The Twins have a record of 121-72 since Derek Falvey hired Rocco Baldelli as manager. That’s a winning percentage of .627. Only one Twins team — the ’65 AL champions — has done better than that in a full season.
The Lynx are 9-4 despite playing a patchwork lineup in place of their departed stars and the injured Sylvia Fowles. They have won four WNBA titles and are en route to a 10th consecutive winning season under coach and General Manager Cheryl Reeve.
The Twins and Lynx play in arenas named for the same corporate sponsor and office within walking distance of each other. Falvey, the Twins’ president of baseball operations, has invited Reeve for conversations on leadership and management.
Two of Minnesota’s best success stories share ideas, and Falvey found they already shared common ground.
“I am blown away by Cheryl, every time I’ve gotten to have a conversation with her or around her team,” Falvey said. “Hearing her speak about navigating the current environment after the murder of George Floyd, I feel like she’s been a guiding light for us all.”
The Lynx and Twins have been among the most purposeful sporting proponents of social justice. Even if they stick to sports, Falvey acknowledged sharing a worldview with Reeve.
Fans of Vince Lombardi, Bobby Knight and the coach-as-tyrant philosophy are not going to like this. Falvey said that one of the keys to modern sports leadership is “vulnerability.”
Falvey has read Dan Coyle’s “The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups.” He has striven to ingrain Coyle’s philosophies with the Twins, and has seen them in action with the Lynx.
“Dan Coyle is somebody I’ve been fortunate to have a relationship with,” Falvey said. “It all starts with vulnerability and unselfishness. The unselfishness part is self-explanatory: If you really just put the team first, good things happen. I think that’s reflected in Rocco’s management style.
“As for vulnerability, people think that you have to have trust before you can become vulnerable. I think you have to be vulnerable to create that trust.
“I see that in Cheryl’s environment. Hey, we don’t have all of the answers. No one person does. I put up the guardrails and set the mission and establish what our non-negotiables are, but everybody needs to contribute, everybody needs to pick up the rope and start pulling.”
When Falvey and his team interviewed Baldelli, they were impressed that he admitted to what he didn’t know.
“Rocco wants to get the best information and advice possible,” Falvey said. “It’s the same approach with our scouts. We don’t want scouts banging the table for their guy. We want scouts who want the Minnesota Twins to pick the best player.”
Some of these ideas are relatively new to the sports world; others are merely rephrased. When Tom Kelly won two World Series with the same core position players, the Twins’ culture was easily defined. Andy MacPhail handled personnel decisions and left the clubhouse to Kelly. Kelly set expectations and relied on Kirby Puckett, Kent Hrbek and other veterans to uphold team standards.
Baldelli, similarly, relies on Nelson Cruz to police his clubhouse.
It’s the idea that sports leaders should be “vulnerable” that sounds new, but that approach encourages true teamwork. If the boss doesn’t pretend to have all of the answers, the boss will receive far more input and information from the staff. If the boss doesn’t pretend to be omniscient and omnipotent, relationships with the staff will be more productive.
Reeve and Falvey both rely on deep analytics. How does an organization combine an emphasis on “culture” with an emphasis on analytics?
“When we make a decision, we want to root it in deep analysis,” Falvey said. “Analytics play a role because they help us be less emotional. Let’s make a decision based on the best facts available. And let’s make it a collaborative decision. Let’s make sure we hear everyone’s ideas before we make a call.”
Using new-age concepts, the Twins are building a model franchise. The Lynx already have.
Jim Souhan’s podcast can be heard at TalkNorth.com. On Twitter: @SouhanStrib. email@example.com