A Twins season that was stalling in a bad place early on already is now on pause indefinitely because of multiple positive COVID tests.
The health and safety of everyone involved should of course be the top priority. Less important but still significant aspects of this pause on the field, though, are these:
The missed games could provide some logistical rescheduling challenges, particularly if the pause continues beyond Monday. And the break — no games Saturday or Sunday in Anaheim and now Monday in Oakland — gives the Twins no chance to alter the narrative of the season, which has resulted in a 6-8 record so far and a whiff of disappointment.
Patrick Reusse and I discussed this in some detail on Monday's Daily Delivery podcast, with Reusse concluding that manager Rocco Baldelli has been at or near the top of the list of reasons for the subpar record.
If you don't see the podcast player, click here to listen.
I agree 100%. I'll offer a caveat that "it's early" and small sample sizes can contain more lies than truth. If you think the Yankees (5-10) will continue to occupy the cellar of the AL East, for example, let's reconvene in two months and see what's really happening. One bad week — remember, the Twins were 5-2 before losing six out of seven — didn't make Baldelli a bad manager or the Twins a bad team.
Part of what looks like questionable managing is probably more organizational philosophy than anything. Being very, very, very cautious with sometimes quite minor ailments — earning Baldelli the "Dr. Rocco" moniker from Reusse in a recent column — has been a hallmark of Baldelli but also Derek Falvey and Thad Levine, the decisionmakers above him.
In a podcast appearance last month, Levine talked about the organization's concern over how little all their pitchers were used a year ago, warning that caution would be exercised in a return to the grind of 162 games. We've seen that show up in starting bullpen use, pitch counts and even pitcher counts (14 on the roster at times).
Michael Pineda is cruising with a shutout through seven innings and 88 pitches? Jose Berrios has a no-hitter through six? Take them out. The Twins are playing the long game.
It makes sense when you consider how far away October is and how much that month has vexed the Twins in years/decades past. That said, the wins and losses count the same in April as they do in September. And games given away now will make it harder to even reach the playoffs and have a chance to break that 18-game losing streak.
Where Baldelli is most culpable is some curious feats of in-game strategy. Reusse brought up not using Josh Donaldson as a pinch hitter recently with the game on the line (a move they got away with when Max Kepler's bloop won the game an inning later, after the bullpen had coughed up Pineda's 3-0 lead).
I was scratching my head Friday night when after two poorly hit singles — the second drawing a throw to third and allowing the trail runner to move to second — the Twins brought the infield in and pitched to Mike Trout.
They had just taken a 3-2 lead on the Angels, and the hitters behind Trout were nowhere near the caliber of the greatest player of this generation. Trout grounded a single through the left side, and just like that it was 4-3 on the way to being 10-3. Walk Trout. Or concede one run on a groundout. But don't make life easier on a great player.
There have been other examples. Some amounts to hindsight grousing after a slow start and no new games to add to the small sample size.
But on a team that doesn't look to have a lot of glaring weaknesses on the field, losses in close games have been magnified and reflect a poor start to the year from Baldelli.