When the Minnesota Twins signed Josh Donaldson, they saw him as a missing piece to their championship puzzle. The Twins gave him the largest free-agent contract in franchise history and expected Donaldson to enhance the locker room culture and elevate a team that had lost 16 straight playoff games.
Two years later, the signing is a bust. Donaldson only played two seasons with the Twins, and MLB shortened one to 60 games due to the COVID-19 pandemic. After they lost two more playoff games to extend the longest postseason losing streak in men’s major North American sports, Donaldson was traded to the New York Yankees, never to be heard from again.
Or so we thought.
The Donaldson signing went so poorly that there is resentment that will last longer than any of Donaldson’s trips to the injured list. As a result, he has turned himself into the Twins’ real-life version of Jack Parkman.
Comparing a real-life baseball player to a fictional one seems far-fetched, but there are several parallels between Donaldson and the antagonist from Major League II.
Cleveland was coming off an emotional playoff victory over the Yankees at the end of the first movie. They landed Parkman in free agency the following offseason, hoping that he would be the piece to put them over the top. However, Parkman never fit in with his new team. After crushing a home run on Opening Day, he casually strolled past his teammates when they tried to congratulate him.
It’s hard to assume that Donaldson had the same relationship in the Twins’ clubhouse, but Byron Buxton shed some possible light on that topic this week. When responding to Carlos Correa’s approval of the plan to manage his injuries, Buxton raved about the type of teammate Correa has been (and potentially the one that Donaldson was not).
“That’s a great teammate,” Buxton told Dan Hayes of The Athletic. “That’s something we haven’t had here, and it’s something for us was a big point in the right direction.”
Buxton didn’t come out and say Donaldson was a terrible teammate. But if you watched the Twins last season, he’d be justified in saying so. Nobody on the team appeared to have fun. Every at-bat looked like they were walking on eggshells. A series loss would lead to a losing streak, and the Twins finished in last place.
Furthermore, Donaldson was on carrying out his own agendas last year. One of those included his personal investigation to determine which pitchers were using foreign substances on the mound. It got to the point where Donaldson confronted Lucas Giolito in the parking lot and exchanged words with his future teammate, Gerrit Cole.
His borderline behavior escalated recently with the Yankees, where Donaldson has embroiled himself in a feud with White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson. After a hard tag ignited a bases-clearing incident on May 13, Donaldson claimed he tried to ease the tension by walking up to Anderson and saying, “Hey, Jackie.”
The joke stemmed from Anderson saying he felt like Jackie Robinson during a 2019 Sports Illustrated interview. Anderson wasn’t claiming to be the trailblazer Robinson was, but he is a prominent Black player in a league where the number of American Black players is declining.
Anderson and White Sox manager Tony LaRussa both publicly denounced the comment. It’s one of many signs that a team is better without Donaldson in their clubhouse.
In Major League II, Cleveland traded Parkman midway through his first season and returned to being a true contender.
We are seeing the same effect with the real-life Twins. After trading Donaldson this offseason, they look more like the 2019 team that ran away with a division title. Minnesota has benefitted from an easy schedule. Still, it’s easier to make the playoffs on top of the division in May than when you’re 13 games under .500 like they were last season.
It also sets up an interesting dynamic in the near future. In Major League II, Cleveland rebounded to set up another one-game tiebreaker with the White Sox. The result was one of the most entertaining games in baseball history. Willie Mays Hayes leaped over Parkman for the go-ahead run, setting up the type of scenario that Rob Manfred dreams of.
With two men on, Rick Vaughn intentionally loaded the bases to face Parkman and evaporated him with “The Terminator” to end the game.
Okay, maybe we won’t see something that entertaining, but the Twins could produce their own script. They currently lead the AL Central, and the Yankees own the best record in baseball. Another postseason series between the two teams isn’t out of the question, and the Twins will have an opportunity to banish Donaldson and their postseason demons.
It would be a euphoric experience for Twins fans to see Jhoan Duran and his 100 mph fastball send Donaldson home. October is a way out, but the Yankees come to town next month.