November 7, 2017

AL Manager of the Year finalists: Francona, Hinch, Molitor

Twins manager Paul Molitor on Monday was named one of three finalists for AL Manager of the Year, joining Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona and the Houston Astros’ A.J. Hinch.

I expect Molitor to win the award for one reason: The impressive turnaround he helped orchestrate to win 85 games this past season and qualify for the playoffs after losing a club record 103 games in 2016. The Twins became the first team in major league history to make the postseason after losing 100 games.

But Molitor isn’t going to be a runaway winner for the award because he’s in good company.

Francona’s Indians won 102 games this past season, including an incredible second-half record of 55-20. And that second-half performance included a 22-game winning streak, a new record for an American League team. Hinch, on the other hand, won the World Series on top of winning 101 games during the regular season. The Astros went 60-29 during the first-half of the season.

Extra innings…

-The Twins have hired Derek Shelton to be the team’s new bench coach. Shelton replaces Joe Vavra, who left the Twins to join Ron Gardenhire’s staff in Detroit. Shelton previously was the quality control coach for the Toronto Blue Jays last season. Before that he was the Tampa Bay Rays hitting coach from 2010-2016 and the Indians hitting coach from 2005-2009.

-The Twins have been party to a number of player personnel moves since the end of the season. Pitchers Nik Turley and Randy Rosario have been claimed by other teams, while catcher Chris Gimenez, pitcher Ryan O’Rourke and infielder Niko Goodrum have been outrighted. The somewhat of a surprise in all this was that outfielder Daniel Palka was claimed by the Chicago White Sox. Palka hit 34 home runs in the minors in 2016, but he also struck out 186 times.

-Slugger Miguel Sano will have surgery on his left leg after he fouled a ball off his shin last season. That ended his season and now he is set to have a titanium rod inserted into his leg.

-Former bullpen coach Rick Stelmaszek, the longest-tenured coach in Twins history (32 years), died Monday after he lost his battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 69. According to MLB.com:

The former big league catcher played 60 career games with the Senators, Rangers, Angels and Cubs from 1971-74. He began his managing career in 1978 with the Wisconsin Rapids Twins, a former Minor League affiliate, and spent three seasons there before joining Minnesota’s coaching staff under Johnny Goryl.

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.