Yesterday, in the hours following Ron Gardenhire’s ouster as manager of the Twins, I put up a post briefly discussing each of what I considered possible internal candidates to replace Gardy.
Shortly after that post went up, Gardenhire and Twins General Manager Terry Ryan held a press conference where some additional information was shared concerning the thought process that went in to the decision and the envisioned process for identifying and hiring a replacement.
Much has been written/said about the possible candidates in the meantime and there appears to be some small amount of clarity taking shape.
First, Ryan indicated that the search for a replacement would include both internal and external candidates. This is good.
He also indicated that “diversity” would be a factor in the decision making process, not only for the manager, but also for the subsequent decisions regarding the rest of the big league coaching staff. This is very good news.
Ryan also indicated that he was not overly concerned about the age of potential candidates. He isn’t looking only at “young” potential managers, nor only at veteran managers. I think this is good AND it may give a clue as to Ryan’s thinking going in to the process.
The GM also may have slightly tipped his hand when he first indicated that there was a “preference” for an internal replacement, then backtracked and said something along the lines of how the preference is for the “right” candidate, regardless of internal or external, but that ideally he would come from inside the organization. It’s splitting hairs, I know, but I think it does indicate some level of preference for an internal replacement, so long as that person can also be defended as being the “right” person for the job.
As a result, I’m already prepared to revise my list of most likely candidates.
Yesterday, I said I thought Terry Steinbach and Doug Mientkiewicz were likely the top couple of internal candidates. I kept Paul Molitor off that list for two reasons.
First, I thought Ryan would, “go younger,” and Molitor is roughly the same age as Gardenhire. Second, I felt Molitor, given his longer history of employment with the Twins than either Steinbach or Mientkiewicz, would be considered too much of a Twins insider to satisfy everyone, inside and outside the organization, that his hiring would not simply be a continuation of the Gardenhire regime with a different figurehead.
A number of stories have since popped up from writers/columnists with connections to the team’s front office pointing out that Molitor was (1) forced on Gardenhire a year ago, and (2) pretty much ostracized by the manager and his inner circle during the season.
One does have to wonder why the same writers weren’t all over that part of the story DURING the season and one conclusion might be that they are just now finding this information out. “From whom?,” you may ask.
We could speculate that the information is coming from sources inside the front office who may have an interest in softening the ground for the ultimate naming of Molitor as the new Twins manager.
What’s more, as various media sources have pointed out, the Milwaukee Brewers may well be considering a change in the manager’s chair. If so, one would expect Molitor to be on a list of likely candidates for that job.
It certainly would not look good to a lot of Molitor supporters to see the Hall of Famer stolen away by the Brewers while the Twins go another direction.
Of course, you could say pretty much the same thing about the chances Steinbach could be hired by Arizona while the Twins go through a more thorough process of screening applicants.
Whatever the reason, there already seems to be a groundswell of support and speculation focused on Molitor that goes beyond, even, what existed previously. In this case, I choose to believe that where there’s smoke, there’s fire and Molitor may well already be Ryan’s preferred choice IF Molitor wants the gig.
I add that condition because we probably can’t totally discount the possibility that he would prefer to get the Brewers’ job, for example. Though, given his in-depth knowledge of the talent coming up through the Twins’ farm system, this would seem unlikely, to me.
I’d be fine with a Molitor choice. I had the opportunity to interview him during June of the 2013 Cedar Rapids Kernels season and “impressed” doesn’t begin to describe the feeling I came away with.
Molitor is one of those guys that anyone with a mind for baseball would just love to get the opportunity to sit and talk with for an hour. I felt genuinely fortunate to get 20 minutes of his time over the course of a couple of days.
He doesn’t have the folksy charm of Ron Gardenhire. But, I found him to be friendly and open during our discussions, and his love for the nuances of the game and teaching young players the right way to play it certainly came through.
In any event, I do believe Ryan will conduct interviews with several internal and external candidates, including Steinbach and Mientkiewicz. (A number of external candidates have been tossed around, but my favorite is Rays coach Dave Martinez.)
In the end, however, Molitor looks like the leading candidate today.
We’ll see how long that indication holds.
What about Jake Mauer?
I mentioned Kernels manager Jake Mauer as a possible internal candidate, along with some thoughts as to why he probably would not be considered at this time.
Let me just say that, selfishly, I’d love to see Mauer return to Cedar Rapids, along with his coaches Tommy Watkins and Ivan Arteaga. That said, if I were to predict Mauer’s 2015 assignment (which obviously I’m about to do), I’d say look for him to be named the manager of AA Chattanooga.
It was Mauer that the Twins tabbed to be the first manager in Cedar Rapids when that affiliation was getting off the ground. He is a hard worker with his players, great with the front office, great with fans and great with media. In other words, the perfect manager to make sure a new affiliation gets off to the best start possible.
He could easily be given the same assignment in Chattanooga, where the Twins are moving their AA team in 2015. Mauer would also then be reunited with many of the players he managed in Cedar Rapids during 2013-14.
It would also be one step closer to a big league coaching assignment for Mauer and he’s more than deserving of being considered for that opportunity in the near future.
If that move opened up an opportunity for Watkins to get the manager job in Cedar Rapids, that would be a good thing, too.