The Andy MacPhail tree of Twins baseball management took root at a Metrodome news conference on Nov. 24, 1986, and there was a public display of its removal at a Target Field news conference on Nov. 7, 2016.
MacPhail was elevated to executive vice president in charge of baseball, Tom Kelly went from interim to full-time manager (for 15 seasons) and other front office executives were named.
One of those, vice president Bob Gebhard, had the opportunity early on the morning of Oct. 26, 1987, after a 4-2 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals, to offer a comment for the ages:
"We were just trying to get organized and we won the World Series."
Three decades later, the Twins were introducing Derek Falvey as chief baseball officer and Thad Levine as general manager. Terry Ryan, in his second term as general manager, had been told in mid-July 2016 that a change was coming and resigned, thus sticking Rob Antony with being the interim GM as the Twins wound down a record 103-loss season.
Sid Hartman was in the audience at the Falvey-Levine introduction. Our recently departed legend violated all the rules of "Jeopardy" by not putting his remark in the form of a question, instead scolding the pair for their lack of credentials and a preposterous belief they could replace a fine baseball man such as Ryan.
Falvey made the mistake of trying to respond in a rational manner. Levine jumped in and, with a slight smile, said, "Sir, I'm as offended as you are by this," and then added that all they could do was give it a best shot.
That was the style of the Twins' new baseball hierarchy over the first couple of years:
Falvey had current sports rhetoric down pat, including such regular use of "collaborative" that reporters would agitate him about it. Levine was more casual and ready with the quip.
"They are both very personable … both 'loose,' " LaTroy Hawkins said. "Derek is funny. The difference is, Thad's hysterical."
Hawkins quickly discovered this after being hired along with other ex-Twins Torii Hunter and Michael Cuddyer as special assistants in late November 2016.
The presence of Falvey and Levine in public forums and offering quotes on the current state of the team caused fans and some media members to start referring to the new administration as "Falvine."
While Levine, about to turn 45 when hired, was brought in as the trusted right hand, Falvey, 33 on that November day, was every bit the new baseball boss as MacPhail had become 30 years earlier.
The Twins are now hours from the start of Season 5 with this new-age operation and Hawkins' original view is much more visible: Falvey is loose … and teetering on the edge of funny.
For instance, the wholesome young man hired by the Twins, a graduate of Trinity College, the selective liberal arts college in Hartford, Conn., has been featuring a beard during spring training.
It has been covered by a mask when Falvey was spotted at Hammond Stadium, but it's there, a rust-colored beard that has a solid touch of gray.
Not to worry that Falvey is turning into Jerry Garcia. There's a story behind the beard.
"We had our third child on Christmas Eve," Falvey said. "No grandparents around due to COVID. So we took the two older kids to our neighbors. Taking in kids on Christmas Eve … those are great neighbors.
"It was a hectic time and I hadn't shaved in three or four days. The neighbor has a beard and our son Jack — he's 5 — came back, he said, 'Dad, you can grow the same thing as our neighbor?'
"I said, 'Should I try it?' Jack said, 'Do it' … so, mostly, this is a joke for Jack."
Derek and Meghan, another Trinity alum, have sons Jack and baby Ryan, and daughter Brynn in between at age 2.
"I said to Meghan before leaving for Florida, 'This will be our fifth year,' and she said, 'Fifth what?' " Falvey said. "I said, 'Fifth season with the Twins,' and that shocked both of us."
Forty is key number
We found out near the end of its first spring training how differently a Falvey-led organization would operate with personnel decisions. ByungHo Park, in his second year after being signed from the Korean Baseball Organization, had a phenomenal Grapefruit League burst of power.
There is a 100% chance that in any other Twins spring training, dating to 1961 in Orlando, the Park of 2017 would have "won a job" on the Opening Day roster. On March 30, Park was called into Paul Molitor's office, where he was informed by the manager and Falvey that he would be remaining on the roster of the Class AAA Rochester Red Wings.
The Twins kept Tyler Duffey as a 13th pitcher over Park as a DH. The decision was savaged by Twin Cities sports columnists. Then, Park spent the season in Rochester, did just OK, and returned to the KBO starting in 2018.
The early wonderment over the Park decision was replaced by lessons:
The 40-man roster was what counted with the Falvey operation, not the 25-man (now 26) for Opening Day. The Twins' analysis told them Park's power surge was based on spring training pitching, that it wasn't a swing made for success in the big leagues. Also: Placing him on the 40-man could cost a player they didn't want to lose.
Emotionally, for old-school fans and media members trained in the drama of the Opening Day roster, it's hard to accept the truth that it's not all that vital the makeup of the 26 that will open the season in Milwaukee.
Think 40-man. Think minor league options. Think a Falvey world dedicated to keeping open as many options as possible.
Breaking the norm
There was a veteran scout overheard during pregame workouts at Hammond Stadium a couple of times in March. The rant was the same: The commitment to "analytics" (used as a curse word) has created cookie-cutter instruction of players.
"That's one thing that gets to me: When people say we now have a 'cookie-cutter' approach to player development," Falvey said in mid-March. "It is exactly the opposite. Instruction is individualized more than ever. Every player has his own plan.
"Matt Canterino, a young righthander who has hit 98 [mph], is not going to be given the same program as Randy Dobnak. That would be ridiculous. Canterino is going for more spin. Dobnak, with his sinker, wants low spin."
Cookie cutter was days of yore, when a bullpen session was, "Bend your back and keep the ball down." Non-cookie cutter is when you hear Dobnak — proud hurler for Alderson-Broaddus University in West Virginia, signed from a low-level, four-team independent league in suburban Detroit — reveal he's getting more break on his slider by following advice from "R & D" to supinate his hand.
This is baseball in the 2020s, Twins baseball, Falvey-led baseball, and there is a "Research and Development" group to assist in finding players, or then finding a key — a slider that was missing bats for Dobnak in Florida — to improve them.
Supination. Now that's anti-cookie cutter.
Risky hire pays off
The most remarkable example of Falvey's innovation was the decision to hire Wes Johnson out of the University of Arkansas as the pitching coach for new manager Rocco Baldelli in 2019.
Johnson has been claimed to be the first pitching coach to come directly from college to that position in the majors.
"Close to 10 years ago, Wes was the pitching coach at Dallas Baptist," Falvey said. "There was an event called 'Pitching Boot Camp' that took place in Conroe, Texas. I was working for Cleveland and there were maybe three of us there from the big leagues to listen.
"Wes was one of the speakers, and his content was so good, things he had discovered working off a cheap Trackman at DBU, I said, 'I want to work with him some day.'
"It was a big deal when we hired him out of college, but why? The NFL hires coaches out of college, the NBA hires coaches out of college. What makes baseball different?"
Falvey said Johnson is outstanding with this: He wants a result from a pitcher, maybe hand placement at the point he releases the ball. Rather than creating a paranoia over that, Johnson gives the pitcher something more natural that will create the result.
"Johan Santana … somebody showed him a changeup years ago, and he saw the results, and became a great pitcher," Falvey said. "I've started calling that process 'guided discovery.' "
The immediate instinct would be to ridicule such a new-age term, except an old-school baseball guy recalls getting a Falvey-style slap upside the head by "guided discovery" in 2017, with the results of the ByungHo Park decision.