Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Rocco’s Next Act May Define Him


The 2021 Minnesota Twins have been terrible, there’s no denying that. Where blame lies is debatable, but the manager is dealing with a deck missing plenty of cards. He’s no absolved from any wrongdoing, but a “Fire Rocco” campaign is also shortsighted. Instead, 2022 is shaping up to be a defining act.


Through his first two seasons as the Twins skipper, Baldelli posted a 147-85 record. He led the club to back-to-back AL Central Division titles, and he took a team underperforming to new heights. After navigating a pandemic stricken season that included plenty of uncertainty, the only thing certain is that 2021 requires a reset.


In April, this club seemed to be dealt a good amount of bad luck. They were 9-15 despite a plus-two run differential. From there injuries and ineffectiveness took over, rendering most managerial decisions a moot point. This club wasn’t supposed to be bad, and they don’t have to be in the year ahead, but how their leader directs them could be somewhat of a career defining turning point.


Rocco is young, just 39-years-old, but was he a beneficiary of a team that blasted a boatload of homers and played a shortened season? Maybe he was snakebit by a team that couldn’t stay healthy and get out of its own way. No matter what the Twins have been with their new manager, 2022 has the opportunity to allow him runway for a new mark to be made.


I’d argue the Twins would be silly to rebuild. Plenty of this core was seen as impact players coming into the season. Unless that evaluation by the front office was completely misguided, shuffling in new parts makes a lot of sense. Allowing youth to get their feet wet in 2021 should benefit them in more substantial roles going forward. Even in a rebuild though, there’s opportunity to shine.


The Detroit Tigers were abysmal out of the gate and have since played a much stronger brand of baseball. A.J. Hinch was brought in as a replacement for Ron Gardenhire with the hope of leading a young roster back to relevance. He’s not going to do that this season, but they’re trending in the right direction, and it seems as though the Astros former skipper wasn’t just a by-product of a talented environment.


Rocco Baldelli doesn’t need to be defined by a record or banners in his first few seasons, but what he’ll have to prove in the year ahead is that process is driving results. We can throw away the present season and provide a pass given the circumstances, from there, a need to see more impact and growth resonating from the man in charge is a must.

Derek Falvey and Thad Levine will do plenty to outline the future’s course over the next week prior to the trade deadline. From there, Baldelli will have a clearer directive on what in front of him and showing an ability to navigate the path forward is his next challenge.