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What’s Next for Twins Manager Rocco Baldelli?


Twins Daily Contributor

It’s hard finding a way to define the Minnesota Twins 2022 season. Expected to compete for the division, but ultimately seen behind the Chicago White Sox, the Twins held first place for much of the year before sputtering at the end. What falls on Rocco Baldelli’s shoulders, and how should we view his future?

 

Image courtesy of Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

Coming into the season, off of a long lockout, the Minnesota Twins were not seen as favorites. Even after signing a superstar in Carlos Correa, the questions about pitching remained. Yes, Sonny Gray was acquired, but Kenta Maeda was expected to be out most of the year, and a young duo in Joe Ryan and Bailey Ober were expected to carry the load. Bullpen questions remained, and only Joe Smith was brought in to answer them.

After a mediocre first month, Rocco Baldelli had his guys clicking through May. Maybe the one period of relative health throughout the whole season, Minnesota’s manager orchestrated an 18-12 record. It’s been .500 or worse each month since then, and despite the initial expectations, it’s hard to suggest they weren’t raised after Derek Falvey and Thad Levine provided reinforcements at the deadline.

Whether Minnesota claws back and makes the postseason or not, the manager has plenty to sort through this season.

Baldelli has now managed more than 500 games for Minnesota and has accumulated a winning record. His win percentage is .533, well above Ron Gardenhire’s .484, Paul Molitor’s .471, or Tom Kelly’s .478. The Twins have won the division twice during his four-year tenure, and they should be seen as a candidate to do so again in 2023.

It’s not fair to chalk 2022 up as a wash entirely because of injuries. Baldelli has consistently operated with half of his deck, but there’s been ample opportunity to provide better results. It’s probably worth wondering how things would have gone if Minnesota had seen even a slightly better outcome in terms of the guys they’ve lost to injury. It’s also not fair to suggest Baldelli has failed given the hurdles he’s had to clear.

Ultimately a front office wants a manager to be their representative of process in the clubhouse. I think it’s safe to say that Baldelli is in lockstep with his bosses. It’s also more than evident that Baldelli gets along with his players, and has their respect as well. Both of those realities are integral when deciding to keep someone in the position. Unlike Molitor before him, it seems that Baldelli is able to effectively communicate with the guys on the field, and is able to get buy-in when wanting players to try new things.

If the Twins were to change course, it probably would have a ripple effect throughout the clubhouse, and that sort of shakeup may not be beneficial given the youth expected to produce in 2023 and beyond. Consistency among leadership can be viewed as a positive, and Baldelli has already connected with so many that will take on larger roles in the years ahead.

Should Minnesota make a move, and I think there's an opportunity for them to do so, it will come throughout the coaching staff as a whole. Maybe there's opportunity to shore up baserunning or generate a secondary voice in the clubhouse. Pete Maki has been fine in Wes Johnson’s position, but a more established pitching coach makes sense as well. At times throughout this season, it’s seemed the clubhouse needed a more vocal leader to beg for accountability or change. While that’s not Baldelli’s demeanor and isn’t really that of Correa or Byron Buxton, it could be that of a performance coach or someone tabbed with the background solely to rise to the occasion.

We’ll see changes this offseason, there will be more than a few on the coaching staff, but I think it’s safe to say the front office should and will retain their manager.


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My guess for what is next with Rocco is that he will meet with the FO and they will talk about minor tweaks to their approach and he will be managing the Twins in 23 and it will be very similiar to the last three years (I don't mean results, but that wouldn't surprise me, I mean style, game decisions, etc..)

