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Twins Not Parting Ways with Rocco

 

The Minnesota Twins end their regular season today with a series finale in Kansas City against the Royals. This could be the most disappointing year in franchise history dating back to 1961. Before the season started internal and external expectations were that the club would contend for an American League championship, not finish 17 or 18 games under .500.

Media speculation has manager Rocco Baldelli on the “hot seat.” His name is on the list of managers that could be fired soon but team president Dave St. Peter told Sports Headliners it’s not going to happen.

“We believe in Rocco,” St. Peter said. “We think he’s part of the solution. He’s certainly not the problem in our mind.”

Baldelli had no managerial experience when he took over the Twins for the 2019 season. His first club won the AL Central with a 101-61 record, the second most in franchise history. During a pandemic shortened 2020, the Twins were 36-24 and again led the division standings. This year’s team has underwhelmed with inconsistent pitching and injuries to key positional players.

St. Peter believes Baldelli, 40, is a better manager today because of what he has experienced the last three seasons. “Think about what he’s faced as a manager. He’s had 100 win teams. He’s had to deal with a world-wide pandemic. He’s had to deal with social justice issues. He’s had to deal with the loss of a bench coach (the late Mike Bell). He’s dealt with probably every injury you could ever imagine from all of his star players.

“And now he’s dealt with a really challenging season. A season where we’ve failed to meet expectations. Those things and 100 other things are going to help shape you as a leader, and Rocco Baldelli is still on the opening chapters of his managerial career. So there is no doubt in my mind his best managing is ahead of him.”

St. Peter doesn’t expect any major changes in the baseball front office. That includes the return of top executives Derek Falvey and Thad Levine. “Yeah, 100 percent (both return). I expect both of them to be part of our franchise for a long, long time.”

Dave St. Peter (photo courtesy of Minnesota Twins)

The team president believes 2022 will be a “retool,” not a rebuild for the club. Much of the focus, of course, will be improving the pitching staff. He’s encouraged by the work of the bullpen over the last two months, labeling it as one of the best in MLB during that period. The starting staff will receive particular offseason scrutiny with the club looking for pitching help within the organization and outside of it through potential trades and free agent signings.

St. Peter predicted predicts young starters from within the organization are likely to join the Twins as the 2022 season develops. “That really excites me because that’s really the ticket to sustained success,” he said.

Worth Noting

The Golden Gophers earned some redemption yesterday with a 20-13 win over Purdue and moved their season record to 3-2. Minnesota players and coaches had spent last week trying to explain their stunning 14-10 loss to lowly Bowling Green at home September 25. Gopher defensive end Boye Mafe said this before going to Purdue: “…If we want to do what we want to do with the season, we have to really show up and really actually execute.”

The offense, led by quarterback Tanner Morgan, was much better yesterday than the week before. Morgan was the target of much criticism passing for 59 yards on five of 13 completions against BG. “Being the quarterback of the Minnesota Golden Gophers is something that I truly cherish, but at the end of the day that’s not my identity. My identity is who I am, as a child of God, and when you remember that I think it makes things a lot easier personally. But people have a right to be angry. That’s part of college football. …”

True freshman Joe Alt, from Totino-Grace and North Oaks, was on the field at left tackle for Notre Dame yesterday during the home loss to Cincinnati.

Short list: Twins slugger Miguel Sano has 30 home runs this season and he hit 34 in 2019. He is one of only seven Twins ever to hit 30 or more in multiple seasons, joining Harmon Killebrew, Bob Allison, Tom Brunansky, Brian Dozier, Gary Gaetti and Justin Morneau.

Byron Buxton has stolen 71 bases in 81 career attempts, a percentage of .876. That’s second best in MLB history (minimum 80 attempts). Alexi Casilla, with the Twins and Baltimore Orioles, is the leader with a percentage of .879.

It was 40 years ago last Thursday (September 30, 1981) the Twins played their final game at Met Stadium, moving into the Metrodome in 1982.

Minnesota native and baseball hall of famer Dave Winfield is 70 today.

A Minnesota Timberwolves source said former coach Ryan Saunders hasn’t decided on his next career opportunity. He and wife Hayley have two children under three and continue to live in the Minneapolis area.

“The Huddle” with Mike Max and Pete Najarian debuts next Sunday from 10 a.m. to noon on WCCO Radio. The show fills the time slot of “The Sports Huddle” show that hasn’t aired for about 18 months.

As of late last week, the Minnesota Wild had sold more than 1,200 Winter Classic jerseys since announcing them about a month ago. The jerseys honor the cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, and the 2022 Winter Classic that will be at Target Field.

Bally Sports North will televise the Timberwolves preseason game against the New Orleans Pelicans Monday night from Target Center, with Bally Sports using its app to stream the Wild’s preseason game against the Colorado Avalanche from Xcel Energy Center on the same evening.

Kevin Harlan, the former radio voice of the Timberwolves, does the play-by-play for CBS on its TV coverage of today’s Minnesota Vikings-Cleveland Browns game.

Zero. In Minnesota’s win last Sunday the Viking defense held the Seattle Seahawks scoreless in the second half for the first time since the Tampa Bay Bucs did so in November of 2016.

Rookie left tackle Christian Darrisaw, who has yet to play for the 1-2 Vikings, perhaps could make his debut today if the game is one-sided. He was a full participant in practice last week after being sidelined with a groin issue.

The United States Hockey League had a record 375 NHL scouts and D-1 coaches at its recent Fall Classic Showcase held near Pittsburgh. Representatives of the Minnesota Wild, Golden Gophers, St. Thomas, and other Minnesota schools were in attendance. The USHL’s new president and commissioner is St. Paul native Billy Robertson.

Chris Meidt, president and CEO of Minnesota-based North Risk Partners, is the former quarterbacks coach of the Washington Redskins and ex-head coach at St. Olaf. As a Minneota High School quarterback in the 1980s he threw over 100 career touchdown passes for a then national prep record and was featured in Sports Illustrated’s “Faces in the Crowd.”

A pair of senior MIAC quarterbacks, Bethel’s Jaran Roste, and Chris Backes from Saint John’s, are semifinalists for the William V. Campbell Trophy. The award recognizes an individual as the best football scholar-athlete in the nation for his combined academic success, football performance, and exemplary leadership.

The program time to honor Minnesota prep football coaching legend Ron Stolski next Saturday has been changed from 4 p.m. to 2:45 p.m. The event will be at the Northern Pacific Center in Brainerd.

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David Shama

David Shama is a former sports editor and columnist with local publications. His writing and reporting experiences include covering the Minnesota Vikings, Minnesota Twins, Minnesota Timberwolves and Minnesota Gophers. Shama’s career experiences also include sports marketing. He is the former Marketing Director of the Minnesota North Stars of the NHL. He is also the former Marketing Director of the United States Tennis Association’s Northern Section. A native of Minneapolis, Shama has been part of the community his entire life. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota where he majored in journalism. He also has a Master’s degree in education from the University of St. Thomas. He was a member of the Governor’s NBA’s Task Force to help create interest in bringing pro basketball to town in the 1980s.

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