Twins brass tipped their hand when Manager(?) Paul Molitor dropped prodigal son Joe Mauer into the cleanup spot in his lineup for the season opener. Fortunately for those of us with money on his club to surpass 74.5 wins this season, Molitor’s Bat Signal has gone unnoticed, so far, by Royals pitchers.
(Rest in peace, Yordano Ventura. I waste time in two fantasy baseball leagues. In one, I draft only foreign players; in the other, I draft only players who measure six feet or under. Ventura’s height, nationality and temperament had him on a Hall of Fame track in my universe.)
These Twins are walking a lot.
I don’t imagine that’s a coincidental result — not given the slugging percentage (.389) and on-base percentage (.358) that their newfound cleanup hitter boasted last year. Nor given the installment as designated hitter of Robbie Grossman (career .386 OBP) over sluggers like Byung Ho Park (.278 OBP) and, perhaps, Kennys Vargas (.309 OBP).
It’s no surprise here that Derek Falvey and Thad Levine, the Twins’ new ball-ops bros, buy into the well-established doctrine that getting on base is the key to scoring runs. (I’m not going to throw dirt on Terry Ryan here; we can suss that out some other time.) What does surprise me — or, at least, what caught my eye in the box score — is the lineup change, and what it says about who’s calling the shots.
If Paul Molitor wanted to bat Joe Mauer fourth, he had 162 opportunities last year (and 162 more the year before) to do so. Yet according to the guys I sometimes suffer through on the radio (one of whom is, for my money, the best Twins analyst in town), Mauer hit cleanup fewer than 10 times in his entire career prior to Monday’s opener.
So … either a manager in the final year of his contract is throwing darts at the wall to see what sticks, or he’s taking marching orders from a couple hands-on executives gearing up (and saving up? by not firing him?) for a pennant push in 2019. I surmise this — a willingness to follow directions — might also explain the decision to keep Neal Allen.
Speaking of following directions … my girls (5 months and 3.2 years) and I enjoyed the opener together at home. I did my best to celebrate the occasion. My youngest wore a Twins onesie. I grilled bratwurst. We put the Dazzle Man on the radio.
But it’s a change of pace after years of wading through the drunken sea of weekend-warrior drinkers who make Opening Day a premium-price ticket on the Twins’ schedule.
I was the only one in the house who cared that the Twins won their first opener in six years. I was the only one in the house who didn’t need help having a bowel movement, too.
At least we know who’s calling the shots here.