The Twins set the major league record with 307 homers in 2019. They finished second among 30 teams with 939 runs. They finished at 101-61, one shy of Minnesota’s record set at 102-60 by the 1965 American League champions.
The 101 wins was only worth third place in the AL standings, sending the Twins to the Bronx to match the Yankees’ 103 wins.
The result was an epic playoff lag, even by the Twins’ high standards in this category. The Yankees’ final sweep scores were 10-4, 8-2, and 5-1.
Though it was an exciting flop in the playoffs, the 101 win and point bonanza left objective Twins followers with this thought:
Baseball boss Derek Falvey, general manager Thad Levine and the rest of that now overstretched operation that took over in November 2016 might know what they’re doing after all.
That means the Pohlads could see a payoff for all those millions added to the baseball operation compared to 2002 through 2010 and six division titles.
Three years later, I’m a little skeptical. Even if the White Sox don’t pull themselves together and the Twins stumble to the center title with 84 wins, the view here will still be this:
Falvey, Levine et al. have done some weird things since being left in the mud by the Yankees in early October 2019. For example:
- Kyle Gibson was solid for the Twins in Atomic Baseball’s 2019 season, making 29 starts and winning 13 games.
The need for starting pitching remained strong. Yet the Twins’ response to hitting more home runs than any team not playing slow-pitch softball was to give a team-record four-year, $92 million contract to power hitter Josh Donaldson. 34 years old with a history of injuries.
Donaldson has played just 28 of 60 games in the division-winning 2020 mini-season. He has consistently played in the last-place finish of the 2021 full season. The Twins jumped at the chance to come out of the final two years of his contract by trading him to the Yankees in March.
They had to trade Mitch Garver to Texas to get a Yankees shortstop (Isiah Kiner-Falefa) to get rid of Donaldson, but play Gio Urshela in third and Gary Sanchez to catch and DH worked.
Still, giving a free-agent-record contract to a power hitter when the team’s strength is in power hitting…that was 4 of 5 on the odd meter.
- The Twins doubled down on the idea that home runs would be all that mattered in future run scoring when the pandemic-reduced five-round draft took place in June 2020.
Round one was Aaron Sabato, a college power hitter from North Carolina with no real position. He turns 23 next month, hits often and bats .184 at Class A Cedar Rapids.
A fake Miguel Sano. Gorgeous.
- The Twins made a great move to add a veteran starting pitcher — Kenta Maeda of the Dodgers — on Feb. 10, 2020. He was exceptional in leading the Twins to a 36-24 division record in the shortened season and then exploded his elbow in 2021 and is now recovering from Tommy John surgery.
The Twins once again took the leap for a valid starting pitcher by trading first-round pick Chase Petty to Cincinnati for Sonny Gray in mid-March.
Beyond that, it’s a procession of failed veterans since 2019: Homer Bailey (two games), Rich Hill (still in rehabilitation when signing), JA Happ, Matt Shoemaker – and now with Chris Archer and Dylan Bundy , two more long shots to fill in those gaps.
- And strangest of all: The Twins traded their top reliever, left-hander Taylor Rogers, to San Diego and paid $6.5 million to even the wages just before the season opener in April. Rogers entered Saturday leading the majors with 15 saves and had allowed one earned run.
In return, Chris Paddack made five average starts before the right elbow that was treated last fall failed him. He underwent a second Tommy John operation early last week and now the Twins can guide his year-long rehabilitation.
They also have Emilio Pagan, the semi-closed that doesn’t make Twins watchers sweat until you see him warm up.
And if the Twins had tossed the $6.5 million on top of a legitimate offer to Rogers, they could have kept it, or waited until the July deadline and received something close to value.
First place so far, but the Falvey guys have always been weird.