Rocco Baldelli was livid after an overturned call at home plate in the 10th inning Sunday gave Toronto a 3-2 win over the Twins at Target Field. But Minnesota’s manager might find that the fallout from a controversial call could be beneficial in the long run.
Baldelli’s meltdown(s) — first with the umpiring crew and then when addressing the replay decision in his postgame media session — featured more fire from him than anyone had witnessed. It was Baldelli’s eighth career ejection as Twins’ manager, but this one was different. A guy who has been considered far too laid back by many basically erupted.
It’s what Twins fans have been calling for from Baldelli: more anger, more fire, more consequences for mistakes. That normally isn’t Baldelli’s style, especially when it comes to his team, but this has been trying season for the fourth-year manager.
He has received more criticism than ever for everything from how early he removes starting pitchers, to how many days off certain players get, to bullpen usage. While Baldelli plays a role in all of these decisions, there are certainly more executives in the Twins’ analytically inclined front office who get an opportunity to weigh in on the day-to-day moves but are able to watch as Baldelli takes the heat.
Baldelli can’t be blamed if this has begun to wear on him in a season in which the Twins have consistently held first place in the AL Central, but have received little credit, in part, because the division is so feeble.
Baldelli expressed about as much frustration as he ever has with his team following a 10-1 loss last Friday in San Diego. But when Whit Merrifield was called out at the plate by umpire Marty Foster on Sunday after catcher Gary Sanchez applied a tag following a near perfect throw from left fielder Tim Beckham, and then the decision was overturned by replay umpire Jordan Baker, Baldelli lost it.
Foster, who had made the out call that would have resulted in an inning-ending double play, appeared sympathetic to Baldelli’s protest but he had no choice but to eject him. Baldelli’s profanity-laced tired was directed toward Baker’s decision and is why Baldelli pointed up toward the press box, even though Baker was in the replay center in New York.
Baldelli, who rarely shows any emotion with the media, didn’t calm down after being ejected and provided another profanity-laced meltdown in his postgame press conference. Baldelli had no interest in being the good guy and appeared to have been pushed too far.
His outrage not only was welcomed by fans but one has to think Baldelli’s players also loved the fact that their manager clearly had their back following such a controversial call.
Baldelli is facing a fine and could be suspended for a game. But the days of thinking Baldelli would always be even-keel are gone, and incidents like this have served as a rallying cry for many teams. Only time will tell if that’s the case with the Twins, but at least we know laid-back Rocco can turn into Boiling Baldelli when the situation warrants.
- Former Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr, recently signed by the Dallas Cowboys, has been placed on the physically-unable-to-perform list. Barr, 30, isn’t injured but the Cowboys don’t want to rush him onto the field. He was slowed by a knee injury last season.
- Quarterback Kyle Sloter has been placed on waivers by the Jacksonville Jaguars. Sloter belongs in the Vikings’ preseason Hall of Fame, having completed 80 of 108 passes for 809 yards with eight touchdowns and one interception during the 2018 and 2019 exhibition seasons.
- Vikings kicker Greg Joseph continued to have an outstanding training camp during the team’s Monday night stadium practice at TCO Performance Center. Joseph made 7-of-8 field-goal attempts, missing from 41 yards, but making his final three kicks from 50, 54 and 58 yards.
- If center Garrett Bradbury continues to have an underwhelming training camp, it will be interesting to see if the Vikings attempt to make a trade to bring in a veteran center before the regular season. The Vikings do not appear to have any interest in veteran free agent center JC Tretter, who started 16 games for the Browns last season but dealt with knee issues that kept him from practicing.
- There doesn’t seem to be much question that the Vikings plan to have Kene Nwangwu begin the season as the third running back behind Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison. Nwangwu missed a few days last week because of a soft tissue injury, but was back in the mix and getting plenty of work after his return. A fourth-round pick in 2021, Nwangwu’s speed makes him ideal to be used in a variety of packages that get him in space.
- While there is plenty of attention on the Vikings’ new-look offense, there probably should be more focus on the pass-rushing duo of Danielle Hunter and Za’Darius Smith. Hunter missed extensive time last season because of a torn pectoral muscle and Smith was sidelined because of a back injury. When healthy, these are two of the best pass rushers in the NFL and having Hunter and Smith moving around in a 3-4 defense and lining up over interior offensive linemen at times should be a major advantage when it comes to getting after opposing quarterbacks.
- Mike Zimmer has joined an already impressive list of former NFL coaches and executives at The 33rd Team football website. The former Vikings coach will write columns and do videos for the site. Former Vikings general manager Rick Spielman already is providing content for The 33rd Team.
- “Hard Knocks” documented Kevin O’Connell being cut by the Jets in 2010 (it starts at the 40:40 mark). Watch how the Vikings coach handled a discussion that he’s going to have with several players in the coming weeks.
In August 2010, Kevin O'Connell was cut by the Jets and the moment was documented on Hard Knocks.
— Will Ragatz (@WillRagatz) August 9, 2022