The Twins have been an unusually successful small-market team over the last eight years or so. Tim Kurkjian speculates: Twins Thrive with Team-First Philosophy. Nice title - carefully employed slant alliteration!
When Twins manager Ron Gardenhire returned to his office after his team's first exhibition of the season Wednesday, he saw a note on his desk from first baseman Justin Morneau. It read: "Gardy, I forgot to do my sprints after the workout today. So I am fining myself $100.''
Gardenhire laughed. "That's entertaining,'' he said.
Then he stopped laughing. "That's leadership,'' he said.
If I had made thirteen and a half million dollars before I turned twenty-eight, I might engage in such largesse. But that's not the point: the point is that Justin Morneau, as a product of the Twins organization, engages in a self-discipline that is uncommon in baseball. OK, I buy it. But seriously - is this due to the Twins' organizational philosophy, or is this due to Justin's parents, or is this due to the fact that he grew up in a country generally recognized for genial-and-friendly-and-generous-to-a-fault persons?
I wonder what would happen if Manny signed with the Twins.
That story tells an awful lot about Morneau, who won the American League MVP award in 2006 and finished in the top five in the MVP voting this past season.
It also tells a lot about Gardenhire, who is so respected in the Twins' clubhouse that one of the two best players on the team volunteered $100 for forgetting to run sprints.
Like I said, it might also say a lot about Mr. and Mrs. Morneau, or Canada, or anything else that might have had a formative influence on Justin... it's kind of hard to singularly ascribe this to Gardenhire's greatness. I just split an infinitive and let me tell you, as an English teacher, it felt great.
But mostly, it tells a lot about the Twins. They do it the right way, which isn't corny and isn't trite; it's the truth.
They do "it" the right "way". Thanks Tim, for not really specifying what "it" or the "way" really are. I don't really hate this article, I just hate the vagueness of the wayness that the Twins are doubtless practicingness.
And it is the biggest reason they came within one victory of making the playoffs last season despite having lost Torii Hunter to free agency, having had to trade the best pitcher in the game, Johan Santana, to the Mets, and not having their best starting pitcher, Francisco Liriano, for half the season.
That must be the biggest reason. Not any of those players - none of them were the biggest reason. But that's why: the team spirit is what drove them to become more than the sum of their parts! Not just the fact that they got a season of 137 OPS+ production out of their catcher and first baseman! (For contrast, the AL Champion Rays didn't have anyone over 127). And prettygood years outta four starters!
In this era of self-entitlement among players, the Twins have none of that.
Good for them! I bet they don't have ANY of that at all! In fact, I bet that every one of the Twins vote Democratic! You have to do that once you sign!
"It is drilled into them the first day they arrive in pro ball,'' Gardenhire said. "Our coaches and instructors make sure of that.''
I'm glad the Twins' coaches and instructors drill self-entitlement out of all their players. I'm wondering if these enlightened persons in the Twins' organization will consent to share their secrets with the parents of America's teenagers, who are struggling and failing with that very task every day. But that might take away the Twins' competitive edge!
Last spring, veteran pitcher Livan Hernandez joined the Twins.In his first pitcher fielding practice, he was going through the motions, not doing the drill properly, not bringing his glove to his chest and then throwing straight through to the bases, as the Twins teach it.
I wonder what other teams teach pitchers to do. Throw straight around the bases? Bring their gloves to their ears?
Instead, he was flipping the ball submarine style to first base. After the workout, Gardenhire called Hernandez into his office and explained that there were a lot of young, impressionable players in camp and that he needed Hernandez to do things properly because that's how the Twins have always done it.
Amen! Amen! Amen! Say it again, brother Gardenhire!
He also told Hernandez that he would have to no longer wear big earrings.
Now we've gotten to the real problem: men wearing big earrings. People in Minnesota don't tolerate that kind of crap. The 2008 teams that let their players wear big earrings sucked.
The next day, without his earrings, "Livo did the drill better than anyone,'' Gardenhire said.
Eureka! Sports abilities are inextricably tied to the lack of earrings! This explains why girls are bad at sports! Excelsior!
That story explains how the Twins were able to win 88 games last season.
Because their pitchers don't wear earrings!
It explains how they finished 29th in the major leagues in home runs but finished fourth in runs scored. (In contrast, the Reds finished seventh in the major leagues in homers and 23rd in runs).
No, it doesn't. Actually, that story about Livan Hernandez doesn't explain anything about the relative difference between the Twins' and Reds' ability to score runs! Their pitchers' fielding ability has zero influence on their batters' hitting! Here's a stat that might explain the difference: the Reds' OBP was .321 last year, and the Twins' was .340! Wow!
The Twins had the highest batting average (.305) with runners in scoring position last season in part because they practice it every day of the season in batting practice.
Can someone explain how, last season, the Twins hit .305 and the rest of the AL hit .273? Must be that Amazing Batting Practiced Developed and Patented By the Twins' Organization. Except:
The AL team average with RISP, 2007: .276
The Twins' team BA with RISP, 2007: .276
The AL team average with RISP, 2006: .275
The Twins' team BA with RISP, 2006: .295
The AL team average with RISP, 2005: .273
The Twins' team BA with RISP, 2005: .271
Conclusion: Whatever led to the 2008 Twins' outlandish outperforming of the league-average numbers for BA/RISP, it sure as hell isn't some organization-wide philosophy or drill, since in 2007 and 2005 they were pretty much league-average.
Maybe the Twins' hitters have some kind of Bret-Saberhagen syndrome where they can mash with runners on only in even numbered years?
The same thing is done every day on every level of their minor league system.
How do they practice this? Again, this must be one of the Twins' organizational secrets - the secret BA/RISP drill that wins games. Well, somone should sneak into their low-A BP and find out what this amazing drill is. I hope the Reds do it. The Reds suck. They should have a higher BA/RISP.
Doubtless the Twins have their own unique organizational approach to the game - and there's a lot to be said for an organization that has been pretty successful for an eight-year period on a small-market budget. However, don't bother reading Tim Kurkjian's article, because it's a poorly-researched clump of anecdotal evidence that confirms my pre-existing bias that persons from Minnesota are sanctimonious moralists.