MINNEAPOLIS -- Seven different front offices are currently in various stages of conducting managerial searches right now — an eighth, the Angels, recently completed theirs — as they attempt to find the next person to lead them to a ring.
A year ago, that was Derek Falvey, Thad Levine and the Twins’ front office, vetting candidates for the position that came open when Paul Molitor was fired.
Nearly a year later — Rocco Baldelli was introduced as Twins manager on Oct. 25, 2018 — it’s safe to say that they’re pleased with their decision.
In his first year at the helm, Baldelli, a rookie manager, guided the Twins to an American League Central division championship, winning 101 games and posting the second-best record in franchise history while creating a culture that was praised heavily by his bosses.
“The way he led that group (the coaching staff) and the way he empowered everybody on the staff to do their jobs was incredible to watch,” Falvey said. “I think everybody in that room benefited from Rocco’s investment in that person individually. … He cared about every person who walked through that door to help them do their job to the best of their abilities. That’s what I think his leadership style showed to be.”
When the Twins introduced Baldelli nearly a year ago at his late-October news conference, Levine gushed about Baldelli’s willingness to lead and follow, talk and listen.
A year down the line, the Twins have now seen that in action.
“In the offseason, people in our shoes ask everybody to be collaborative, include people in conversations. By and large, coaches do. Then once the season starts, you retreat to your sandboxes because people like us will fire you if you don’t do well,” Levine said. “…I think the fact that the conversations were always inclusive and that he always empowered his guys and delegated to his guys was exceptional.”
Occasionally while watching games, Levine said the front-office staff would have constructive criticism. By the time they got down to the clubhouse postgame, they often found Baldelli locked in conversation with members of the coaching staff engaged in the same talks, thinking about the same things they were.
“It was top of the line. The attention to the post-mortem after each game, what were the key decision points? What went right? What went wrong? What were the alternatives?” Levine said. “I think it was just exceptional to watch.”
And the results of that process bore it out. Baldelli is likely to get strong consideration for American League Manager of the Year, which will be announced next month, for his first year of managing.
From the beginning, Baldelli strived to create a relaxed clubhouse culture, starting in spring training where the Twins restructured their programming to work smarter, not longer, and players were instructed to arrive later.
In the Twins’ clubhouse, players were expected to come in and take responsibility for their work, completing it in the way that suited them best. Sleep was prioritized, taking the emphasis off showing up early to the ballpark. Dress how you’d like, be comfortable, as long as the work gets done.
And when it came to decision-making, that was a team effort, with Baldelli weighing all options and soliciting advice from all those around him. He spent an entire season deflecting credit away from himself and laying praise on literally anyone or anything else.
But that didn’t stop his bosses earlier this month from heaping on the compliments when asked about Year 1.
“He hates every second of it,” Falvey said of the praise. “We couldn’t be happier about the job he did.”