October 31, 2015

Sporting News names Twins Manager Paul Molitor AL Manager of the Year; Hunter, Hawkins retire

Update: Twins Manager Paul Molitor is a finalist for Major League Baseball’s American League Manager of the Year award. The other finalists are Jeff Banister of the Texas Rangers and A.J. Hinch of the Houston Astros. The winner will be announced on Nov. 17.

If Molitor wins, it will be his second managerial award this offseason after The Sporting News selected him for the same award last month.

Earlier: Twins Manager Paul Molitor is the American League Manager of the Year, according to Sporting News, a fitting award for a first-year skipper who led the team to a better-than-expected finish in 2015.

Congratulations to Paul Molitor and Terry Collins on being voted SN’s Managers of the Year. https://t.co/hjFCj1hhec pic.twitter.com/HvMXdDnYAT

— Sporting News (@sportingnews) October 27, 2015

I think many in baseball expected the Twins to continue their losing ways in 2015, winding up at or near the cellar in the American League Central Division after four previous seasons of 90 or more losses.

The Twins stumbled out of the gates in April, but turned the rest of the season around to remain in playoff contention during the final weekend of play, and to finish with their first winning record (83-79) since 2010. Some of that success is no doubt due to Molitor’s guidance, but let’s hope he can continue the team’s winning ways without the veteran leadership shown by Torii Hunter.

Hunter, meanwhile, announced his retirement soon after the season ended.

Hunter spent most of his baseball career with the Twins — 12 of 19 seasons in Minnesota — and likely will be remembered more for his defensive skills in the outfield than at the plate. Hunter finishes his career with 353 home runs, more than 2,400 hits and 1,391 RBI.

Hunter appeared in the playoffs several times with the Twins, Angels and Tigers, but never played in a World Series.

— Minnesota Twins (@Twins) October 27, 2015

But Hunter doesn’t leave the game completely unscathed.

A contributor to Forbes recently called out Hunter (and rightly so) for some of the things he has said over the years, including homophobic comments.

Contributor Alex Reimer writes:

In 2012, Hunter said it would be difficult and uncomfortable for him to have a gay teammate. Last year, he cut a radio ad on behalf of Republican Arkansas gubernatorial candidate Asa Hutchinson’s desire to keep marriage between a man and woman.

Reimer concludes that Hunter, as a player, should not be ashamed of being in the Hall of Very Good, if not the Hall of Fame, but should be shamed for incendiary and bigoted comments he made throughout his playing career.

About the time that Hunter decided to call it quits, so, too, did relief pitcher LaTroy Hawkins, who spent nine of his 21 seasons in baseball with the Twins.

#TBT Congrats to @LaTroyHawkins32 ’93 & @toriihunter48 ’94 on their fantastic @MLB careers! pic.twitter.com/G9IwBcPbD8

— Fort Wayne TinCaps (@TinCaps) October 29, 2015

Hawkins finishes with a career pitching record of 75 wins vs. 94 losses, but he still recorded 127 saves over his career, including 28 with the Twins in 2001, 25 with the Cubs in 2004 and 23 with the Rockies in 2014.

COMMENTS

Hi, I’m Rolf Boone and I love the Twins.

I became a fan of the Minnesota Twins after a friendly wager in the early 1980s. I survived Ron Davis, the meltdown in Cleveland, Phil Bradley at the Kingdome and then marveled at a rising generation of stars and two World Series wins in 1987 and 1991. Brad Radke made the 1990s bearable, while Kirby Puckett’s eye injury, exit from the game and eventual death made it almost too much to bear. The new century ushered in more talent — Joe Mauer, Johan Santana, Joe Nathan, Torii Hunter, Justin Morneau — and consecutive seasons of playoff baseball, followed by consecutive seasons of losing baseball. A winning season returned in 2015. So here we are. Go Twins.