I want to talk about injuries. They derailed a solid-if-not-spectacular Twins squad in 2022. Minnesota was reduced to trotting out a quad-A lineup for the last month of the year as the season sputtered to an anticlimactic close. I’d argue, though, that the reaction of Twins fans to injury news was disproportional even for a fanbase that can careen toward toxicity at the best of times. There are factors that underpin that, some the Twins organization can control, some they can’t. In this piece, I’ll try and highlight those tensions, and propose reasonable, easily implementable solutions the organization could implement in 2023.
Before digging into a topic that can be contentious, I want to be clear about some things I’m not advocating for. I don’t think the Twins owe fans anything regarding player timelines as they recover from injury. I also want to acknowledge that players suffer setbacks. That’s normal, and it’s never going to change. Despite some of the worst injury luck going last year, I have a contention: the Twins organization does not yet have consistent and proactive systems and structures in place to communicate about player injuries. Let’s lay out the challenges, and propose some solutions.
Problem: No One Owns Communication Regarding Players Injuries
To my limited knowledge, the Twins don’t have an owner of injury communication. There’s no one person with whom injury updates sit. Rocco Baldelli often gives injury updates in pre and postgame press conferences. It’s natural for reporters to ask injury-related questions after the game (it’s news/proximity to the event). I’m not suggesting Baldelli never communicates about injuries, more pointing out that it’s clearly an area of his media responsibilities he found uncomfortable or frustrating. Derek Falvey also communicates updates about injuries and player status when he has media availability. If there isn’t a responsible party of the majority of injury updates, communication can become muddled, unclear, or even contradictory.
Solution: Release a Weekly Injury Bulletin
The Twins social media has taken a huge step forward early in 2023. Behind the scenes access such as ‘The Diamond’, redesigned social media visuals, and an excellent communications team make the Twins set up to take the majority of the communication out of Rocco Baldelli’s hands. The Twins should release a ‘injury bulletin’ on a regular cadence to provide updates to media and fans who want access. Predictable communication structures promote consistency and trust.
Problem: Too Often, Communication is Reactive, Instead of Proactive
The second challenge I’ve noticed with the Twins injury-related communication is a reactive approach, instead of a proactive one. Last year, Trevor Larnach suffered from a core muscle injury. The timeline communicated by the Twins and the actual timeline of his return were vastly discrepant. I’d argue that although the setbacks and the longer recovery time are frustrating to fans, the bigger frustration is expecting one outcome or timeline, and experiencing another, an experience that could be improved with more consistent communication.
Solution: Over Communicate Updates via Social Media
For players with mid-to-long-term injuries, the Twins should communicate updates on their status at least weekly, using social media. The great thing about this solution, is there’s already an exemplar out there, the Golden State Warriors. Here’s an example of how they communicated updates leveraging twitter, during Steph Curry’s recent recovery from injury.
The upside is clear here. Overcommunicating updates instill confidence that progress is being made and player needs are being attended to.
Problem: Communication Around Injuries is Often Unclear
The final prevalent issue with the Twins approach to communicating around player injuries is a symptom of the first two challenges. Because there is no clear owner of communication and updates tended to get ‘backed up’ until a presser in which Baldelli or Falvey would have to reel off a list of players and their current status, updates felt lacking in detail, specificity, and clarity. Of course, it’s the Twins prerogative how much information they reveal to the public about injuries. Obviously, they want to and should respect the players’ privacy. I’d argue, however, that there’s no competitive advantage to vague communication.
Solution: Follow a Simple Formula When Communicating Injury-Related News
I’m not a doctor, healthcare professional, or anything in the field, but a simple formula for communicating injury updates would increase clarity tremendously. Diagnosis + current treatment + next step. The diagnosis re-grounds folks in the player’s injury, the current treatment plan reminds fans that the organization is working on solutions (because we know they are), the next step previews for fans when they can expect further updates or information.
Perhaps all of these offerings aren't aligned with what the Twins organization is willing to communicate, that’s their choice. I’d argue, however, that there are some quick and easy wins to be had in how the Twins communicate around player health. These solutions would increase trust and perception from fans of something we should all believe to be true; that the organization is doing everything they can to keep players on the field and maintain a winning team.
What are your thoughts on these potential solutions? Are they feasible? Would there be any concerns with these options from the Twins perspective? Would these solutions be enough to stop fans from questioning things so often? Leave your COMMENTS below.
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