Those of us who had been vehemently bashing the Twins, be it through opinions expressed with the written or spoken word on airwaves, podcasts, social media outlets, blogs or as ornery commenters on Star Tribune articles, were demanding significant action by Tuesday’s 5 p.m. trading deadline.
The belief here was the Twins, with a minor league system sparse on top prospects, did not have the ammunition to meet the high demands being paid to deadline sellers for established pitchers.
That turned out to be wrong. The Twins put together packages to bring in a competent starter (Tyler Mahle), a competent reliever (Michael Fulmer) and a star reliever (Jorge Lopez) to pair with Jhoan Duran as late-game bullet throwers.
The minor league experts will tell us the Twins overpaid for Mahle, made a solid deal for Lopez and gave up a suspect more than a prospect to acquire Fulmer from the Tigers.
More than anything, Derek Falvey’s front office fulfilled its obligation to manager Rocco Baldelli and the athletes by providing a chance to be a division winner — and also to its frustrated fan base.
The causes for this unhappiness were varied, from the last-place finish in 2021, to blown games in 2022, to 18 consecutive postseason losses, to the unavailability of games on non-cable television, and they all added up to a call for action.
The Falveyians answered that in high style. If the result is failing to hold first place in the low-octane American League Central, it can’t be traced to a lack of effort by ownership or management.
Owner Jim Pohlad signed off on a $100 million contract (guaranteed) for oft-injured Byron Buxton late last November, beating the lockout timetable.
When the lockout finally ended, Pohlad signed off on a $36 million salary in 2022 for Carlos Correa, after agent Scott Boras put the tremendous shortstop on the Twins’ table.
We’re a long way from the contraction threat that never was going to happen, and the “Cheap Pohlads” label is more absurdity than reality for the current family ownership.
There were greater questions about the decisionmaking with the Falvey operation now in its sixth season.
Falvey and Co. put together a compelling season in 2019, with 101 wins before a three-game playoff sweep by the Yankees, and there was another division title in the mini-season of 2020.
Then came the 2021 disaster, and the owner and baseball boss must be given credit for the attempt to make that a one-year descent rather than the relentless nightmare of the early 2010s.
And when it appeared the rapid reset before this delayed season was turning to drudgery, Falvey came through with the most-active trading deadline in the Twins’ 62 years in Minnesota.
A week ago, the Twins lost a pair of games in Milwaukee, the first of which came when the Brewers marched out four quality relievers to cover the last four innings.
Baldelli suggested this was a fine way to win ballgames, and hoped that someday the Twins might have a chance to adopt this method.
A week later, Baldelli did precisely that at Target Field in a 4-1 win Wednesday over the admittedly punchless Tigers. Starter Joe Ryan went five, then Fulmer, Caleb Thielbar (back from the injured list), Duran and Lopez went three outs apiece.
There was one hit allowed by the four relievers, when third-string center fielder Nick Gordon failed to react on a Harold Castro pop fly and it dropped for a single vs. Fulmer.
Lopez required seven pitches to get his first Twins save, and three of those struck out Eric Haase.
The Twins had faced Lopez early in 2021 when he was a struggling starter with Baltimore. He took a very live arm to the Orioles bullpen this season and became an All-Star.
“Sometimes, it’s as simple as a move to a bullpen, when you can shorten up a pitch selection,” Baldelli said. “It can be the key to everything. That’s a true sinker, and it’s 97 [miles per hour].”
In addition to Duran and two newcomers, Thielbar was excellent: 1-2-3, 11 pitches, two strikeouts.
“Caleb threw great,” Baldelli said. “We had been waiting to see that.”
Earlier, as he talked about the revamped bullpen, Baldelli said: “We have what we need.”
And Twins fandom appreciates it. Don’t you, Strib commenters?
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