Twins New Bosses Face Fan Anger
The Twins introduced new baseball department bosses Derek Falvey and Thad Levine to the media and fans today. News of their appointments won’t sell many tickets or immediately improve a team that lost 103 games last season.
Falvey is the new executive vice president and chief baseball officer. Levine’s title is senior vice president and general manager. They represent a new start for a franchise that has lost over 90 games in five of the last six seasons. Home attendance has declined every year, with the Twins drawing less than two million fans last season for the first time since moving into Target Field in 2010.
Fans have become both angry and apathetic. A knowledgeable sports industry source told Sports Headliners he heard the Twins’ season tickets total is about 8,800 right now. Another source believes the final total for 2017 will be about 10,000. When the club started playing at Target Field the season tickets total was approximately 25,000.
TV viewership was dismal at times last season. A ratings authority said the Nielsen results for a Twins-Blue Jays game in August showed no viewers in the 600-home meters sample size. “That’s never happened before with the Twins,” the source said.
Twins president Dave St. Peter told Sports Headliners earlier this year market research shows fans “desperately” want to get behind the franchise. To rally the fan base, though, Falvey and Levine will have to make changes that re-energize the public.
At the top of the to-do list is adding a couple of marquee players to the roster before next season. The Twins have a reputation for usually not spending significantly on free agents—nor wisely when they do. Their offseason shopping list might start with free agent catcher Wilson Ramos who the Twins errantly traded away to the Nationals in 2010 for closer Matt Capps. Ramos, 29, had a breakout year in 2016, becoming a National League All-Star and hitting .307 with 22 home runs with 80 RBI.
Everyone knows the Twins need to upgrade their pitching staff and that assignment might be where Falvey and Levine can show their smarts first. If they can identity the right pitching help this offseason, that will be impressive. Without better starters and relievers, the Twins are probably a lock to finish last in the American League Central Division again.
The shopping list should also include a clubhouse leader. The Twins never replaced role model vet Torii Hunter who retired after the 2015 season. His leadership and hitting production were key reasons why the 2015 team had a winning record (83-79).
Falvey and Levine should show the fan base they are changing the culture in the baseball department. Change is anticipated to include increased use of analytics but it’s also expected to result in new faces in the organization. Changes might include new coaches.
Levine indicated at today’s news conference he and Falvey see manager Paul Molitor as “someone they can invest in.” No reassurances were made, though, that all the coaches on Molitor’s staff will return. Rob Antony, who has been leading the baseball operation, drew praise from Falvey who didn’t hint at change there.
The 33-year-old Falvey and the 44-year-old Levine have a big job ahead. In a few years the results of their decisions will be known. Let them do things now they believe will give the Twins the best chance to win in 2017 and beyond.
Falvey comes from the Indians where he was assistant general manager. His most extensive experience with the organization was serving four years as the director of baseball operations. Levine has spent the past 11 seasons as assistant general manager for the Rangers.
Falvey and Levine impressed with their answers at today’s news conference, with the latter more than once showing a sense of humor. The transplanted Texan said he had been warned about Minneapolis weather in November but temps have been mild. “This is actually a lovely time of year up here,” Levine said.
Bo Hellquist, the former UMD pitcher from Savage who signed as a free agent with the Twins in June, had a 5-3 record with a 2.25 ERA in 11 games pitching in the Gulf Coast League for rookies.
Jay Buckley’s Baseball Tours, operating from La Crosse, Wisconsin, has announced 30 trips for 2017 including games to see the World Series champion Cubs. Billed as the “Ultimate Wrigley Field Experience,” the Chicago trip will allow fans to watch games from the stadium and a rooftop. More at Jaybuckley.com.
Give the Gophers and coach Don Lucia credit for a weekend with a tie and a win over North Dakota, a team that has been ranked No. 1 in the country. Saturday night’s announced attendance was 10,310—the ninth largest ever at Mariucci Arena.
The Sports Illustrated College Basketball Projection System simulates the season ahead 10,000 times and ranks teams from No. 1 to 351. The Gophers are No. 97, just behind East Tennessee State and one spot ahead of South Dakota State. Minnesota ranks 13th in the 14-team Big Ten Conference. Rutgers—ouch!—is 224th.
S.I. ranks Duke No. 1 in the nation, while Big Ten teams in the top 16 are Wisconsin No. 8, Purdue No. 11 and Indiana No. 14.
Emmit Carpenter, who kicked three field goals including two of over 50 yards in the Gophers’ win over Purdue Saturday, was named Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Week today.
New Vikings offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur impressed yesterday with his use of various personnel and play calling, including a surprise touchdown run by reserve tight end Rhett Ellison in Minnesota’s 22-16 loss to the Lions.
Bleacherreport.com’s NFL power rankings this morning have the Lions at No. 11 and the Vikings No. 12. The Redskins, who the Vikings play next Sunday, are No. 13, while the Patriots rank first.
Gridiron Glory: The Best of the Pro Football Hall of Fame is a current exhibit at the Minnesota History Center, and one that Vikings fans will enjoy. The travelling exhibit, on display through January 15, includes an area devoted to the Minnesota NFL franchise. In addition to the Hometown Heroes section, fans can enjoy and learn about the history of pro football including how Ole Haugsrud purchased the Duluth Eskimos franchise for $1 in 1925. Haugsrud later became one of the original Vikings owners.