There was a time during the interview process when the Twins’ decisionmakers thought Rocco Baldelli was half the man he used to be. The Woonsocket Rocket looked more like the Ocean State Sparkler.
The Twins hired him anyway, and on Tuesday Baldelli was named the American League Manager of the Year after the first season in his life as a manager. Late this season, he admitted that one of the toughest parts of the job might have been the interview.
“Over that interview process, it was extraordinarily grueling,” Baldelli said. “In some ways, it was one of the most challenging periods of my life. I was sick. I lost 15 pounds. I didn’t eat. I didn’t sleep.
“Personally, when I first started the process, I wasn’t sure about whether I wanted to leave my team, or whether I wanted any of this. So it was a very stressful time, to say the least. And when I say I lost 15 pounds, I mean, my family saw me and they were like, ‘You look horrible.’ ”
Baldelli is lean to begin with, so 15 pounds is significant. He was torn about leaving the Tampa Bay Rays, but he became a candidate for multiple managerial jobs and found himself crisscrossing the country, missing sleep, picking at his food, worrying about his looming decision.
“I knew what his schedule was,” Twins boss Derek Falvey said. “He was wanted by a handful of clubs, and because of who Rocco is and his willingness to go through the process everywhere, he didn’t want to say no.
“He was ping-ponging around the country. He was waking up in a different city every day. And as I know, from my personal experience here, interviewing is exhausting. You’re on for eight to 10 hours, talking and explaining your vision and then you go do it again the next day.
“I don’t think he enjoyed that part of the process at all. I think looking back on it now, he probably wished he would have had two or three interviews instead of five.”
Teams can be fooled by interviews, but what the Twins saw in Baldelli during those meetings dovetailed with his résumé and testimonials. They found him to be highly intelligent, intellectually curious, empathetic and able to communicate with diverse people at all levels of an organization. Communicating during an interview dinner can cost you a few pounds.
“He had just finished his season, and you go through a regular major league season, and even if you’re not the manager, you’re tired,” Falvey said. “Now he’s got to go back across the country, then east and then south and who knows if you’re eating. The thing about interviewing over dinner, you don’t eat. You try to take a bite and before you can put it in your mouth, you’re answering questions.”
Baldelli sat in his office in September and shook his head at the memory.
“No, I didn’t plan it out very well,” he said. “I didn’t have a process and protocol I went through. I didn’t have five minutes to do any of that. I was flying across the country, not sleeping or eating for two weeks. It was extremely challenging.”
He impressed his bosses with his inclusiveness. He and bench coach Derek Shelton would hash out lineups and workloads, and Baldelli publicly thanked “Shelty” while being interviewed on the MLB Network on Tuesday.
Yes, Baldelli embraced analytics, but even a noted analytics guru such as Falvey said there is much more to the job than numbers.
“Relationships — that’s the key to what he’s doing,” Falvey said. “Yes, lineups and pitching decisions and all those things are rooted in some kind of analysis that he’s doing in his mind, but at the end of the day, he’s got to go motivate those guys and make sure they feel supported every time they walk out on the field. He’s really good at that.”