It’s Official – Paul Molitor Will Manage the Twins

Regardless of whether you believe the Minnesota Twins’ extended search for new manager was thorough or a sham to cover for what was a foregone conclusion all along, the wait is finally over and Paul Molitor is taking over the manager’s office at Target Field.

The Twins announced the hiring Monday morning and will hold a press conference at 10:00 am on Tuesday to introduce Molitor as their new manager, though the decision was leaked to the traditional media types in Minneapolis days earlier.

Former Twins manager Tom Kelly and new Twins manager Paul Molitor

Molitor wasn’t my first choice as manager, but I do believe he is qualified and potentially could be a very good choice. In fact, when you boil down all the criticisms of the choice of Molitor, they really come down to two points:

  • He was already employed by the Minnesota Twins.
  • He has never managed at any level of professional baseball.

I get that a certain segment of the Twins fanbase flat out did not want a manager who had any prior connection whatsoever to Twins organization. I understand that position, though I do not agree with it.

I do believe that part of the Twins’ problems has been that, as an organization, it has become a bit too insular. I think that it was important to hire a manager that brings a fresh approach to the manager position and that will be more open to new ideas than Ron Gardenhire appeared to be during his tenure with the Twins.

I just don’t believe that the only way you get that is to hire someone with absolutely no prior ties to the club. I think we’ll quickly notice that a team managed by Molitor is not simply Ron Gardenhire Part 2 (or Tom Kelly Part 3, if you prefer).

It sure appears, based on everything I’ve read and heard from people who know Molitor and have seen him work during his time as a minor league instructor and Major League coach, that he not only genuinely enjoys teaching the intricacies of baseball to young players, but he also continues to strive to learn more about the game, himself.

Many former elite ballplayers come across, as they age, as guys who think they already know all there is to know about the game because they were very, very good at it when they laced up their cleats – as though all knowledge of how to play the game is a finite base of knowledge that can never be improved upon.

Others simply seem to have trouble teaching the game to young players that, in most cases, simply do not have the kind of natural talent that they had during their playing days.

Neither of those factors appear to be the case with Molitor, so while I would be more comfortable with this choice if he did have some managing experience at some level of professional baseball, I don’t necessarily believe it should be considered a disqualifying factor for Molitor.

I don’t believe that General Manager Terry Ryan stretched out the process simply to appease the fan base before making the hire he intended to make all along. I think anyone who does believe that is being extremely cynical.

Of course, the Twins have given their fans plenty to be cynical about lately, so it’s not altogether unrealistic to suspect the worst in this case.

Perhaps I’m just a bigger believer in Terry Ryan than many are, but I trust that he set out to conduct a thorough search for the best candidate and he was not going to announce a hiring until that process was complete.

I also think it is possible – though not probable – that Ryan actually preferred Red Sox coach Torey Lovullo over Molitor, but was overruled by Jim Pohlad, who, by multiple reports, has had a strong relationship with Hall of Famer Molitor for years and strongly favored Molitor since the time Gardenhire was dismissed (if not before).

Honestly, since we’re on the subject of Pohlad’s relationship with Molitor, let me just throw out now, for the record, that I won’t be one bit surprised if, ultimately, Molitor succeeds Ryan as the Twins’ General Manager.

I can envision a scenario where Ryan may have favored Lovullo, but was unable to convince Pohlad that Lovullo was such a better choice than Molitor that Pohlad would be willing to risk seeing Molitor to walk away from the Twins organization altogether..

However, since this choice is likely to determine how Ryan’s legacy as Twins GM is ultimately judged, it is difficult for me to imagine him agreeing to hire a manager he did not personally believe was the right choice to help him turn the club’s fortunes around. I think Ryan is the sort who would resign rather than allow the Twins ownership to impose a manager on him that he did not support in this situation.

If, in fact, Ryan had a slight preference for Lovullo, but not so strong as to resign over Pohlad’s insistence on Molitor (if such was actually the case), then I could only conclude that the GM is very comfortable with Molitor, as well.

