Twins Brass in Evaluation Mode
The Minnesota Twins have experienced an unexpected start to the season. The club’s last three games have been postponed by MLB because of COVID-19 issues and the club is off to a slow start on the field with a 6-8 record.
Before the season the Twins were a consensus top 10-12 team, with some boosters listing Minnesota as one of MLB’s top half dozen clubs. The Twins opened the season going 5-2, but more recently the team is in an April swoon having lost six of its last seven games.
Close games have been troublesome. Minnesota is winless in extra innings and has lost four one-run games. But regardless of outcome and record, general manager Thad Levine likes a wait-and-see approach with his team each season.
Levine said he learned from baseball mastermind Billy Beane to evaluate your team in April and May, make necessary adjustments in June and July, and hopefully watch a championship contender in August and September.
“We’re going to take April and May to really evaluate the club,” Levine told Sports Headliners a few days ago. “We haven’t really had our opening day lineup, such as it is, play for a whole series together, and until that happens I think we’re just going to sit back and enjoy this club and make adjustments as necessary. …”
Injuries have impacted the team’s start. “So I think it’s a little bit premature to talk aggressively about trades at this juncture…because I think our team is still jelling,” Levine said.
As recently as last Monday MLB.com’s power rankings had Minnesota No. 4 behind the Los Angeles Dodgers, San Diego Padres and New York Yankees. That’s lofty company and Levine was asked about high expectations.
“Time will tell whether we earn that. I do think we’re a very talented team. The club has performed very well over the last couple of years. We have depth, we have quality, we have quantity on this club, and I think we expect to be very competitive this season.”
Spotrac.com reports the Twins rank near the MLB average for 2021 cash payrolls at $127,292,324. Because of the pandemic MLB’s 30 teams have suffered huge financial losses (perhaps over $70 million for the Twins) but Levine describes Minnesota ownership as “amazing” in its support of the organization. He said the Twins are among the minority of franchises who haven’t been forced to cut employees and “infrastructure.”
Levine also said he and president of baseball operations Derek Falvey experience an open door policy with club president Dave St. Peter and ownership to make their case regarding major roster changes, even if expensive. “Their support of our pursuit of putting a championship caliber team on the field has really never flagged,” said Levine who joined the Twins organization in 2016 along with Falvey.
Two names fans speculate about being part of the payroll in the future are starting pitcher Jose Berrios and center fielder Byron Buxton. Neither is signed long-term and the twosome are in their career prime years at 26 and 27. But signing them to lengthy extensions soon doesn’t appear likely.
Levine said that while contract negotiations are always kept private, usually the club prefers to get deals done during the offseason. The Twins’ approach is to allow players to keep their focus on the field and not divert their attentions to future contracts.
Levine joking about April’s cold weather impact on baseball games: “Yeah, I have to wear a heavier coat when I am watching the team play.”
Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer talking about defensive end Danielle Hunter who didn’t play last season: “He is a great team guy. He is a terrific player. He is one of the best people that I’ve been around in professional football.”
Happy Birthday today to 38-year-old Joe Mauer. He retired from the Twins in November of 2018.
The University of Minnesota athletic department has a tickets wait-list for the May 1 spring football game. The initial offering of 10,000 free tickets was claimed within a couple of hours, with the total restricted because of the pandemic. The largest Gophers spring game attendance in memory is a 1980s gathering (of over 40,000) at the Metrodome when promoter extraordinaire Lou Holtz was Minnesota’s head coach.
Kevin Harlan, the former Minnesota Timberwolves peerless play-by-play radio voice, speaks to the Twin Cities Dunkers via Zoom Tuesday. Harlan, the 2019 National Sportscaster of the Year as selected by the National Sports Media Association, is the brother of Bryan Harlan, the agent who represents Gophers football coach P.J. Fleck.
Former Golden Gophers basketball public address announcer Dick Jonckowski said his chemo treatments for cancer are going well. He has stage 3 non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
The Wild, forecast before the season as a non-playoff team, could be one of the NHL’s best stories in the postseason with several players performing at a high level including 33-year-old goalie Cam Talbot who is on track to appear in more games in 2021 than he did the two previous years. Wild GM Bill Guerin gets the credit for acquiring Talbot, part of multiple moves that have improved the team.
With the death of Elgin Baylor last month, all the Minneapolis Lakers who are enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame are deceased. George Mikan was the first to be inducted in 1959, followed by Baylor, Jim Pollard, Slater Martin, Clyde Lovellette, Vern Mikkelsen and coach John Kundla.