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:
Essentially, Molitor's teams had two good months (May '15 and August '17) over four seasons. Outside of that, lots of mediocrity and much worse. For a manager with no track record, who wasn't picked by this FO, those results just aren't not good enough.
— Nick Nelson (@NickNelsonMN) October 2, 2018
Big news, even if expected, always creates some outrage. The haters are going to come out in full force. The supporters will come out in full force. I struggle because it wasn't surprising. I don't think he necessarily deserved it, but we all knew Falvey and Levine want this. https://t.co/JlJak4wSWA
— Seth Stohs (@SethTweets) October 2, 2018
The Twins clubhouse is at a crossroad. This year Thad Levine said they regretted having so many players on expiring contracts. May have influenced culture. Next year, they may lose their long-time position player leader and have a leadership vacuum.
— Parker Hageman (@ParkerHageman) October 2, 2018
Paul Molitor is as old school as they come, but by all accounts he was open minded when presented with new information and ideas from the front office.
I think his firing is about on-field performance, clubhouse dynamics, and the front office wanting to choose their own manager.
— Aaron Gleeman (@AaronGleeman) October 2, 2018
Coaches always take the fall. But the 2018 #MNTwins were doomed when by May 2 they were without their starting CFer, SS, 3B, C as well as Ervin Santana. Throw in new additions and vets who underperformed and this team was never right.
— Dan Hayes (@DanHayesMLB) October 2, 2018