In the end, I’m encouraged that Ryan’s top two choices for the job both have reputations for utilizing technology and advanced metrics to prepare their teams for success on the field, something Gardenhire had a reputation (deserved or not) for resisting.

Along with the rest of Twinsville, I’ll be very interested to find out who Molitor and Ryan will decide upon to fill out the Twins’ big league coaching staff (could Molitor really bring in Robin Yount as a bench coach, giving the Twins a pair of Hall of Famers in their dugout?). Naturally, I’ll also be interested to learn the organization’s minor league assignments.

It has certainly been an interesting first few weeks of the offseason for the Twins and it certainly appears it will continue to be the case as we move toward free agency season.

– JC

6 Replies to “It’s Official – Paul Molitor Will Manage the Twins”

  1. I enjoy your comments and blogs, usually I see them over at Twins Daily. I agree with a lot of your opinions, but of course, not all. Personally, I didn’t get all that excited about the managerial change, or the search. My thought is that Gardenhire was a good manager, any manager chosen by Ryan is likely to be a good manager, the chance of a great manager is pretty small.

    In addition the “need for a new voice” thing, even though it was mentioned by Gardy, is largely crap, most of the players on the Twins roster, haven’t been listening to Gardy’s voice for more than a year or two, with the exception of Mauer or Perkins. Most of the younger players have probably heard more from Molitor than Gardy over the years, nobody seems to worried by that.

    Still, Molitor is a reasonable choice. I am not particularly worried about his lack of managerial experience. He has spent a lot of his adult life in dugouts and locker rooms, he has a good idea how most things should work, managing the various personalities will likely be fairly easy for him. He might struggle with delegating to his coaches, and have a tendency to micro-manage,but be I expect those type of problems will work themselves out.

    I have noticed that a lot of commentators on various Twins related sites, are calling for “outside” voices. I think most people don’t realize that there are no outside voices in major league baseball. It is largely an exclusive club that knows everyone in it, is friends with many and talks back and forth all the time. All minor league and major league managers and coaches will have friends in the opposite dugout, will go out to dinner with some of them during a series and exchange information. “New ideas or theories” will be explored and exchanged at many levels between major league organizations.

    So even if the Twins hire “outside” coaches, they will largely come to the Twins with similar ideas about most things to Molitor’s and Ryan’s ideas. Neither Molitor or Ryan is going to want a pitching coach who doesn’t have similar thoughts about things like pitch counts, proper work load, pitch selection, etc. to that found in the Twins organization. So I feel that all talk about needing fresh voices is probably kind of silly. It won’t and really can’t happen.

    The last thought I have about all this is all the discussion about analytics. There is always some sort of hot new way to do things in baseball, that is in many cases not really all that different than ways things have been done in baseball at various times in the past. Shifts, for example, have been in baseball since the 1940’s. While the super-over shifts seem a bit new, they will likely flatten out with time. It is one thing to over shift true middle of the order bats, but when you overshift the Parmalee’s and Belt’s of the world, and all it takes is a bad bunt or routine ground ball to defeat it, well most teams will get their secondary players to do that. Especially since not making outs is more important sometimes than trying to smash a ball over or thru a shift, unless you are a truly elite player who has a decent chance to actually do that. Common sense eventually comes to play in things like this.

  2. I realized that if I was going to leave a long windy post, I should of added my thoughts about a Latin American coach. It is likely a pretty good idea to have one, just like it is a good idea to have a black coach. Still some of the reasons given are kind of off base. Have a Spanish speaking coach probably doesn’t hurt, but most Latin players will generally understand English pretty well by the time they get to the majors, and probably speak it reasonably well, too. It is clearly more important to have Spanish speaking coaches in the low minors and English classes as well. Which the Twins do.

    I have seen the idea expressed that the Twins need a Latin American coach to help with “cultural” adjustments. The problem with this is that, there is no Latin American culture. The ties between the Latin American countries are largely restricted to the Spanish language and the Catholic Church, and not all the Latin countries share those. Culture in the various baseball playing countries is incredibly diverse. They have different racial heritages, different customs, different beliefs, different types of governments, and great variations within each country or US territory(in the case of Puerto Rico). It is possibly easier for players to find people in Florida who share their culture than it would be in another Latin American country.

