a starter)
  • Baddoo    - 339 PA, .261/.327/.458 OPS+ 118 (plays adequate center field)
  • Wade       - 261 PA, .248/.317/.521 OPS+ 121

Now, I don't expect guys like Chargois and Reed will be successfull long term, and as relievers, they don't add a ton of value even if they pitch decent. They won't be the players who make or break Falvey. Wells, Baddoo and Wade very well could. So could Palacios or Gordon if they find success at the MLB level on another team. I guarantee you if Palacios or Gordon manage to put together a serviceable MLB season at SS somewhere outside the Twins, Falvey will have his walking papers next year, and if Wells turns into a middle of the rotation starter, Falvey is going to have to rely upon his drafts to save him and as of today, right now, they're looking pretty rough.

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"For the first time in their tenure, Falvey and Levine fell short."

I like my fellow Twins fans, I like Twins Daily and I really respect the writers here, but this is an oft-repeated sentiment I just don't understand. The point of a baseball season is to COMPETE and to WIN. IN. THE. PLAYOFFS. That's the ENTIRE reason why professional sports organizations structure their seasons like they do. Falvey and Levine have fallen short every single year so far.

Of course, many teams are going to fall short of that high bar, and there are many joys of a baseball season for watching individual players and performances. But mid-market teams often have to endure long cycles of losing in order to assemble a competitive team that is ready and able to at least do some damage in the playoffs. We've endured the cycles of losing ... but Falvey and Levine, like Ryan before them, have so far failed to bring the second part into fruition.

It's okay to have the bar set this high, folks. In fact, it's not even such a high bar. Since 2004, only one other MLB team has won fewer postseason games than the Twins. One.

Yes, the two recent Division Championships were nice. If we're honest with ourselves, they were won against very weak competition (2019) and in very odd circumstances (2020). But neither team was at all ready for the playoffs, and Viola's criticism seems pretty resonant - they were not (and are not) a fundamentally sound team and for long stretches they do not appear to play with a competitive attitude. Also, deadline trades that should have bolstered the team's chances never happened, and those smaller trades that did happen were ineffective at best.

And now, despite an offseason of signings and preseason predictions of another division title, they are one of the worst teams in baseball, with the second worst pitching staff in baseball and with virtually no starting rotation in place for 2022. This is abject failure, plain and simple. We're back to crossing our fingers that Andrew Albers has a good night.

I just continue to be confused as to why the general consensus on the leadership of this team is that it's "time for them to grow," rather than, "it's time for them to go."

But they will not be fired, that much is clear. And I'll still root for the Twins, no matter what. But I haven't seen much in the way of FO moves from this team, or managerial decisions from Rocco, that inspire confidence that this mess is going to turn around any time soon. I think these folks think they're doing just fine, and have just been a bit unlucky. You can't grow if you can't face your faults ... and your failures.

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While working (I'm retired), I made my living dealing in numbers so I have some appreciation for their value as an analytical tool.  But as Viola so clearly points out, without baseball fundamentals and a passion for the game, you won't have a winning team.  While numbers have their uses, catching, throwing to the correct base, hitting the cutoff man, making contact with your bat, etc. will probably win more games than studying a piece of paper lodged in your cap.

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How do you get passion back in the game?

 

The free agent flops out of the starting gate (Colome for one). All the injuries. Few fans in the stands. Everything going wrong. That extra inning rule that Baldelli didn't know how to manage.

 

The Twins needed to sign a first rate closer. If they wanted a project, they could've kept Trevor May.

 

They need a starter to slot ahead of Berrios (besides signing Berrrios longterm in the off-season).

 

A lot of stock is being placed in future pieces in the system, but the dumpster diving since last season ended has been amazing, with even the acquisition of one more project, Vinny Nittoli, today. Over half of the rosters at your two highest levels are filled with minor league free agents, and the Twins are doing a good job running those faces thru the team in 2021 - 21 to be exact who weren't from the Twins system, as well as a return of Minaya and Coulombe. That's a helluva a lot of players supplementing the few (7) that you developed in your own minors, most of them starting arms because that part of the equation really blew up. At least you had depth behind the planned depth of Dobnak, Thorpe, Smeltzer.