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Must be Baldellis agent.  How about a little balanced article?  You paint him out to be near perfect.  I would much rather have Garden hire or Monitor as opposed to Baldelli.  For people to leave Baldelli blameless and blame everything on injuries are clueless.  Yes although I am not a Baldelli fan I do expect him back next year.  If the FO doesn't quit signing bargain basement pitching, they may all be looking after next year.  You and many people said 2022 they weren't going to compete and the real competitive season will be starting in 2023.  If 2023 is supposed to be the start of a more annually competitive team, they have a LOT of work ahead of them

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The FO put the team in a position to contend about a year ahead of what one reasonably could expect given the 2021 disaster.  Injuries undoubtedly played a part in derailing a terrific, unexpectedly excellent start to 2022.  I tried to find some underlying cause in the long list of injuries, some reason to point a finger at the medical staff as overcautious, but I couldn't find that.  To the extent one believes there's a lack of "want-to" on this roster and that's due to Rocco and his staff, well fine.  But, I'm in the camp that says 2023 will be the real test for this roster. If there was somehow a WAR calculation for managers, some way of objectively determining Rocco's contribution or lack thereof, great, but I don't see replacing Baldelli as a material boost for this team.  Firing Rocco boils down to, "I'm pissed, let's do something dramatic even though we still can't articulate why."

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We are a mid market team. To compete with the larger market teams, we must do some things under the manager/coaching staff’s areas of responsibility extremely well and, hopefully, much better than others. Those include:

1. Playing/managing strong fundamental baseball day in and day out.

2. Have strong team chemistry - confidence and camaraderie.

3. Continue to develop young players once they make the big leagues.

(A number 4. is health - keeping your players on the field. I’m not sure whose responsibility that is - coaching staff or FO. Either way, it’s been a disaster obviously).

Objectively, how has the this staff under Rocco performed in these areas?
 

1. We have never played strong fundamental baseball under Rocco. Never. Also, no one would ever call Rocco a strong in-game manager. Sure, he’s had his moments, but overall, it’s not his forte.

2. No playoff victories. We just went 1-13 vs. the Dodgers, Astros, Yankees, and Guardians over the past month or so in the midst of a pennant race.  Camaraderie? Perhaps.  Confidence? None. Rocco has not been able to get his teams past the mental block of being able to compete with the better teams.

3. Which young Twins under Rocco have developed to their potential?  Certainly the jury is still out on a couple, notably Miranda and Gordon (trend is positive).  But how many more have stagnated or failed? If you want to consistently win, you must have your young talent continue to improve and get the most out of them - I’m not sure I see the track record of that under Rocco.

Rocco has won more games than lost. No doubt, he has done a lot of good things. The question is: is he the guy to deliver a consistent contender for a Pennant? Unless he substantively improves in key areas managing/leading a well-positioned mid-market club, the answer is likely (and objectively) no.

 

 

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I find the expectations of some fans a little crazy.  Coming into the season Twins were expected to be around .500, just over, and to have a chance to compete with the Sox, but many expected Twins to finish 2nd.  We are .500 today, and have a chance to finish above .500.  Our chances of making playoffs took a huge hit this past week, but not 0 yet.  I am not saying we will make it.  

For the people that think a full new FO and coaching staff will get anything more next year, you must not follow baseball too much.  I mean look at SF this year, they were one of the best teams last year, and this year they are below .500.  Their roster is almost the same, pitching may have even been upgraded talent wise, but their offense was much worse.  The big years from some guys did not happen again.  Is that FO, or managers, or just players not performing the same?  Should the FO saw it coming?  Did the coaching staff ask them to make changes they did not need to do, or fail to get the players to make changes they should? 

We had a full MLB roster on IL for much of the year, we are not alone in injuries, but the team has been carried the last month or so with rookies, or backups.  Some have stepped up or we would not even be .500.  Just think if Miranda had not bounced back but hit like he did his first several games?  Should Rocco and coaches get any credit for his improvement after he first struggled?  What about Gordon and his offense?  Do they get no credit for that?  You may not like how he manages pitchers and the staff, and maybe some old school guy would have won a few more games, but maybe they would have lost several more too. 

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Baldelli will be back and he should be 100%, of course that is my opinion. For me it is all about the horses. He can only work with what he has available. Joe Ryan has been the one pitcher who has shown he can at times pitch deeper and he has topped 100 pitches many times. More guys like that, more 100+ pitch outings. You want to see more contact and more running? Aaron Sabato can't help you, but I think the front office has shifted and is going after guys with more contact skills. And more speed. Many in the minors are stealing bases now. One of them is something like 40 for 43. Larnach, Kepler, Correa, Kirilloff, Arraez, Garlick, Miranda, Jeffers, Sanchez, Urshela, you gonna run those guys? My hope is they adjust some approaches like contact and speed as mentioned, quality over quantity in free agency, prioritize the bullpen more and work hard at trying to identify why they limp to the finish every year. Accomplish those things and Baldelli would be just fine piloting the ship. 

