Paul Molitor is already making a huge impact with the Twins. The soft spoken Hall of Famer renowned for his baseball acumen is known for being quiet and reserved, the antithesis of the fiery Ron Gardenhire. The Twins clubhouse has been thought to be uninspired recently, mired in the midst of four consecutive 90 loss season. Fans and club officials have bemoaned the lack of clubhouse leaders since the departure of Justin Morneau and Michael Cuddyer. While Molitor may seem reserved he is already making his mark by quietly drawing a line in the sand with regard to clubhouse culture.
In an early spring training game against the Toronto Blue Jays, Aaron Hicks, locked in a 4 way battle for center field with Jordan Schafer, Eddie Rosario and non-roster invitee Shane Robinson, lost track of the number of outs in the inning and trotted off the field after incorrectly assuming (via the scoreboard) that three outs had been recorded. It turned out that the scoreboard was wrong and Molitor was quick to show Hicks what he thought of the error, benching Hicks immediately. ‘We can’t have that’, Molitor later told reporters, ‘so we let him think about the game a little bit’.
Another expectation Molitor introduced was banning all technology and social media up to 30 minutes before the beginning of the game. I love this move. Engage with your teammates and focus on the game seems to be the message that Molitor wants to convey. While Ron Gardenhire had an incredibly successful run as the Twins manager, winning 6 division titles in 12 seasons at the helm, there seemed to be a notion in 2014 leading up to his departure that the Twins clubhouse lacked consistency, uniformity and focus, something Molitor seems keen to quickly instill.
Molitor also was quick to shoot down rumors that Joe Mauer could be a potential leadoff hitter for the Twins. Despite this he did send a not so subtle message to leadoff incumbent Danny Santana, when we declared he wanted a leadoff hitter with an OBP of close to .370. In 2014 only 2 team’s leadoff hitters (St. Louis .369 and Houston .353) accomplished this feat. Molitor is clearly honing in on Santana’s miserable walk rate of 4.4% in 2014 (the league average is 7.6%), something he will undoubtedly have to improve as his absurd .405 BABIP will not be replicable in 2015.
After the hiring of Molitor, many lauded him as one of the most intelligent baseball minds to ever play the game. There was also conjecture about whether Molitor would be able to communicate the fundamentals he excelled so greatly in, particularly his knowledge of defensive positioning and base running. This will be determined over time. No one knows if Paul Molitor’s baseball acumen will translate to the Minnesota Twins. One tenet of his short managerial reign will not be lost in translation – high expectations.