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Twins begin minor-league shakeup by firing Triple-A manager

Sep 9, 2011, 3:45 PM EDT

shake it up baby

Triple-A coaching changes aren’t normally post-worthy, but in this case it may signal the beginning of a much bigger shakeup for the Twins.

Minnesota has had a disastrous season at nearly every level of the organization and the front office has been dropping hints about sweeping changes in the minors. Today the first moves were made, as the Twins fired Triple-A manager Tom Nieto and hitting coach Floyd Rayford.

Nieto managed Rochester to back-to-back 90-loss seasons for the first time since 1903 and 1904, and the Twins haven’t been shy about placing blame on the minor-league coaching staff for not preparing young players for the majors. It would also help if those young players were simply better, as most of the Twins’ call-ups from April through August were marginal prospects at best, but that doesn’t preclude the Triple-A coaches from having done a poor job as well.

Twins director of minor league operations Jim Rantz issued a statement saying that firing Nieto and Rayford is “just part of an overall directional change that is being implemented throughout the minor league system this offseason.” It’ll be interesting to see how deep the cuts go, because the Twins have long been one of the most stable organizations in baseball and the big-league coaching staff and front office seem safe in the midst of the team’s worst season since 1999.

  1. hansob - Sep 9, 2011 at 4:29 PM

    Just passing the buck. Nieto and Rayford are about as responsible for the crappy season as Jason Repko is. The “Twins way” worked great when you had Johan Santana winning Cy Youngs, Nathan shutting the door, Hunter playing a gold glove CF and hitting well, and Mauer/Morneau putting up MVP numbers for cost-controlled salaries. Now that whole slap hitting, strike throwing philosophy isn’t working, and they refuse to acknowledge that they might have actually won despite it (and by winning, I mean winning a weak division, then curling up in the fetal position in the first round of the playoffs).

    Drew Butera works hard and is a good teammate. That’s what it takes to get 250 plate appearances with the Twins.

    • trevorb06 - Sep 9, 2011 at 4:55 PM

      Yeah, the fact that the majority of the beginning of the season starters spent at least some time on the DL has NOTHING to do with it. Cuddyer and Valencia are the only ones who didn’t see DL time this year of the starting 9.

      Throw on top of that a Morneau who still isn’t back to himself due to having that concussion and a Joe Nathan just coming off of TJ surgery and a bullpen that was lacking big time (really, how many leads did those guys throw away? The twin’s could have been around .500 ball had we had a better pen this year instead of losing 3 great guys from it).

      Go pinch one off to the 4 hour Yankees/Red Sox spectacle. :-)

      • tacklemeelmo - Sep 9, 2011 at 11:57 PM

        You’re delusional… Every team has to deal with injuries. In the past years the Twins have had better players to plug the holes that are formed in the lineup when a player goes down. Drew Butera is having historically one of the worst seasons ever, yet he’s played in 78 games still. The middle infield was suspect to start the year and has been in constant turmoil this entire season. I pine for Little Nicky Punto for crying out loud…

        As for the bullpen, that’s baseball. We already have an enormous payroll and the 3 relievers that left were not cheap. Truth is we had no one ready to step in internally, and did not have the money to retain one of those 3 or to fill the positions externally. Would you rather we be playing .500 ball and have another $20 million on the books? Doesn’t make much sense to me…

  2. JB (the original) - Sep 9, 2011 at 4:33 PM

    Sure, they run the well dry, then restock the R-Wings with a bunch of AAA “lifers” just to try and fill out the roster for this season, then can the Manager and hitting coach when these ‘never-be’s’ don’t magically improve and give them a winning season. **shakes head**

  3. Kanonen80 - Sep 9, 2011 at 4:47 PM

    It’s tough to blame the coaches for what is mostly a roster composition problem, but at the same time the coaches should be able to do other things besides win. With other organizations I’ve heard of young players coming up and praising advice they received from their AAA skipper or coaches. I rarely hear anything like that with the Twins.

    Plus, it just seems like lot of the kids coming up through the Twins system no longer “do the little things right”. The players themselves might not have the skills to be super stars, but the coaches in the minors need to teach EVERYONE how to stay focused mentally and with their physical preparation. We wont always SEE all of a coach’s positive and negative influences, but I’m sure they are revealed internally when the Front Office reviews everyone.

    • Cris E - Sep 13, 2011 at 1:16 AM

      Amen.

      These guys weren’t fired because the Red Wings lost, they were fired because all the Red Wings players that ended up playing too much in MN were totally unprepared. There were fielding errors, base running gaffes too numerous to count, literally a *billion* first swing outs, and the number of walks issued by the young pitchers was amazing. You can forget “Twins Baseball”, this was bad in any organization. And the type of stuff that is going wrong isn’t due to being 18th round picks instead of blue chips, it’s Legion ball basics that aren’t being followed: half way on a fly ball, take a few pitches if the guy can’t find the zone, make sure you take the next base if they offer it. The fringey Nick Punto clones of the world should glory in this stuff, but none of the ones MN has seem to. The org needs to cut bait on some of these tweeners that aren’t exactly anything and fill some holes.

  4. kander013 - Sep 9, 2011 at 6:51 PM

    I find it interesting that throughout this whole process that no one has discussed the job Phil Roof and his staff did in AAA. Before Rick Anderson was the pitching coach for the Twins, he was Phil’s pitching coach as they worked with many of the well known Twins players from the last 10 years while they were in the minors.

    I even remember reading a story about how many of the players enjoyed playing for Roof over Tom Kelly in the late 90s and early 00s.

    It’s a shame that such a good baseball person as Roof only saw time on the big league coaching staff earlier this year while Stelmaszek was out.

  5. natstowngreg - Sep 9, 2011 at 7:12 PM

    As a former Rochesterian, this saddens me.

    For decades, this has been a solid, community-owned, well-supported AAA franchise. For over 40 years, they were the Orioles’ top farm club, and for most of that time, the Orioles made sure they had the players to win in the International League.

    Then the Orioles went downhill under Peter Angelos, and stopped providing the Red Wings with competitive talent. The Wings’ community owners basically told the O’s to take a hike, and were happy to get the Twins. But the Twins, if anything, have been even worse at providing players, which is hard to believe.

    Whether the coaching staff was performing well or not, this speaks volumes about how the Twins’ organization is deteriorating, IMHO.

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