Answering your FAQs (Frequently Anguished Questions) about Twins manager Rocco Baldelli:
Q Why should he keep his job?
A In his first two seasons, he won more games than any other American League manager. In his only full season as a big-league manager, he was named manager of the year. After two seasons, he had the best record of any Twins (or Senators) manager who had worked more than one season.
In two-plus seasons, Baldelli has a record of 151-111 and two division titles with a team lacking stars. If he should be fired, we need to go back to 1990 and fire Tom Kelly, when he had championship-caliber players and finished last.
In Kelly's first five seasons, he won two World Series — and finished last, and fifth. It's almost as if his decisions weren't the key variable. Managers just don't control winning and losing, or at least not as much as fans think.
Q So you like the way Rocco runs this team?
A I disagree with him every day. I also disagreed with him frequently in 2019 and he won 101 games despite a messy bullpen and a slew of injuries. There is a difference between second-guessing a manager and thinking him incompetent. At a time when he was considered the best manager in baseball, Kelly did a Sunday morning call-in show on WCCO and people who couldn't spell "bunt" would second-guess his every move. And Kelly was the best strategist I've ever seen.
Q What's the solution?
A As is often the case in baseball, there is no simple answer. This might be a lost season. What the Twins should learn from this failure is that patching the pitching staff together with relative bargains is risky.
But luck matters. Even if the Twins had signed a superstar closer and a top starter, their injuries, offensive failures and uncharacteristic fielding mistakes would have destroyed their chances.
Q Why shouldn't the manager be blamed for all of this?
A Because baseball is not football. The overwhelming popularity of football encourages simplistic thinking, because football is compartmentalized, careers are short and teams can be rebuilt in two years.
Team loses? Fire the head coach. Defense stinks? Fire the defensive coordinator. Franchise stinks? Get a new coach and quarterback.
Baseball doesn't work that way. There are no quick, magical cures, rebuilding can take five to 10 years, and sometimes there is no explaining why a team wins one year and loses the next. If stars and managers mattered so much, the Angels — with Mike Trout, Shohei Ohtani and Joe Maddon — would be the best team in baseball. Yet the Angels haven't won a playoff game since 2009 and stink again this year.
Q At what point do you have to make a change?
A If Twins management believes that Baldelli has lost the faith of his key players, or that a change for change's sake would be beneficial, then it will fire him. But it's not going to happen in May, and it's not going to happen when the team's main problem has been the relievers supplied by the front office.
Q What can Baldelli do to improve?
A Get over the Doc Roc mentality. Get more games and innings out of his most important players, instead of relying on the bottom of his roster. Rocco needs to adapt, but no responsible franchise can fire someone with a 151-111 record. Certainly not a franchise that saw Tom Kelly go from first-to-worst-to-first in five years.