Eddie Rosario introduced himself to baseball fans around the world during the National League Championship Series. Throughout the six-game series, the Los Angeles Dodgers couldn’t figure out how to get him out, and he made them pay at every turn.
At the end of the series, Rosario hit .560 with three homers and nine RBI. However, it was when the hits came that made the difference. On Saturday night, Rosario smashed a three-run homer that earned him the series MVP and sent the Atlanta Braves to their first World Series since 1999.
Braves fans have to be stunned that a midseason trade acquisition could provide this big of an impact. But here in Twins Territory, we knew Rosario was capable of this all along.
Rosario was one of the biggest enigmas in Minnesota Twins’ history. On one play, he could take a fastball and send it to the moon for a breathtaking home run. On the next play, he’d forget about the ground rules in his own ballpark. Then he’d get thrown out trying to stretch a single into a double. Whatever Rosario did, it always brought excitement to the ballpark.
It all culminated in 2019 when the Twins went from a middle-of-the-road team to the Bomba Squad. Many credit Nelson Cruz for changing the culture, but it was Rosario who was the heartbeat of the team.
Yes, he’d make mistakes here and there, but his attitude was exactly what made Minnesota successful. It started from the first pitch he saw in the major leagues, where he took a high fastball and deposited it into the bleachers. That free-swinging attitude fit right in with a team looking to do maximum damage at the plate, and the Twins became legitimate contenders once he got going.
A lot was made about Rosario’s penchant for striking out, but he got hotter than The Human Torch when he caught fire. The 2019 season was a prime example where he crushed 11 bombs in the first month of the season. Even though he was hitting .232, he was a big reason the Twins dominated the American League Central.
But in the end, the 2019 season was a wasted opportunity. Rosario was the focal point of the Twins’ lack of discipline at the plate, even though several hitters showed they were capable of carrying the team. Max Kepler, Jorge Polanco and others faded after a fast start but Rosario was a consistent hitter with over 20 homers in three straight seasons from 2017 to 2019.
If the Twins had realized what was happening, they could have been more aggressive at the trade deadline. An extra pitcher in the rotation or in the bullpen could have given Rosario a chance to shine. Maybe there’s an alternate universe where Rosario is carrying the Twins to an American League Pennant?
So if Rosario wasn’t the second coming of Carlos Gomez, why would the Twins get rid of him? It’s because it’s the continuation of a concerning trend.
The Twins went into the offseason thinking they could upgrade in the outfield with the arrival of Alex Kirilloff. He had never played a game above Double-A, but they were betting that Kirilloff’s controlled approach at the plate could provide more consistent results than Rosario.
The Twins didn’t like the idea of paying Rosario nearly $10 million in arbitration so they non-tendered him and bet on their depth in the outfield. Even with the decision to trade LaMonte Wade, the combination of Kirilloff, Trevor Larnach and Jake Cave could provide more than enough insurance if Byron Buxton or Kepler went down due to injury. However, they were wrong.
Instead of having a proven major league hitter like Rosario in the corner, the Twins relied on Kyle Garlick after Kirilloff struggled in spring training. Once injuries forced the Twins to call Kirilloff up, he injured his wrist, which eventually shut down his season prematurely.
With Buxton and Cave finding their way to the injured list, the Twins were scrambling and even had to play Gilberto Celestino in center field at one point. All of this while Rosario was providing modest production for the Cleveland Indians before being traded to Atlanta at the deadline.
Like many of the Twins’ moves recently, the decision to let Rosario walk was one that bit him. Keeping Rosario around may not have saved the season, but it would have been another bat capable of carrying the load.
After providing one of the greatest LCS performances of the past 20 years, Rosario proved he can carry a team in October. But the Twins should have known that all along.