 

 

 

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As Sweet Music Frankie said, its time to get back to basics. We need a manager more in the line of TK that could call it like it is. This newer generation seems OK with the outcome if they just put in an effort. Not good enough. I am so sick of hearing Rocco say things like he just didn't have it tonight or we really busted it but it wasn't enough tonight or whatever. I can't ever remember hearing him saying we played like crap or that was a bone headed play or whatever. Maybe he calls them out behind closed doors, but with all these youngsters, somebody is going to need to kick some butt once in a while. I can remember seeing some players coming back to the dugout after a stupid play and doing everything possible to avoid TK's stare. Doesn't seem to happen now. Physical errors are unavoidable, but the number of mental errors this season are unforgivable.

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Great article and well thought out responses.  The FO and Rocco gladly accepted the accolades after winning two division titles.  But now they hide under analytics and injuries to explain their teams demise.  You don't hear any of them taking any responsibility for the mess they have created.  I actually don't think they will be fired, nor do I want them to be at this point.  Maybe finally quit the dumpster diving especially for pitching.  Give us some real baseball, fundamentally sound, good managing, and players that look like they care.

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The only reason Falvine should be given one more chance is because last year was a lost development year due to covid.  Give them this offseason to retool and see how things work out in 2022.  They have a huge hill to climb, but got off to a good start at the trade deadline by bringing in 4 top prospects.  However, they seem to be more comfortable in dumping starters for prospects.  While their pickups like Odorrizi and Maeda had positive results, in 5 years they have not shown any propensity for bringing in any real difference makers.  If this timidity continues and budget constraints remain tight, chances of a significant rebound next year are slim.  If so, their employment should be terminated.

Rocco on the other hand has run out of rope now.  As Viola points out, the lack of good fundamentals this year has been noticeable.  Rocco should be directly blamed for this lack.  Shortening the return to contention must involve insertion of a manager(and coaching staff) schooled in the importance of discipline and fundamentals.  Throw in his poor lineup/bullpen management and there is no reason to extend his tenure here.

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Learning is what has been happening with the current management team. Baldelli knows baseball but is pretty inexperienced in the dugout. He has likely improved his understanding of the complexities of being a dugout manager. Falvey and Levine are corporate brains and use a model. When you have older experienced coaches and managers like the Cleveland team there may be a complementary process. The duo are also learning but without people like Terry Ryan, the process may take more time and be more difficult. One thing different is that Jim Pohlad has increased expenditures which allows for a few more mistakes. What would happen if the budget went back to $60-100 million? I'm still hopeful of positive outcomes but the biggest decision this offseason will be made by Jim Pohlad.

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10 hours ago, Rosterman said:

They need a starter to slot ahead of Berrios (besides signing Berrrios longterm in the off-season).

 

Welcome back from Tahiti (or maybe you were just ignoring the Twins, which is understandable.)

They traded Berrios to the Blue Jays a month ago.

 

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Berrios was/is not really all that good; his blow-outs are not as bad as some the Twins had but they happen/ed.

The Twins need , at least one pitcher, better than Berrios, that the pitching staff cannot ruin. (I believe the pitching coach is a goodly part of the pitching snafu.)

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11 hours ago, terrydactyls said:

While working (I'm retired), I made my living dealing in numbers so I have some appreciation for their value as an analytical tool.  But as Viola so clearly points out, without baseball fundamentals and a passion for the game, you won't have a winning team.  While numbers have their uses, catching, throwing to the correct base, hitting the cutoff man, making contact with your bat, etc. will probably win more games than studying a piece of paper lodged in your cap.

Viola doesn't like analytics. We all get that. We all understand that he didn't get the Twins pitching coach job a few years back when Falvey chose someone else. 

But Viola's point is that the analytics are bad for the game, and that's just not even true a little bit. It's also not fair to say that being analytical doesn't allow for also being passionate. Those of us on this site (owners, writers, readers, commenters, everyone) are on this site looking for more and different ways to enjoy the game to fuel our passions. 