    All of this means that it really isn’t possible to have a “cultural” coach. I suspect the Twins are aware of this. There have been Latin American players playing for the Twins since before they were the Twins. I rather expect that the Twins do their best to help out their players from different backrounds. Including their Asian, Australian and European ones.

  3. Jim, thank you for your thoughtful comments and for coming over here from Twins Daily to check in with us at Knuckleballs,.I appreciate that.

    I have a couple of brief responses to your points and I’ll work backwards.

    Latin American coach: I think back to my late teens and early 20s and I can’t imagine what it would have been like to move to any South American country by myself to work. I agree that there are differences in culture between different parts of South America (just as there are between regions of the US), but I still believe that, if you are investing millions of dollars in South American talent, it would make sense to have someone on the pitching coach staff and on the position coach staff that can not only speak the language, but related to the Latin players in terms of helping them continue to adjust to the environment here, because they went through those adjustments, themselves.

    As for analytics, I see it as simply a more efficient way to gather information, make some sense out of it and apply that knowledge in a manner to build rosters and win games. Managers and GMs have been doing that for over a century, but much less efficiently. Modern businesses make use of modern info analysis tools to improve their operations in virtually every industry. And in every industry, there are probably managers resistant to the changes. Eventually, they lose out to competitors who find ways to apply new technology to improve themselves. Baseball is no different. You have to be open minded, even if you don’t buy in to every new idea.

    Outside coaches: I agree that baseball, in general, is a bit of an inbred society, but I do think there is value in regularly bringing in coaches and FO staff from other successful organizations. That said, I also believe the Twins have done this more than some give them credit for. I don’t believe that, just because a guy wore a Twins uniform for a couple years 15-30 years ago, you should assume he has no original ideas. Brunansky, Mientkiewicz, Glynn, Steinbach and others spent time working with a LOT of “non-Twins” baseball people over the years.

    Steinnach just rejoined the Twins a year ago, Mientkiewicz returned to the Twins 2 years ago, Glynn was brought in to the Twins organization 3 years ago, and Bruno rejoined them 4 years ago. To assume that, upon spending a couple years in some role with the Twins organization, they became Stepford Coaches is insulting to those men. They not only have ideas gathered from time outside the organization, but their time with the Twins likely gives them better insight in to what changes need to be made than a guy who has absolutely no history with the Twins.

    Basically, a closed mind is a very bad thing for a GM, a manager, a head coach in any sport or, really, a person in authority in any business. When you reach a point where you think you know everything you need to know to lead your organization successfully, that’s a dangerous point, because you can become complacent while your competition is learning new stuff, even if it’s not major stuff.

  4. To expand on your point about many Twins coaches and minor league managers having experience in other organizations. It is largely true of all of them. The only real exceptions are Watkins and Jake Mauer. It seems that the Twins began to remake their minor league staffs about 6-7 years ago. I don’t know if it was a natural process or a deliberate remake, but the current staffs are far different than a few years ago with few holdovers. I believe most commentators who make remarks about the Twins being needing change don’t realize this or don’t care about any changes but those at the top.

    I also suspect that a lot of those calling for the Twins to be like Tampa Bay or St . Louis or Oakland, really have no idea about how those teams work, or how really different they are from the Twins. They are likely just as “inbred” as the Twins or are similarly making changes to various parts of their operations like the Twins, that nobody notices. For example, I believe the Twins have made changes to their scouting department, very similar to their coaching operation during the last half dozen, years. Even fewer fans are probably aware of this than the coaching changes, it isn’t very easy to follow or particularly interesting to track.

    I suspect that the Twins were not very happy about aspects of drafting, acquiring foreign talent, and development long before most fans realized there was a problem and began to make changes. Largely, now many fans realize there was a period of years where the Twins farm system didn’t produce much, and began to call for changes, not realizing that the Twins were already making/had made many changes.