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Rocco will be here for sure, but I could see coaching changes, and maybe changes to the conditioning and medical treatment of players (I do not have the knowledge to determine if something can be done to limit injuries, but they might change out some people and try).  I thought Tingler was brought in to give Rocco someone to seek advice from when making game decisions.  But, I see no evidence that happened.  I think they will get an experienced (maybe college again) pitching coach, and maybe a hitting coach to work on approaches at the plate with runners on base, with two strikes, etc.  The one change I would really advocate for is a different approach by the FO in free agency and trades--please no more Pagans, Colomes, Happs, Smiths, Shoemakers, and no injured players like Paddack and maybe Mahle.  

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Just now, peterb18 said:

So the author states that Paul Molitor couldn’t communicate with the players. Not what I heard!

Probably couldn’t communication with the Front Office. One of the most instinctive players in baseball history. In reality the front office didn’t want to give instructions to a Hall of Famer.

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13 minutes ago, Trov said:

I find the expectations of some fans a little crazy.  Coming into the season Twins were expected to be around .500, just over, and to have a chance to compete with the Sox, but many expected Twins to finish 2nd.  We are .500 today, and have a chance to finish above .500.  Our chances of making playoffs took a huge hit this past week, but not 0 yet.  I am not saying we will make it. 

Coming into the season they had a former all star catcher and top prospect, former all star at first and top prospect right there, the guy at second was coming off a 4.9 WAR, All world SS, third was manned by Urshela and Arraez, Buxton and his 4+ WAR in Center, A solid RF and top prospects in LF, Traded a first round pick for Gray, Had super rookie Ryan, Stud second year pitcher Ober and signed Bundy and Archer and all that was just to get to .500?

Prior to trading Donaldson, Garver, Petty and Rogers I could go along with .500, but then they signed a 35 million dollar all world short stop, traded a recent 1 st round pick, Donaldson, Garver and Rogers and a prospect pipeline just waiting to explode, and my expectations went up to higher than .500, maybe not 90+ but higher than .500.

Now I don't blame this on Rocco, think it lies more with the FO, which is why I believe he will be back.

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5 minutes ago, peterb18 said:

Probably couldn’t communication with the Front Office. One of the most instinctive players in baseball history. In reality the front office didn’t want to give instructions to a Hall of Famer.

True. Paul was a superior baseball intellect and the players respected him. There was a huge chasm between the dugout manager and the front office. Although the Pohlads loved Molitor, the payrolls and player acquisition left the team short of competitive players. Take a look at some of those pitching staffs.

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Even if they don't make the playoffs I don't see the FO making any big changes to the coaching staff so unfortunately he will be back for 2023. The FO and Rocco are on the same page as to how things are done so it will take a disaster for them to replace him. Besides the INJURY excuse is alive and well and for that reason alone they will give 2023 to Rocco. The only other scenario would be is if JPohland decides he doesn't like what he is seeing and cleans house. 

It is interesting how much Toronto improved when they fired their Manager, Montovo who had them playing .500 ball and the new Manager Schneider has them at .630 and closing in on the Yankees.

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Plenty of people have Baldelli Derangement Syndrome and they're getting out of control.

Unless there's something behind the scenes that we don't know about, there is zero chance that he does not return next year. He's a good manager in a sport where the manager does not really impact winning in a major way.

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I expect Rocco to be back in 2023. I don't think he's THE problem, but I do think he's PART of the problem. Pulling Ryan last night was super frustrating to me, and I'd like to see Rocco replaced with someone who would have let the kid try for a likely once in a lifetime opportunity. The problem is that this FO wouldn't replace Rocco with anyone that isn't awfully similar to them and Rocco. So it's a bit of a catch 22. I want Rocco replaced, but his replacement likely wouldn't be much different at all in terms of in game strategy. So why replace him at all? Unless he's lost the clubhouse.