Fundamentals? Yeah, that hasn't been great all season and hasn't been for years... but that goes back through more than a decade. That has NOTHING to do with analytics. There is nothing saying that fundamentals can't be taught while also using the technologies and numbers to try to make decisions. It would be a huge mistake not to use every tool available, and this front office does this. Falvey and Levine have set up a culture where all people are heard. The research/data people and the scouts and former players and current players. 

Fundamentals should be taught in Little League, and in High School, and in College, and in the minor leagues and still in the big leagues... Having watched a lot of work in spring trainings, the TWins focus heavily on fundamentals and situations. Having gone to several minor league games and getting there very early, I've seen how early guys get to the ballpark and out on the field to work on drills and fundamentals. We also know that this MLB team is spending a lot of time on fundamentals pregame, something very few MLB teams do.

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Here's the other thing... Viola acknowledge in a KFAN/Barriero interview one of the last couple of years that he doesn't even watch the Twins. He is a pitching coach in some independent league. He hasn't been involved in the Twins organization since 1989, other than returning for his Hall of Fame induction and a few other celebrations. 

So the questions become... 1.) why the timing of that tweet, and 2.) who is he hearing that from?

Did he talk to some old 1987 teammate who happens to think some of this? Maybe someone who was also on the 1991 team and was at Target Field for the 1991 WS celebration? Maybe from watching the Twins-Yankees series? Maybe not from when they won series against Chicago, Cleveland, Houston and Tampa?

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season 13 GIF

Viola is an out of touch crank. Not using all the information available to get better is ridiculous. Hamstringing a front office to out of touch people like Viola would set any team back.. It would be like not wanting your doctor to stay up to date on best practices because you like the old ways of medicine. "Give me my leeches, but stay away from me with this modern medicine!"

The idea Baldelli, a former high level player isn't worried about fundamentals is stupid. It isn't his fault almost no one on the team is a good defensive player. You can only polish a turd so much. Larnach, Kirilloff, Arraez, Astudillo, Sano, Polanco, are not good defensive players.

This continued idea about passion too. If Colomė, and the bullpen do not implode the first half, and the starters get hurt and the record is better what would it be said.L?

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Viola is mirroring exactly what the 1991 championship team was saying when they were in town, that group simply chose a more diplomatic way of saying it.

Most of us can see it too, and a few of us have been saying this all year.

I think it's too much to ask of people to put in 100% every day when the manager continuously sets the team up to lose.  Anything less than 100% performance from a pitcher and the game is lost.  Pitchers are not put into situations where they have a chance to perform well in the first place.  This sucks a lot of gas out of the room when it's suddenly more difficult to hit home runs.

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29 minutes ago, a-wan said:

season 13 GIF

Viola is an out of touch crank. Not using all the information available to get better is ridiculous. Hamstringing a front office to out of touch people like Viola would set any team back.. It would be like not wanting your doctor to stay up to date on best practices because you like the old ways of medicine. "Give me my leeches, but stay away from me with this modern medicine!"

The idea Baldelli, a former high level player isn't worried about fundamentals is stupid. It isn't his fault almost no one on the team is a good defensive player. You can only polish a turd so much. Larnach, Kirilloff, Arraez, Astudillo, Sano, Polanco, are not good defensive players.

This continued idea about passion too. If Colomė, and the bullpen do not implode the first half, and the starters get hurt and the record is better what would it be said.L?

Number of baseball championships won by teams coming together, helping each other, leaning on each other:  80+
Number of baseball championships won by high spending, payola, or other assorted ugly things:  {a large portion of Yankees championships}
Number of championships won by statcast analytics:  0

This is all Viola is saying.  Is he wrong?

The idea of "chemistry" in sports is nothing new.  We are in a strange era in baseball, where a vocal set of fans refuses to acknowledge anything that can't be measured, as if we have all never heard of groups of high performers -- at anything -- ultimately failing.  This does not just happen in sports, it happens in everything.

Vikings history is full of crushingly dominant teams who found success by finding ways to game the status quo and/or beat up on the division.  Every one of those teams got crushed in the end by teams that played the fundamentals, rather than focusing on one thing.  (Or, in 2 cases, the opposition cheated, but that happens, too).

