MINNEAPOLIS — To see Rocco Baldelli’s office is to understand something about his priorities. Decorating is not one of them.
“I think it’s about the 60th thing on my list,” he said last week.
It’s a far cry from predecessor Paul Molitor, the Hall of Fame player who surrounded himself with memorabilia collected over decades, from a rack of signed bats to Fender Telecasters signed, extensively, by Bruce Springsteen and Eddie Vedder.
Not for Baldelli, who has surrounded himself only with what was already there – desk, sofa, a couple of chairs and a high-top table with two stools. The room says virtually nothing about the Twins manager beyond the fact that he doesn’t like clutter.
To learn what’s on Baldelli’s mind, you have to talk to him, and that might be the key to why he has the Minnesota Twins coming out of the all-star break on pace to win 102 games. The first-year manager spends a lot of time talking to his players.
Baldelli doesn’t make out the lineup card and close his door; he and his staff let players know what’s coming – and why.
“I think players appreciate honesty and appreciate being told things even then they might not agree with what they are being told,” he said. “Ultimately, they are in a better place and in a better frame of mind, both short and long term, when you talk to them in a very straightforward way. … Hiding why we do what we do, I think, is never the right answer.”
Moving in the batting order? Baldelli and his coaches will tell you why. Playing out of position? It will be explained. Getting sent to back to Rochester? You’ll know exactly why.
“I feel like when you talk with managers, a lot of them kind of feel they can’t tell you everything for some reason, but it doesn’t seem that way with this staff,” left-handed reliever Taylor Rogers said, “The honesty is good, and I think that’s the best part.”
Marwin Gonzalez has been a big part of the Twins’ resurgence since signing in the offseason. He has played every infield position and corner outfield spots and even DHed; never has he been out of the loop.
“He tries to let you know in advance everything he’s going to do and wants to know how you’re going to feel doing it,” Gonzalez said. “He kind of works off what we think, what we say, and that’s awesome.”
“I don’t think anybody’s confused by him,” he added, “or has gotten mad at him this season.”
That is not often the case in big-league clubhouses, where players are known to confide that they don’t sometimes “don’t know what the hell is going on” with their roles or careers or why they’re not playing.
Only 37, Baldelli is not far removed from his days on the other end of the clubhouse. He was only 29 when forced to retire in 2011 because of a condition later diagnosed as mitochondrial channelopathy, a disease that obstructs neurological pathways and leads to extreme muscle fatigue.
Asked if he played for managers as open as he is, Baldelli gave a long answer with one concise sentence in the middle: “What some people or some organizations believe the players need to know differs vastly from team to team.”
The Twins are clearly erring on the side of over-communication, and it seems to be working.
“Do the players know everything we are doing and why we are doing every single thing? Maybe not every single thing, but the more they know and the more they are comfortable with what we are doing — and what we are asking of them, especially — the better,” Baldelli said. “And, I think, the better they play and the better they respond to everything.
“When the players trust the organization and trust the staff as far as the decisions being made, I think everything works better.”