After another disappointing 90 loss campaign, Terry Ryan decided to make the difficult decision and remove Ron Gardenhire as manager of the Minnesota Twins. His replacement, Paul Molitor, is about to embark on his first season as head of the team, and expectations are somewhat cloudy. Taking over a Twins team in transition, where is Molitor really destined to go in 2015?
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Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe ranked each manager in the major leagues in a piece published today. Of course, the Giants Bruce Bochy was at the top, and he was followed by names like Buck Showalter and Joe Maddon. While that may not come at all as a surprise, Paul Molitor ranking dead last probably should.
Now, to be fair and give Nick some context, he prefaces the piece by saying, “The rankings factor in recent performance and track record. Obviously, a manager’s performance is tied into the talent on his roster and his ability to push that talent to positive results…As always, we put first-time managers at the bottom of the list.”
Knowing that Molitor is at the bottom of the list as a by-product of his standing during his tenure is one thing, the question is how long he remains there?
While managers in baseball have much less of an impact on a game than the head coach of a football team, there is no denying the good ones make a difference. While Bochy may not have his best Giants team in 2015, you can bet he will be getting the most out of them. There’s a reason why Maddon was coveted by the Chicago Cubs, and Showalter has turned the Orioles into a contender. For the Twins though, it now rests on Molitor’s shoulders.
Although Twins fans have long grown tired, and even afraid of the typical promote from within process that the organization has become known for, it’s best to remember that Molitor represents something different. While he was on the previous staff, and has ties to the Twins organization from his playing days, calling him one of the guys is probably somewhat shortsighted. Paul Molitor has been around baseball, and in that sense, he has adopted much more than one organization’s train of thought.
Prior to his hire, much was made about the baseball mind that the former standout on the diamond possesses. Regarded by many as having some of the highest baseball intellect in the game, there is nothing to say Paul Molitor doesn’t quickly find himself amongst the Maddon and Bochy realm. During the 2015 season, we will begin to gain an understanding of the groundwork the Molitor plans to lay to get himself there.
Cafardo notes that Molitor becomes just the second Hall of Fame player to join the current Major League Baseball managerial ranks, along with Ryne Sandberg. In looking at what Paul brings to the table for the Twins, Cafardo states:
"The second Hall of Famer to take a crack at managing, he joins Sandberg in trying to apply the things that made him great to players who will likely be inferior. This is not easy. Ted Williams also struggled as a manager because players couldn’t live up to what he expected. Molitor has been around the Twins as a coach so the transition shouldn’t be severe."
It’s an interesting perspective, and one that probably has played even more in another sport. Michael Jordan has been regarded to be a less than ideal instructor when it comes to his Charlotte Bobcats due to the way in which he conveys information. In dealing with athletes that can simply not live up to your level, frustration becomes a very real emotion. Cafardo also makes the point that Molitor has likely already understood how to combat against this.
Being around Spring Training for the past few seasons is something that should play to Molitor’s advantage, and in turn, ease the transition for his players. Looking at what this season should produce for the new front man is more likely reflected in the process than the results. Without a previous track record, it is hard to dictate as to what Molitor should find himself bringing to the table. However, if he can establish his way of doing things, and in turn bring success to the club, the process put in place will be noted as the keys to success.
At the end of the day, Paul Molitor may be regarded as last amongst major league managers if for nothing else than having no history. A man who has exuded as much success as he has however, should find himself changing the tide and vaulting up contention in short order.