Injuries hurt the Twins. But the organization needs to make fundamental changes

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The Twins won the top prize in terrible timing this week as they announced, amid a jaw-dropping collapse, their plans to unveil new uniforms and a new scoreboard next season in a makeover.

Is it too much to ask for a rebranding of the current baseball product? Save cosmetic changes, fix pitch.

In 2016, I called Twins owner Jim Pohlad to ask about a disastrous first month of the season and he offered me an unforgettable assessment: Total System Failure.

The 2022 season does not fit that exact description. It’s more of a total frustration of the system.

Twins followers are frustrated with the front office. Frustrated with the manager. Frustrated with the property. Frustrated with the whole operation.

If the brass on the team need proof of the anger, a quick social media search should do the trick. Or they can look at attendance figures.

The team is on course to hit its lowest average attendance in a season unaffected by the pandemic since 2001, which is especially telling given the Twins held the division’s top spot for 108 days.

Team executives can rationalize this however they want, but there is a disconnect that won’t be resolved by simply heaving an exaggerated sigh and lamenting how injuries have ruined the season.

Yes, an inordinate number of injuries hampered their quest to win MLB’s most winnable division. The Twins have 32 players on injured reserve, the best among American League teams.

No one denies that the injuries have seriously affected the pennant race. But it’s too convenient and lacking in responsibility to blame injuries as the sole culprit for missing the playoffs. Any attempt to use absences to distract from organizational missteps would be an exercise in scapegoating.

In performing the season’s autopsy, Derek Falvey’s front office must make an honest assessment of all facets of the operation and understand that a cockamamie launch plan was a major contributor to the demise.

The front office implemented a poor rotation and adhered to a fast hook philosophy that limits starting innings, shifting the added burden to an untrustworthy bullpen. How can that make sense? This approach was doomed to failure.

Falvey continues to round out the rotation with retreads whose best days are long gone, presumably under the belief that their pitching system will coax a career revival. This frugality is not a sign of being serious about building a top-flight staff and a legitimate competitor.

The fast hook pattern for beginners is not durable because it puts too much pressure on the bullpen, even if they had a deep elite bullpen.

The reluctance to let the starters face the order for the third time becomes especially infuriating on nights when the starter looks strong and ready to keep fighting. It’s as if decisions are made on autopilot, with no regard for intuition or the flow of the game.

Rocco Baldelli serves as the audience’s punching bag because he’s the one making the pitch changes, but it starts above him as an organizational philosophy that needs to change. If they don’t trust the starters to pitch more than four or five innings, then they spend more money finding pitchers they trust.

The property should also require a thorough examination by the medical department to determine if the volume of injuries was simply a fluke or if there are underlying issues.

It’s just strange – and perhaps only ironic – that a team so dedicated to sports science and regularly granting rest and recovery days suffers so many injuries.

The front office loses some sympathy votes by adding pitchers with known injury histories and then watching that pitcher suffer another injury. This has happened many times now. Falvey said these decisions involve risk assessment, but a burn pattern should force them to reevaluate their thought process.

“I have to go assess what we’re doing organizationally,” Falvey said last week. “We will try to determine what are the right paths to take.”

More of the same is not the answer. They may blame injuries for the end of the season, but the problems go deeper than that.

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