FORT MYERS, FLA. – The far end of the Twins’ executive offices at Hammond Stadium was once quiet and spartan. There was usually a spacious room reserved for, but not often used by, the team president.
That area has been transformed into something looking like a command center. Laptops line desks in an open floor plan, and are used by many of the employees the Twins have hired since Derek Falvey took over as the team’s chief baseball officer.
He and General Manager Thad Levine have invested heavily in research-and-development experts and other statistical analysts. He has expanded the team’s minor league staff and hired a massage therapist. There is now a Class AAA bullpen coach who can help coordinate the usage and instruction of relief pitchers who bounce between the majors and minors.
Falvey, 34, has held the job for about 16 months. During a lengthy conversation in his office Monday, he came across as intelligent, well-read, friendly, energetic and, perhaps strangely, humble.
The term “analytics” is often attached to analysts who believe that because they have the access to new-age statistics, they have the access to every conceivable answer.
Falvey seems more curious than certain. He compared running a franchise to “drinking from a fire hose,” yet he still sounds thirsty.
“Analytics I view as, ‘How do you measure the objective stuff and how do we measure the subjective, and how do we blend the two?’ ” he said. “That’s what was so exciting for us, with all of the established voices in the scouting department and this organization, if we could layer on some new ways of looking at the objective, the marriage of those two things is what allows a baseball team to be successful.”
The Twins were last year, winning 85 games and making the playoffs for the first time since 2010 despite Falvey and Levine moving closer Brandon Kintzler at the July 31 trading deadline, and trading for, then trading away, starter Jaime Garcia.
Falvey said he and his staff have reviewed all of their moves. He did not sound regretful about decisions that enraged much of the fan base and incited, or inspired, the clubhouse.
“I think in a lot of ways we’ve learned about our decision-making process, going back to last offseason and trade decisions — either triggers we pulled or ones we didn’t,” he said. “Let’s go back to last trade deadline. We acquire a player, we were in a certain position, a week later things have changed for us and a unique opportunity presents.
“I always want to question the process. Did we feel good about the process? Did that process lead to the right decision, at that time, with the information we knew?”
And? “We didn’t tear the team apart at the deadline,” he said. “We didn’t look at it and say, ‘Hey, the players who have gotten us this far have to go.’ We said, ‘Listen, let’s make some decisions around players whose contracts are expiring, for the betterment of the club. But we also felt like we had guys who could step up on the back end, guys like Matty Belisle, Trevor Hildenberger and Taylor Rogers, or others we felt could fill Brandon’s shoes.
“We weren’t in position at that stage to add much more. I give the guys in the clubhouse a ton of credit. There was no quit in that group, from the players, to the coaches, to Paul Molitor.”
Falvey said he spoke with each player individually, telling them: “This isn’t how we feel about you guys right now. Go out and do what you can and we’ll focus on what we need to control for now and the future.”
This is heady stuff for a 34-year-old. He took over a team that had lost 103 games, then found himself in a playoff race. He became a public figure and replaced a beloved general manager in Terry Ryan.
Falvey has called Ryan periodically, often to compliment him on the Twins’ talented young players, and has leaned on many of Ryan’s closest lieutenants.
Unlike Ryan, Falvey encourages his employees to leave the office at a reasonable time, to even take the occasional day off during spring training.
Falvey will go home, tuck in his son, and after his wife goes to bed he will resume working, but he will embargo his e-mails to Twins employees so they don’t send until the next morning.
“I don’t want them to see an e-mail from me and think they have to jump on it right away,” Falvey said.
The fire hose isn’t for everyone.
Souhan’s podcast can be heard at MNSPN.com. On Twitter: @SouhanStrib. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org