Josh Donaldson’s introductory press conference on Wednesday afternoon at Target Field provided plenty of encouraging words about what the slugger plans to bring to a Twins team that won 101 games last season before being bounced in three games in the American League Division Series by the Yankees.
What also was on display was a glimpse of the competitive nature and intensity the 34-year-old third baseman will bring to the clubhouse and field on a daily basis.
It only took 25 minutes of listening to Donaldson to realize the third baseman isn’t messing around and it sure doesn’t appear as if he’s simply here to collect his $92 million over four years (there also is a $16 million club option for 2024 that includes an $8 million buyout). Donaldson might play baseball but he appears to be wired more like a hockey player who loves to go into the corners and come out with the opponent laying on the ice.
Donaldson said this was the first time in his career he has been rewarded with a long-term contract. He also spoke of the hurdles he has overcome in a nine-year career that has had stops in Oakland, Toronto, Cleveland and Atlanta. Playing on a one-year contract last season with the Braves, Donaldson won NL Comeback Player of the Year honors after hitting .259 with 33 doubles, 37 home runs, 94 RBIs and 96 runs in 155 games.
That was after Donaldson spent an injury-plagued 2018 appearing in 52 games with the Blue Jays and Indians. That only added to the obvious chip that Donaldson seems to embrace carrying on his shoulder.
Twins general manager Thad Levine acknowledged that Donaldson’s demeanor is exactly what this team needs.
“I think last year when we got to the playoffs the sentiment around the league was, “It’s cute that the little Twins are in the playoffs. That’s great, you’re a fun team to root for,'” Levine said. “We were an endearing story (with) a lot of great personalities. I don’t think when we get back to the playoffs people will be speaking of us quite the same way and that will be in large regard to Josh Donaldson.
“He’s going to bring an edge and a conviction to this team that even belies some of the guys that are here. I think, as a result, we may no longer be the most popular team in the league. Teams may be more inclined to outwardly fear playing us rather than lauding how great it is to see us do well. I think that’s one of the things he’s going to bring. I think he’s going to bring a real clear and demonstrative edge. He talked about it today, (saying), ‘I really enjoy winning and I really don’t enjoy losing.’ And I think he’s going to embody that on a day-to-day basis.”
In other words Donaldson isn’t just here to hit home runs or provide an upgrade at third base, he’s also here to set a tone for a team that is tired of being the Yankees’ punching bag and has no interest in being liked around the big leagues.
This also gives the Twins an interesting one-two punch of veteran sluggers.
Nelson Cruz’s arrival in Minnesota last season gave the Twins a presence with his laid-back but 100 percent professional approach that many admired and the clubhouse wanted to follow. Donaldson will provide an intensity that might rub some teams the wrong way and, if that happens, all the better.
“I enjoy winning,” Donaldson said when asked about his approach. “I think over my entire career I’ve been pretty successful at doing that and establishing the environment that’s successful for winning and ultimately it comes down to competing. I’ve enjoyed competing ever since I was a very small child. The other end of that is I don’t enjoy losing. I want to do what it takes. It’s a long season and some times peoples’ feathers get a little ruffled and that’s OK.”
That means Donaldson might ruffle the feathers of opponents at times — such was the case when he admired a long foul ball he hit off former Twins closer Glen Perkins in 2014 at Target Field, causing the benches to clear — and it won’t be shocking if he ruffles the feathers of his own teammates at times.
Donaldson made it clear Wednesday that he wants to do everything he can to help his teammates as well as the Twins organization over the next four or five years, but at times that might mean getting in the face of someone wearing a Twins uniform. That doesn’t sound like the Twins way does it?
If it results in success, or a playoff series win over the Yankees, no one is going to have a problem with it.