I don't mind the FO. I think they're generally good at drafting/acquiring and developing (outside of front end starting pitching, sadly), and have been willing to make some bigger FA splashes like Donaldson and Correa (even if he fell into their laps, I don't think Terry Ryan would've even considered him). The Maeda, Gray, and Mahle trades were good (quit saying Mahle has an injury history unless you were also saying they shouldn't trade for Montas at the deadline, too, because he had missed time with a shoulder injury at almost the exact same time Mahle did, and he's still pitching for NY). But they're far too stubborn. They have their plans and clearly won't waiver from them. They're slow to react to changes in the FA market or performance outside their expected by the Twins team itself (DFA Pagan!). And that's where I'd like to see Rocco replaced with someone who'd push back and demand some in season changes. The problem is that the guys hiring the new manager likely don't want someone who will push back and thus it's just rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic unless they're going to be willing to be more flexible with the new guy. 

TLDR: Expect Rocco back, replacing him wouldn't change much cuz FO will just hire Rocco 2.0.

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11 minutes ago, Alex Schieferdecker said:

Plenty of people have Baldelli Derangement Syndrome and they're getting out of control.

Unless there's something behind the scenes that we don't know about, there is zero chance that he does not return next year. He's a good manager in a sport where the manager does not really impact winning in a major way.

😂

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12 minutes ago, chpettit19 said:

I expect Rocco to be back in 2023. I don't think he's THE problem, but I do think he's PART of the problem.

100% agree with this sentiment. He'll be back because he's executing what the front office wants. 

But the bloodless managing of the Twins during his tenure is frustrating to watch. The polar opposite of Molitor, Baldelli seems to have zero sense of the game going on in front of him. The TV broadcasters talk all the time about The Plan & how Baldelli sticks to his...well, great to have a Plan, but one must also adjust in real time to in-game circumstances. That's where I believe our manager is very, very weak. Example: even in September, he's still running Pagan out in close games. Not as often as in July or August but really, he should have been relegated to mop-up duty (at best) months ago. And don't get me started about his management of the starting staff (or the nonsense or how the Twins are about league average in starting innings per game). 

Baldelli's "success" in 2019 was easy. My six year old nephew could have managed that team the way they hit. To me, the true test of a manager is how the team performs under duress & Baldelli is failing that test. 

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How is it “more than evident he gets along with his players and had their respect”??

Sonny gray was asked if he thinks the twins are still a great fit like he said in spring training, he gave a painfully long pause and said he wants to pitch deeper into games.

just last night the reports are “Joe Ryan is not mad at Rocco for pulling him” 
 
not mad is pretty key wording. He’s not on board. He’s not thrilled with it. He doesn’t like it. But he’s going to publicly say he’s not mad at the manager.   
 
sorry I don’t think it’s more than evident at all that he’s good at personnel management. I think it’s very evident his pitching  staff is bitter at the way they’re handled

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Great article in today's Strib.  Talks about the Twins really lost this season in late June versus Cleveland.  Refers to five games in which they had late leads and the bullpen blew all five.  The name that stood out in four of the five was Pagan.  Yes, the front office brought him in, but Rocco kept sending him out there day-after-day.  

I am old and I want change, lots of change.  Certainly most of the coaching staff and preferably the manager.  Maybe also the front office, although I like most of their moves this year.  My final grade on them will be if they have the guts to cut bait with their entire coaching staff and Rocco.  Would love to see Watkins remain with the Twins, just not as their third base coach.

And I see a 2023 team that can/should be very good.  Really don't want to have to watch another season of Rocco managing it to a .500 team.

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Rocco has his spreadsheets and metrics he manages by whether successful or not.  Referring primarily to pulling SP after twice thru the line up and than complains about an overused BP.  I wonder how this sounds to FÃ pitchers being limited to 5 innings.  A plan is necessary but imo Rocco hasn’t been flexible enough in managing the team he has.  IMO the team has no identity 

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I think part of the question you have to ask is, who are you going to get that will be better and why?

