On May 5, 2016 Chip Scoggins received a quote from Twins owner Jim Pohlad calling the entire situation a “total system failure.” That team was 8-20 and would go on to lose 103 games. Fast forward to where we are now, a fan paying top dollar for Champions Club seats to hold up a “Fire Rocco” sign last night, and it’s hard not to see parallels.
Minnesota has been unlucky, bad, and ill-prepared throughout 2021. This team chock full of veteran talent has been nothing short of a colossal disappointment. Because we need to reason through how we got here, it’s more than fair to look for avenues of blame. Who, and to what extent, is responsible?
The Players: 60%
First and foremost, you can’t absolve anyone on this roster not named Byron Buxton. Outside of the Twins current AL MVP candidate, everyone has fallen short at one point or another. Kenta Maeda and his command look no part of the guy that finished 2nd in the AL Cy Young voting a year ago. Jose Berrios is always waiting for *that* inning, and the lineup has been nonexistent in the production department more often than it hasn’t.
It’s a good thing that runs are starting to be scored and the bats appear to be taking a turn, but that isn’t universal. Part of the catching tandem is down in Triple-A. Both Max Kepler and Jorge Polanco simply look bad, while Miguel Sano has seen none of the results due to timing issues hampering his bat. The names and pieces are there, but if no one is going to perform, this should be the expected result.
The Front Office: 25%
Derek Falvey and Thad Levine have done an exceptional job since taking over the Minnesota Twins front office. This offseason they were coming off a second straight AL Central division title, and despite the Postseason sweep, we’re again poised to have a team capable of contention deep into the playoffs. There wasn’t much this lineup needed and grabbing Andrelton Simmons as an answer to losing Marwin Gonzalez and Ehire Adrianza resembles something just short of a coup.
If there’s a problem, it’s that they relied too heavily on process regarding the bullpen and believed development would trump conventional wisdom. Matt Wisler was a great case study a year ago, but he was moved on from because the underlying warts were expected to be unsustainable (they were right, his 7.94 ERA says so). The problem is that in replacing Wisler the moves were all dart throws. A bunch of waiver claims with sliders as key pitches didn’t represent anything of substance. Hansel Robles has been fine, and while predicting this level of regression for Alexander Colome is unfathomable, they skimped on any sort of real plan if things started to go sideways. Now it’s scramble mode, and well, the deck is empty.
Rocco Baldelli: 14%
Over the course of a season, you’re going to have any number of coin flip decisions as a skipper. The best managers find success right around 60% of the time, while the worst are on the 40% spectrum. Unfortunately for Rocco, he’s been batting somewhere around 20% this season and that’s just not going to go over well.
Late game relief management has been suspect. There’s been more than a handful of substitutions that beg for a bit more explanation, and ultimately the Twins have gotten less when they’ve needed more. However, and this isn’t to absolve the man in charge of the clubhouse, a trickle-down effect is at play here. Baldelli is only able to turn to pieces provided by the front office, and unfortunate stretches of missed time have only extrapolated that reality.
Bad Luck: 1%
There’s no denying that Minnesota has had a good deal of bad luck this season. With a -1 run differential they should be much closer to .500, and it’s the results in close and goofy (extra-inning/seven-inning) games that has made the results worse than they need to be. However, we’re still less than 30 games into the season, so there’s time for that situation to balance itself out.
What we’ll see as time goes on is if the luck really has been as bad as it looks, or if the unfortunate circumstances are more a result of an ill-prepared team with less-than-ideal parts.
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