The Case For Doug Mientkiewicz
The Minnesota Twins fired Ron Gardenhire earlier this week, and the search is now on for a new manager. Minnesota has been known to be an organization that promotes solely from within, Gardenhire having been the third base coach when he replaced Tom Kelly, but Terry Ryan has said the search will exhaust all options.
Ted Schwerzler from Puckett’s Pond wrote an excellent article on why Paul Molitor should be the Twins new skipper, and while I’ll concede that Molitor is probably the favorite to fill that role, I believe the Twins have another excellent candidate in their system they should seriously consider: Former Twin and current Fort Myers Miracle manager Doug Mientkiewicz.
Mientkiewicz has all the attributes the Twins should be looking for in their new manager. At only 40, Mientkiewicz brings with him a youthful attitude and a fresh new look for an organization very set in its ways. While it’s true that some might consider him young for a major league manager, he has set out on a coaching career beginning in the minor leagues, managing and leading the Fort Myers Miracle to an FSL championship this summer. Many will point out Mientkiewicz’s lack of major league coaching experience as a detriment, and while that is a concern, it should not be a dealbreaker when considering his credentials. In his small sample of coaching experience, he has directly influenced nearly all of the Twins’ top prospects in what many consider one of Major League Baseball’s best and deepest farm systems. Current players Kennys Vargas, Oswaldo Arcia, and Danny Santana, as well as soon-to-be roster additions Miguel Sano, Byron Buxton, and J.O. Berrios have all played under Mientkiewicz as well so he has a familiarity and relationships with much of the current and future roster which would make his transition seamless. When I think of Mientkiewicz’s coaching career arc, the direct parallel I see is that of former Twins coaching legend Tom Kelly. Kelly, as you might recall, was primarily a minor league manager coming up through the ranks with many of the players that would form a championship-winning nucleus in 1987. He only had a brief stint with the Twins as an assistant when he took the reigns in 1986, and the rest, as they say, is history. While I’m not going to go that far out on a limb to say that you should reserve World Series tickets in 2016 should Mientkiewicz get the job, there is that precedent set before.
The other attribute that I believe weighs heavily in Mientkiewicz’s favor is his playing experience. While he doesn’t boast a Hall-of-Fame resume like Molitor, Mientkiewicz’s playing time reflects perfectly with the organization’s current situation. Remember, Mientkiewicz’s first full year of major league experience was with the Twins in 1999, right in the midst of a stretch of futility that should bear serious resemblance to today’s 4 year run. He was a lynchpin of that group of young players who pulled the Twins out of irrelevance, saved the team from contraction, and led them to their first division championship since 1991. He’s been there before and knows what players need to hear and do to raise their game when all hope seems to be lost. That experience will benefit him greatly should he be tagged as the man to do the same with this current Twins team. Add to that his playing days with Boston in 2004, he has the understanding on what it takes to be a champion.
Finally, the last thing I believe that separates Mientkiewicz from candidates like Molitor and Terry Steinbach is the fact that he has enough separation from the current staff to be considered a fresh and different outlook, while still maintaining familiarity with the organization, its fans, and community. It’s a perfect blend of both new and old. Now, I will admit that I was a HUGE fan of Dougie Baseball when he was a Twin. It’s the fiery demeanor, the passion for the game, and the playing precision he brought that made me a fan of him as a player. It’s those same attributes that makes me a fan of him as a coach.
It is all these things that make me declare that Doug Mientkiewicz, while not the preeminent favorite, is the best candidate for the Twins’ manager.