Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Restarting a Culture of Winning

The Minnesota Twins have made a habit of losing over the last three seasons. With back-to-back 90 loss seasons and the team on track to make it three in a row, there hasn't been a lot to be excited about at the major league level. Poor starting pitching and a lack-luster offense have created a "Debby Downer" attitude among the former Twins faithful.

When Minnesota was in the midst of winning six division titles in nine years, a culture of winning was created even as there were changes to the players on the roster. Johan Santana, Brad Radke, Torii Hunter, and others would move on from the Twins but the organization still found a way to win. Fans could expect the Twins to finish near the top of the AL Central but something has gone missing. The culture of winning hasn't followed the Twins over the last three years so where does the change need to happen.

While the Twins major league squad has been in the dumps, the organization's minor league system has become one of the best in baseball. Stud prospects Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton are two of the top five players at the minor league level. The Twins have used high draft picks and trades to restock their system. After this past weekend's action, three of the club's four full season minor league teams will be playing in the postseason.

The minor leagues, this is where the culture of losing will begin to be changed.

Some members of the Cedar Rapids Kernels are shooting for their second ring in two years. Infielders Niko Goodrum, Jorge Polanco and Travis Harrison, catcher Bo Altobelli and pitchers Brett Lee, Jose Berrios, and Hudson Boyd all competed in postseason play for Elizabethton. That team won the Appalachian League Championship one year ago.

Other members of the 2012 E-Twins will also be striving to get their second ring even though it won't be in a Kernels uniform. Top prospect Byron Buxton and teammate Dalton Hick started the year in Cedar Rapids but these players were promoted to Fort Myers throughout the year. The Miracle started their playoff run on Tuesday night with these two players batting third and fourth in the line-up.

Since joining the Twins organization, there are some players that have yet to taste defeat at the end of the year. They only know their championship with Elizabethton in 2012 and now they are in the midst of their second playoff run. Of course, there are lessons that can be learned out of losing but other players can find the drive within by continuing to win.

For the most part, one individual player can't take over a baseball game. Some players need to pitch, defense factors in, and runs have to be scored. But by having these players expecting to be in the playoffs every year, the culture throughout the entire system can begin to change.

Changing an ingrained culture isn't an easy thing to do.

These players aren't going to get to the big league level and magically make the Twins start winning again. It is going to take time for them to make it to Target Field and even when they do, it could be a slow process.

Overall, the process has begun in the minor leagues and the culture of losing can start to reverse itself in the years to come.

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