October 3, 2018

We hardly knew ye, Paul Molitor

You need look no further than the Twins to see how much baseball has changed.

I say that after Twins manager, Paul Molitor, was fired Tuesday. It’s a reminder that the young executives running baseball teams today, executives armed with numbers and statistics, are going to run them so that the formulas work. And if the data tells them to go in a different direction, they will. Gone are the days of continuity, and to some extent, the sense of family, the idea that one person, instilled with the right baseball knowledge, will lead a team for years to come, such as Tom Kelly or Ron Gardenhire.

The model for all these up-and-coming executives is Oakland A’s General Manger Billy Beane, who showed the world that a new level of player analysis, pioneered by baseball statistician, Bill James, can be just as successful or more successful than the old world, scout-informed type of analysis that asked, “Can the guy hit a curve ball?” And it’s hard to argue with the new approach. Just look at the A’s, a team without a single household name and yet they’re about to take on the New York Yankees in the postseason.

I can’t say I’m too surprised that the front office tandem of Derek Falvey and Thad Levine decided to let Molitor go. I never got the sense that Molitor was their guy. Molitor was hired by former General Manager Terry Ryan, who then lost his job in the middle of the Twins’ disastrous 2016 season. Falvey and Levine were later hired, but Twins owner, Jim Pohlad, defended Molitor, saying he would be the team’s skipper in 2017. Yet there was little talk about a contract extension last season, and it almost felt as though Falvey and Levine had no choice but to extend Molitor’s deal after the team made the playoffs and Molitor was named AL Manager of the Year. Molitor was fired in the first year of a three-year deal.

But after making the playoffs last season, the Twins underwhelmed in 2018, and there was this feeling that the team had taken a huge step back after showing such promise the year before. Perhaps it was that sense of regression that created more urgency for Falvey & Co. Falvey met with the media on Tuesday.

“Today certainly was a difficult decision, a complex decision, but something we feel is in the best long-term interests of this club right now,” Falvey told MLB.com. “At this moment in time, we felt this was the move for this baseball team, both in the short-term here and as we build for the long-term future. When we made this decision, it wasn’t just about wins and losses. Right now, at this moment, it was about where our club is for the present and the future.”

Before coming to Minnesota, Falvey was assistant general manager of the Cleveland Indians and Levine filled the same role for the Texas Rangers. But Levine shot down the idea that the Twins’ next manager would automatically come from one of those clubs.

“Point of fact, Derek hasn’t brought a single person over from Cleveland nor have I the Texas Rangers,” Levine told MLB.com. “In reality, the lion’s share of the people we’ve brought in were people we didn’t have a previous relationship with. I think we’re planning on approaching this post in the same regard, where we’re hopeful we can be as thorough as we can to get the absolute best candidates to walk through this door. This would be a very quick process if we had a specific person in mind. We do not.”

Some reaction to Molitor’s dismissal:



Hi, I’m Rolf Boone, Twins fan.

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.