The Twins worked hard, and worked fast, naming Rocco Baldelli as their new manager before the World Series was even over. They started looking right away, and didn’t have to endure seeing their top choices choosing other jobs before the Twins could hire them. The process seems like it went much more smoothly than other coaching hires I’ve seen lately, and perhaps even better than I expected.
Baldelli is antithetical to how the Twins have hired managers for decades. He’s young, the youngest in Major League baseball now, and the youngest since Tom Kelly was hired at age 35 in 1986. He’s the first manager hired from outside the organization since Ray Miller in 1984. His hire is a sure sign that this is Derek Falvey and Thad Levine’s team now.
I’ve often insisted that there isn’t much that a manager does in game that is necessarily positive over the course of the season, so there isn’t usually a lot about a manager that will excite me, though there are usually some red flags. The best thing about Baldelli is that I don’t see any apparent red flags. He is coming from an analytical organization in Tampa, where he both played nearly his entire career and spent his coaching tenure. Either he has some strategic skills in his mental toolbox, or he is willing to listen to new ideas. I would suspect there would be no other way to survive in the Rays organization.
Also, Baldelli’s history as a player seems to jive well with at least one of the Twins top young stars. Baldelli was a top 10 pick in the outfield, but his career was slowed by injuries, despite some promising signs. Of course, Baldelli was forced to retire due to a rare mitochondrial disorder, so the equivalence hopefully ends there with Byron Buxton. Nevertheless, the start to his career and his perseverance will be relatable, one would hope, for Buxton.
Some reports out of the Red Sox clubhouse have said that one of the things that has made Alex Cora a good manager is his ability to blend in and be one of the guys. The clubhouse responds to him, thanks in no small part to that trait. Cora is young, and recently played the game, but paid his dues learning the strategy and managerial skills as a coach. The Twins hope they found a similar concoction with Baldelli. Now, to complete the recipe, the Twins will hope to find Baldelli some players like Cora has.