Scoggins: Injuries hurt Twins, but organization needs fundamental changes

The Twins claimed first prize in terrible timing this week by announcing, in the midst of a breathtaking collapse, plans to unveil new uniforms and a new scoreboard next season in a rebranding makeover.

Is it too much to ask for some rebranding of the actual baseball product too? Save the cosmetic changes, fix the pitching.

In 2016, I called Twins owner Jim Pohlad to ask about a disastrous first month of the season and he offered an unforgettable assessment: Total System Failure.

The 2022 season doesn't fit that exact description. It's more of a Total System Frustration.

Twins followers are frustrated with the front office. Frustrated with the manager. Frustrated with ownership. Frustrated with the entire operation.

If the team's brass need evidence of the anger, a quick search of social media should do the trick. Or they can look at attendance numbers.

The team is on pace for its lowest average attendance in a non-pandemic-affected season since 2001, which is especially telling considering the Twins were in first place in the division for 108 days.

Team executives can rationalize that any way they desire, but a disconnect exists that won't be solved by simply giving an exaggerated sigh and lamenting how injuries ruined the season.

Yes, an inordinate number of injuries impeded their quest to win the most winnable division in MLB. The Twins have placed 32 players on the injured list, tops among American League teams.

No one denies that injuries severely impacted the pennant race. But it's too convenient and lacks accountability to blame injuries as the sole culprit for missing the postseason. Any attempt to use absences to deflect attention from organizational missteps would be an exercise in scapegoating.

In performing the season autopsy, Derek Falvey's front office needs to conduct an honest evaluation of every facet of the operation and understand that a cockamamie pitching plan contributed greatly to the demise.

The front office put together a mediocre rotation and adhered to a quick-hook philosophy that limits starter innings, which shifted extra burden to a bullpen that was untrustworthy. How does that make sense? That approach was doomed to fail.

Falvey continues to supplement the rotation with retreads whose best days are long gone, presumably under the belief that their pitching system will coax a career rebirth. That frugality is not a sign of being serious about building a top-flight staff and legitimate contender.

The quick-hook template for starters is not sustainable because it puts too much strain on the bullpen, even if they had a deep, elite bullpen.

The reluctance to let starters face the order for a third time becomes particularly maddening on nights when the starter looks strong and willing to keep battling. It's as if decisions are made on autopilot, oblivious to gut feeling or flow of the game.

Rocco Baldelli serves as the public's punching bag because he's the one making pitching changes, but this starts above him as an organizational philosophy that needs to change. If they don't trust starters to pitch more than four or five innings, then spend more money to find pitching that they do trust.

Ownership also should demand a deep-dive examination of the medical department to determine if the volume of injuries was merely unfortunate luck or whether underlying issues exist.

It's just odd — and perhaps only ironic — that a team so devoted to sports science and giving regular days off for rest and recovery would encounter this amount of injury.

The front office forfeits some sympathy votes by adding pitchers with known injury history and then watching that pitcher suffer another injury. This has happened multiple times now. Falvey said those decisions involve assessing risk, but a pattern of getting burned should compel them to re-evaluate their thought process.

"I need to go assess what we're doing organizationally," Falvey said last week. "We'll try to figure out what the right paths are forward."

More of the same is not the answer. They can blame injuries for the season unraveling, but the problems go deeper than that.