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I think too much emphasis is being placed on the idea that Twins critics are "cranks" who "hate analytics." Sure, there's a bit of that sentiment floating around, but I'm not even sure that's what Viola is saying here.

Every organization has to use every legal tool and resource at their disposal to gain a competitive advantage. Analytical analysis of the game is a huge - and wonderful - part of that. The Twins were very late to that aspect, but appear to be catching up. That's all well and good. But not even the deepest dive into analytics will win a team a championship. There's a reason why the White Sox hired a manager like Tony LaRussa ... and there's a reason why that team is looking like a very strong contender for the postseason.

Toughness. Fight. Resilience. Cohesion. Clarity of purpose. Baseball IQ. These intangibles just seem sorely lacking in this team. And when this team faces any real pressure to perform, it shows. We do seem to be leading the league in quality excuses, though, as though only our minor league system faced a pandemic and only our big league squad has been hit by injuries.

I don't hate the team for losing ground - that happens. But I don't respect the inability of this club to take hard criticism. And I don't see any signs that any lessons are sinking in.

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What viola is saying is everyone below falvy is puppets  ,,,,

Falvy is manager and everyone below him has to follow and listen to what he says ....

We also need an owner that has passion ,,, he doesn't seem to love baseball as much as Eloise and Carl ,,, 

Yes they are spending more money since they opened target field but not on the right personal to win playoff games just enough talent to win divisions especially in the pitching department  ,, way below average pitching will never win playoff games against the better teams ...

 

Take some responsibility in this failure and learn from it and add what the fans want , studs , bulldogs  and aces to succeed,  I just can't believe they didn't call up Ryan,  but called up gibaut instead  ,, 

Service time , who cares , they will trade them away after 5 years because they won't pay them ....

 

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51 minutes ago, Dodecahedron said:

...Number of championships won by statcast analytics:  0...

...Vikings history is full of crushingly dominant teams who found success by finding ways to game the status quo and/or beat up on the division.  Every one of those teams got crushed in the end by teams that played the fundamentals, rather than focusing on one thing...

There are 0 World Series teams in the past decade who haven't been using analytics. All 30 MLB teams have analytics deparments with multiple employees.

Football and baseball have nothing in common from a game play perspective. Baseball may be a team sport, but the game is 90% 1 vs 1. In football, it's never 1 vs 1. 

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5 minutes ago, bean5302 said:

There are 0 World Series teams in the past decade who haven't been using analytics. All 30 MLB teams have analytics deparments with multiple employees.

Yes, that's obvious.  There are 0 teams teams in baseball history who have not used analytics.

But is that why any team won the world series?  The story typically is when a team focuses on one set of things, they may dominate the season but they fall short in the playoffs.  That's the point of the Vikings analogy.

If someone tells you they cracked the code of baseball thanks to Formula X, bet against them to become rich.  The only proven way to win championships is to build a team.

But this is also sort of going down the wrong path.  Twins fans, even more than the Twins themselves, beat the analytics drum.  Yet, even basic things like choosing who bats first the Twins can't do, even though this can be almost purely determined by analytics.  We know they love launch angles and created a nice fad there, which is over.  Is that the extent of their analytics?  Is anyone still impressed?

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I'm not sure Viola is saying analytics are junk, just maybe that he feels the Twins organization is being run by Lt. Commander Data without a good sense of the non-tangible (yet to have an analytical value associated) factors.

Innuendo about Violas motives and lack of qualification to criticize the Twins' organization without credible evidence is just a veiled personal attack. Viola is a pitching coach for an MLB team and has been active in professional baseball as a player and coach for 40 years. I'm sure he has, literally, dozens of close contacts and hundreds of acquaintences across MLB with opinions on the Twins' front office and performance.

The amount of context people are adding to a tiny tweet to suit their own personal agenda is impressive, yet expected. I don't know exactly what Viola meant. Sounds like Twins Daily should follow up with him? :)

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Viola is a pitching coach in the independent Atlantic League. 

Rocco Baldelli has 20+ years over experience in baseball, from prospect, to player, to injured player, to retiring player, to scout, to coach, to front office, and now manager of people. If we can't question Viola's comments, then maybe we can't question Baldelli's decisions either all the time?

