Monday, July 27, 2015

Diamond In The Dugout: Molitor Gets It

On Saturday night, the Minnesota twins were throttling the New York Yankees. Thanks to a two run home run in the first inning from Aaron Hicks, the home team was cruising. The bases were loaded, and Hicks was up again. Then it happened, and Paul Molitor displayed exactly why he may be the front-runner for coach of the year.

In an era with reviews and replays, managerial ejections have become somewhat a thing of the past. Ron Gardenhire tallied over 70 of them in his career as the Twins skipper, and while Molitor doesn't follow in those same footsteps, he absolutely gets what it means to be on the bench.

As Aaron Hicks check-swung through a strike three with the bases loaded, Molitor absolutely lost it, and he should have. Hicks may or may not have gone (being at the game was hard to tell, but replays apparently indicated he broke the plane), but that wasn't the issue. Instead of checking with his crew chief and third base help (Hicks was batting left-handed), plate umpire Jeff Nelson made the call on his own and neglected to consult Laz Diaz.

In defending his player, and his team, Molitor made sure to have Nelson know exactly how and why he screwed up. there was no hat throwing or dirt kicking, but you can bet that Molitor conveyed his point prior to being given the heave-ho. In a season that so much has been made about the leadership and dugout presence of veterans like Torii Hunter, it is in Molitor that the biggest difference may lie.

Minnesota has no doubt exceeded expectations this season, and in large part, it's due to Molitor's influence. In a sport that is generally criticized for the influence (or lack thereof) that a manager has, Molitor has redefined the expectations of Twins fans. Whether it's being willing to try something new and bat his pitcher 8th, or shuffle the lineup, give Glen Perkins a four out save, or have a short leash with failed expectations, Molitor has been a breath of fresh air.

Going forward, there's no doubt that if the Twins are going to make the playoffs, it will be in large part due to the leadership and stability that Molitor has provided the home nine. He's been a calming force when needed, and as witnessed on Saturday night, not afraid to stand up for his team when the situation demands it.

Looking around the big leagues, it's a relatively easy argument to suggest that Molitor has gotten more out of less than any other skipper in the big leagues. He's gotten a team to buy in, and in doing so, has Minnesota in a position to make their first return trip to the playoffs since 2010. With an organization chocked full of youth and budding talent, there's probably no one more capable than the man at the helm.

Terry Ryan absolutely got the decision right this offseason, and Molitor has proven that every step of the way. Whether Aaron Hicks needs defending or chiding, you can bet Paul Molitor is the man to do so, and it will come at a moments notice.

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