I don't think Rocco is a great manager, but I think there are also very very few great managers out there. Most of the managers fall into a squishy middle where as long as they're not making egregious mistakes and alienating their clubhouse, then they're...fine. I think most people overrate the impact of the manager on the game today, partly because we have so many fewer terrible managers out there. So I kind of look at it and say, unless he's really losing the team or the front office is going to be replaced then I'm not sure how much impact a move would actually have? (Other than making some people who have decided that Rocco manages entirely by computer "printout" (yet is responsible for every Twins woe from injuries to errors to bullpen implosions to birds pooping on the field) very happy. At least for 10 minutes before they hate the next guy when he doesn't manage like he's Ozzie Guillen from 2005 or something.

If the front office goes, then they should hire a new manager. A new leader should get to pick their manager. (It wasn't great when this current FO had to roll with Molitor for an extra year, for a variety of reasons)

If Rocco has lost the clubhouse (and I don't think there's anyone on this site competent to know that), then they should move on.

Otherwise, I'm not sure what we accomplish, other than sating a portion of the fanbase that will almost certainly be equally angry again by mid-april because they don't like the state of modern baseball and want the Twins to change it all by themselves to the kind of baseball they prefer to see. While winning playoffs games.

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Rocco gets credit for his record due to 2019 bomba squad. The last couple of years is more in line of what to expect. True high quality starters are not going to sign with the Twins due to the way he manages. Though I agree this year has been tough due to injuries, I also think his handling of the staff has cost us the division. This is a very young team that is still developing. As others have said, they don't play fundamentally sound ball, and that lays squarely on the manager. To help this team reach their potential next year IMO they need a new manager. Question is does the front office see it the same way? Probably not.

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Huh? This seems like a serious hawt taik. 

The expectation on April 1st was 79 to 84 wins. They are probably going to nail their projections, despite the efforts of Emilio Pagan to sabotage their over/under.

The general rule of thumb is that when a manager hits projections, he's not the problem.

Is he Francona, Cash, or Roberts? No. But how many managers routinely outplay their projections year after year? Those guys generally get lifetime contracts with their current squad and are NEVER available and finding the next one means sifting thru far worse than Baldelli to get their. 

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2 hours ago, chpettit19 said:

I expect Rocco to be back in 2023. I don't think he's THE problem, but I do think he's PART of the problem. Pulling Ryan last night was super frustrating to me, and I'd like to see Rocco replaced with someone who would have let the kid try for a likely once in a lifetime opportunity. The problem is that this FO wouldn't replace Rocco with anyone that isn't awfully similar to them and Rocco. So it's a bit of a catch 22. I want Rocco replaced, but his replacement likely wouldn't be much different at all in terms of in game strategy. So why replace him at all? Unless he's lost the clubhouse.

I don't mind the FO. I think they're generally good at drafting/acquiring and developing (outside of front end starting pitching, sadly), and have been willing to make some bigger FA splashes like Donaldson and Correa (even if he fell into their laps, I don't think Terry Ryan would've even considered him). The Maeda, Gray, and Mahle trades were good (quit saying Mahle has an injury history unless you were also saying they shouldn't trade for Montas at the deadline, too, because he had missed time with a shoulder injury at almost the exact same time Mahle did, and he's still pitching for NY). But they're far too stubborn. They have their plans and clearly won't waiver from them. They're slow to react to changes in the FA market or performance outside their expected by the Twins team itself (DFA Pagan!). And that's where I'd like to see Rocco replaced with someone who'd push back and demand some in season changes. The problem is that the guys hiring the new manager likely don't want someone who will push back and thus it's just rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic unless they're going to be willing to be more flexible with the new guy. 

TLDR: Expect Rocco back, replacing him wouldn't change much cuz FO will just hire Rocco 2.0.

I actually expect Falvine Manager 2.0 would be expected to follow FO directives even more stringently than now.

If you hate seeing SPs who are cruising and get pulled in the 6th, 2.0 will pull them in the 5th. 

For those calling for a firing, I don't think you thinking thru the likeliness that you would get even more frustrated with whoever that 2.0 is. 

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