Levine has been in front offices for a long time, including a couple of World Series teams. Falvey has played, scouted, and been in a variety of front office roles for 15ish years. 

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15 minutes ago, Seth Stohs said:

Viola is a pitching coach in the independent Atlantic League. 

Rocco Baldelli has 20+ years over experience in baseball, from prospect, to player, to injured player, to retiring player, to scout, to coach, to front office, and now manager of people. If we can't question Viola's comments, then maybe we can't question Baldelli's decisions either all the time?

Levine has been in front offices for a long time, including a couple of World Series teams. Falvey has played, scouted, and been in a variety of front office roles for 15ish years. 

Honestly, my feeling was you weren't questioning the validity of Viola's comment, you were questioning the credibility of Viola suggesting an ulterior motive behind his tweet and a credibility issue due to lack of qualification. I didn't say anything about Falvey, Levine or Baldelli not being qualified to do their jobs or my personal opinions on them. For some reason I had it stuck in my head that Viola was a pitching coach for the Mets.

Comments like these where coaches/players potentially burn bridges are still kinda rare so people are going to latch on to them.

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1 hour ago, bean5302 said:

I'm not sure Viola is saying analytics are junk, just maybe that he feels the Twins organization is being run by Lt. Commander Data without a good sense of the non-tangible (yet to have an analytical value associated) factors.

Innuendo about Violas motives and lack of qualification to criticize the Twins' organization without credible evidence is just a veiled personal attack. Viola is a pitching coach for an MLB team and has been active in professional baseball as a player and coach for 40 years. I'm sure he has, literally, dozens of close contacts and hundreds of acquaintences across MLB with opinions on the Twins' front office and performance.

The amount of context people are adding to a tiny tweet to suit their own personal agenda is impressive, yet expected. I don't know exactly what Viola meant. Sounds like Twins Daily should follow up with him? :)

Listen to Viola on a broadcast for five minutes and you’ll discover his utter disdain for modern analytics. He isn’t shy about it. 

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43 minutes ago, TheLeviathan said:

Every appearance with Barreiro confirms this.  Can also confirm he has openly said he doesn't watch the Twins.

Yup, Frankie Sweet Music Viola is not a data lover. However, I don’t see anything in that Tweet to disagree with. 

On another note, I was glad to hear Barreiro rake this organization this week over their hubris about pitching. I really hope the Twins bring in outside expertise this offseason and resist the urge to trade Buxton for pitching. 

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3 hours ago, Seth Stohs said:

Viola is a pitching coach in the independent Atlantic League. 

Rocco Baldelli has 20+ years over experience in baseball, from prospect, to player, to injured player, to retiring player, to scout, to coach, to front office, and now manager of people. If we can't question Viola's comments, then maybe we can't question Baldelli's decisions either all the time?

Levine has been in front offices for a long time, including a couple of World Series teams. Falvey has played, scouted, and been in a variety of front office roles for 15ish years. 

Baseball teams and players for that matter have many critics.  Everyone knows how to run the team better.  How many of those critics have credentials for running a $300M business because that's what we are talking about.  Many people here have highly skilled jobs that required a significant formal education and then several years of validating their skills to get said job.  If someone (a hobbyist) came to their office and suggested these skilled people had no idea what they were doing, I am thinking the response would be less than cordial.  Apparently, everyone has the skillset required to run a baseball organization because everyone seems to be qualified to evaluate baseball executives.  They are so skilled that they can do this without even meeting them or reviewing the decision process that took place as we have few of these details.

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1 hour ago, Hosken Bombo Disco said:

Yup, Frankie Sweet Music Viola is not a data lover. However, I don’t see anything in that Tweet to disagree with. 

On another note, I was glad to hear Barreiro rake this organization this week over their hubris about pitching. I really hope the Twins bring in outside expertise this offseason and resist the urge to trade Buxton for pitching. 

I agree with the criticisms to a degree.  Want to rip them that everything they did for this team this year was a total failure?  Hell yeah.  And they were over confident they could just fix anyone.

But impugning analytics generally?  At that point you're off the rails.

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