    The issue of organizations going stale is a real one, but you do have to wait the process out sometimes. The biggest problem with many major league organizations, was/is that they make too many changes never giving a GM enough time to complete the changes and let them work.

    About your point concerning the need for helping young players adjust to American life. Personally, I want baseball coaches who can coach baseball. It certainly helps if some can speak Spanish but help with cultural adjustments can and probably often comes from other areas of the organization. Likely the Twins have all sorts of people to help players find apartments, get driver’s licenses, learn where the stores that carry Latin foods are, etc. I would guess but really know, that the traveling secretary has people to help foreign players as well. As I mentioned in a previous post, the Twins have been dealing with foreign players for a long time.

  5. Other than some English classes, I don’t think the Twins do a whole lot to help their Latin kids adjust to American life. They’re fortunate in Cedar Rapids in that there are some good bi-lingual host parents who, I know, continue to help with language and other matters.

    I think most teams are doing more than they used to, but you have to think pretty hard to come up with any Latin players who have come through the Twins system and developed in to very good Major Leaguers. Even most of those who contributed as regulars for extended periods were actually products of other organizations and obtained in trades shortly before being MLB-ready.

    If you haven’t seen it, check out the movie “Sugar,” that came out about 5-6 years ago. It follows a Dominican player from his home to the minor leagues. It’s not an easy transition.

    The minor leagues, in general, are a meat grinder for all players, whether Latin, Australian, Asian or American. Teams chew up and spit kids out by the hundreds every year. I know that and that’s another topic, really.

    But the Twins are beginning to invest millions in some of these kids from Latin America. It just seems to me that it would make sense to invest a little more in making sure there’s a little better chance some of those investments pay off eventually.

    Potential coaching hires at all levels need to, first and foremost, be good at coaching. But there must be plenty of good coaches around with Latin American backgrounds and an ability to relate well with young players. The Twins should have at least one of them on the big league staff.

  6. Oliva, Versailles, Pascual, Carew. If you are referring to more recent Twins, Rivas, Rincon, Santana(came from Houston system as an A level player), Ramos, and of course right now Santana, Arcia, and Vargas.

    As to your other points, I don’t know. I don’t know exactly what help is provided to entry level players in the Gulf Coast league and in extended spring training. I don’t know what help is provided at the major league level. It seems you know something about what is done in Class A Cedar Rapids. I expect they could do more, but I would not assume they do nothing. Again, it might be a topic that should be explored. I would like to know what the Twins actually do, before condemning them too much.

    I do agree the minor leagues are a meat grinder. I think the whole minor system sort of happened, no one really planned it to work the way it does. Some years ago, a neighbor kid a few years younger than me was drafted by the Reds, late rounds, out of college. He lasted a few years, even was invited to fall instructional training after his first year. It was fun to talk to him about his experiences. He
    gave me a little different look at how baseball organizations operate.

    I don’t really think major league organizations are totally uncaring. But it is a numbers game to some degree. Beyond the few high draft choices and foreign players who receive big bonuses, well, most players are in a sink or swim situation. Unless they develop into premium prospects soon after being acquired, they can’t afford to underperform, be injured very much, be any kind of problem either on or off the field. If they don’t perform, they are gone. When only 1 or 2 of the 30 or so kids added to the organization each year will likely turn into a major league player, and even fewer of the of the lower drafted ones or low bonus foreign players, it is somewhat understandable why professional organizations aren’t too patient.

    It should be also pointed that many, perhaps most, businesses aren’t a great deal more “humane” in their dealings with their employees. I have seen that personally in businesses both big and small.

    I am not in any way suggesting that the Twins should not have Spanish speaking coaches. Clearly, if you are going to sign a lot of kids from Latin America, you need to do your best to give them a realistic chance to develop their talent, and understanding what is expected of them is integral to that. I am just a little put off by many of the comments I read at some of the Twins sites like Twins Daily. As I stated in an earlier post, there is no Latin American culture and the idea that because a Twins coach is from some part of Latin America or can just speak Spanish, or even because he has a Spanish name, he will be able to relate to all the Latin players or serve as some sort a mentor; is a pretty simplistic take on a very complex situation.