The Wild is in the midst of its second general manager search in barely a year, and rarely have we seen a team so desperately in need of image reboot.
Check that. Maybe it’s not as rare as we think.
After all, their winter sports competitors across the river, the Timberwolves, delivered a sorely needed image makeover a few months ago with the hiring of Gersson Rosas. And the Twins before them did the same thing in 2016 with the hiring of Derek Falvey and Thad Levine.
If the Wild and owner Craig Leipold can learn anything from those hires, it is this: The fastest way to look smart — and change the narrative that your organization is stuck in the past — is to hire modern-thinking executives who talk a good game.
That means enlisting a new general manager who will make changing the culture a point of emphasis, who repeatedly will insist on questioning existing norms (a Rosas favorite) while not just tolerating but legitimately embracing, integrating and innovating in the world of analytics.
The damage from Paul Fenton’s tenure feels irreversible right now, but at least in terms of perception everything is temporary.
The Twins went from “total system failure” during their 103-loss 2016 season to receiving heaps of praise as they surge toward a possible 100-win season.
The Wolves haven’t played a game yet under the Rosas regime, and already they are winning the battle of public opinion.
Fenton came in 15 months ago to a repeated chorus of “tweak the process.” That sounded as silly then as it appeared in practice. This time around, Leipold should know the Wild is in need of more than tweaks — if not immediately on the ice, then at least in the way messages are conveyed.
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The much-maligned and often-discussed Twins bullpen saved the weekend.
The assorted crew pitched a combined 12 innings in three consecutive victories Friday-Sunday over the Rangers, allowing just one run in the process. There were some messy innings — right up to the end Sunday, when Taylor Rogers had to pitch out of a jam in a 6-3 win — but the results were not only positive but desperately needed.
No Twins pitcher completed six innings in any of the four games against the Rangers, but thanks to some clutch hitting and good bullpen work they managed a huge sweep.
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Of course, a new concern has emerged for the Twins: the sudden unreliability of the previously very reliable Jose Berrios.
Berrios, the No. 1 starter on the staff, was handed a 6-0 lead Saturday in what could have been a cruise control sort of victory. Instead, he couldn’t even make it through five innings — allowing seven runs, though only three were earned.
In three August starts since a gem on the final day of July in Miami, Berrios has an 8.44 ERA and has allowed five home runs in 16 innings. He does have 17 strikeouts in that span, but his command in the strike zone has been shaky.
The Twins better hope he rediscovers his All-Star form soon. They can make the postseason without a dominant Berrios, but they would be hard-pressed to go very far.
Resilience has been a hallmark of these Twins so far, so I would imagine Berrios will come back strong down the stretch.