Category Archives: MLB

Rocco’s Modern Baseball

The news finally emerged early this morning: Rocco Baldelli will be the 14th manager since the Twins franchise moved to Minnesota. For the first time since Ray Miller in 1985, the Twins have hired a manager from outside the organization.  Baldelli will be just the 4th manager employed by the Twins in the last three decades.

By bringing in Baldelli, the Twins have finally jumped into the modern era. With Derek Falvey (35), Thad Levine (45), & Baldelli (37), management of the club is the youngest it’s been since Andy MacPhail (then 33) & Tom Kelly (then 36) started running the team together in 1986. Twins fans don’t need to be reminded of the accomplishments of that tandem of baseball minds.

At the same time, youth alone is not a guarantee of success. Youth can serve as a proxy for fresh thinking, which the Twins certainly needed when Falvey & Levine were brought in to run the organization’s baseball operations. The early results have been uneven. In some ways, the team is still recovering from Bill Smith’s disastrous tenure as GM, which was compounded by Terry Ryan’s return to the helm and refusal to consider other possibilities.

Falvey & Levine inherited Paul Molitor, an incumbent manager with strong ties to the club going back to his playing days, and by every indication, Molitor embraced a new approach to the game he knows in his marrow. To some, Molitor might seem fated to have been a transitional manager. His coaching career did not include lengthy service in the minor leagues or coaching apprenticeships under managers with a track record of developing future managers. He served under one of the last old-school GMs, and one of the youngest new-school Chief Baseball Officers. Molitor was something of the insider’s outsider, a Hall of Fame player & hometown guy without a long track record for the gig he held. He was open to new ideas, but they weren’t ideas that were organic to his understanding of the game.

Baldelli will be notable for his youth — he is now the youngest manager in the major leagues. What is more important, however, is what Baldelli brings with him. Baldelli was the sixth overall pick in the draft class immediately preceding Joe Mauer’s, the one in which the Twins drafted Adam Johnson second overall. He was a dynamic young outfielder whose career was derailed by injuries, ultimately forced into retirement by mitochondrial channelopathy. Along the way, Baldelli received the Tony Conigliaro Award and played for two organizations — the Rays and Red Sox — known for fresh thinking. His ability to translate his experience into effective support struggling players  will be vital to the futures of Byron Buxton and Miguel Sanó. Baldelli’s coaching work in Tampa Bay, particularly his last two years as field coordinator, will give data-driven baseball decisions an organic voice in the clubhouse. Should Derek Shelton remain on Baldelli’s coaching staff, the Twins will double-down on Rays coaching alumni, while Shelton can help his former colleague get familiar with the terrain of the clubhouse.

After years of ossified thinking, which produced mediocre results that were excruciating to watch, the Twins are completing a turn into the future. Welcome, Rocco’s Modern Baseball.

World Series Game 1 — Dodgers at Red Sox

It’s opening night of the 114th World Series between the Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers. Two teams with the top payrolls in baseball representing two of the top nine media markets in the country. Two teams with long, storied histories. West Coast cool versus East Coast angst. One would think that the Dodgers would have a better history in the World series but even though both teams have participated in 12 World Series each, the Dodgers are 6-6 versus the Red Sox overall 8-4 World Series record. Dodgers haven’t won a World Series since 1988, Red Sox 2013. The teams have met once in the Worlds Series -- 102 years ago as Babe Ruth's Boston Red Sox took down the then Brooklyn Robins (and their offensive star Casey Stengel) 4 games to 1.

Clayton Kershaw v. Chris Sale so it should be quite the pitcher’s duel. First pitch scheduled for 7:09p from Fenway on Fox TV.

Of Strategy and Tradition

The designated hitter came into being in 1973.  That means we have now had forty-six seasons of the DH in baseball.  Yet, you will still find people who hate the designated hitter and consider it an abomination.  The reason they give, as I'm sure you've heard, is always the same.  "The DH takes all the strategy out of the game."

Well, we're all entitled to our opinion.  But it's interesting to me that the people who hate the DH because "it takes all the strategy out of the game" are quite often the same people who hate defensive shifts, openers, pitching changes to create favorable matchups, and every other recent innovation with which the "stat nerds" with their "analytics" are "ruining the game".

Again, we're all entitled to our opinion.  But if what you really love about baseball is strategy, rather than just tradition, you should love the modern game of baseball.  We've seen more new strategies in the last few years than I've seen in my entire life as a baseball fan.  I'm not totally sold on all of them, but that's not the point.  The point is that if what you love about baseball is strategy, you should be having the time of your life.  Every night you're seeing all kinds of innovative strategies being played out right before your eyes.  It's incredible.  I don't think it's going too far at all to say that what we're seeing now is a golden age of baseball strategy.

I love the baseball I grew up with in the sixties and seventies.  It was a great game.  But it's a great game now, too.  I feel sorry for people who claim to love baseball but are so wedded to the past that they can't see that.  They're not hurting me, but they are hurting themselves.  There's a great game of baseball going on, and they're missing out on it.