Another former Minnesota Twins player made the jump with Kennys Vargas’ minor league deal, but are the Tigers trying too hard to re-create the “Twins Way?”
After winning the American League Central in 2019, the Minnesota Twins have a target on their back coming into 2020. While the Twins have been focused on improving their roster to try to make a run at another division title and get over the dreaded postseason hump, many teams in the AL Central are simply trying to figure out a way to win games.
For the Detroit Tigers, that strategy seems to be stockpiling as many former Twins as possible.
Yes, if you were a fan of grit, toughness, pitch to contact and the Twins way, the Tigers are the team for you to watch this season. Forget about “bombas” or even home runs (Detroit finished 29th in MLB last season), these Tigers are planning to throw things back to the 2000s when they were routinely getting beaten by the Twins in the Metrodome.
This started a couple years ago with the innocent move of hiring Ron Gardenhire, who had been spending his time as a bench coach with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Gardenhire, of course, had been the skipper for the Twins during their glory days in the 2000s winning five division titles before being fired in 2014.
For all his previous success as a manager, Gardenhire hasn’t been able to get the same hustle out of his players in Detroit, who are looking to rebuild after letting Max Scherzer, J.D. Martinez and Justin Verlander all walk out the door. With a lineup that resembled create-a-players from MLB The Show, Gardenhire managed the Tigers to 114 losses and the worst record in baseball in 2019.
Still, Detroit offered him the vote of confidence and went to work getting Gardenhire what he really needs: MORE TWINS!
The purge began when Detroit signed a pair of Minnesota castoffs in C.J. Cron and Jonathan Schoop to matching one-year deals this winter. Again, this seems like an unrelated move as both players were good, but had their flaws that were masked by a lineup that raked at a historic rate. Plus, it’s not like the Tigers had anybody better to throw into those positions.
But the situation got even more bizarre this week when the Tigers reached a deal with former Twin Kennys Vargas. As opposed to Cron and Schoop, Vargas wasn’t even in the country in 2019 and as The Athletic’s Aaron Gleeman pointed out, the results weren’t promising enough that he could make an MLB comeback tour as Big Papi 2.0.
Perhaps “obsession” is the right word to use to describe what’s going on in Detroit right now. They have the old Twins skipper, who promptly hired his old pitching coach (Rick Anderson) and running buddy on his staff. With the addition of former Twins farmhand Niko Goodrum finding a spot on their roster, it seems like Detroit is trying to create the “Twins Way” of the East stopping short of hiring Nick Punto as a “hustle coach.”
Perhaps it’s not fair to kick a team like the Tigers when they’re down and maybe trying to copy the Twins will work out in the long term. But for now, they seem like a team without a plan and one trying to copy off the homework of the defending AL Central champions, but just changing up the answers to not make it obvious.