Monday, August 15, 2016

Is Molitor Mismanaging Minnesota?

The Minnesota Twins could arguably be in the midst of the most critical juncture in franchise history. Terry Ryan was fired mid-season, and the club is going to lose 90 games after narrowly missing the playoffs a season ago. Attendance is in the tank, and the organization is relying on youth to turn things around. The biggest issue though could be that Paul Molitor doesn't seem to have gotten the memo.

Over the course of the 2016 season, there's been plenty of instances in which Paul Molitor has made poor roster decisions, seemingly failed to connect with younger players, and put forth in game actions that leave an informed baseball fan scratching their head. To narrow things down a bit though, we can take a look into at least four different scenarios that leave plenty to be desired.

Regarding the youngster that's been the most productive, Miguel Sano was recently a recipient of a Molitor misstep. With Trevor Plouffe returning from the disabled list, and owning a paltry .682 OPS on the year, Molitor knew he had a roster decision looming. Regardless of being in a simple slump and still acclimating (albeit poorly) to a new position, Sano's name was brought up as a possibility to be sent to Triple-A.

As silly as that sounds for one of the most prolific power hitters in Twins history, it's even worse to consider that Molitor's motivating tactic was to drag his budding superstar's name through the mud. Sano has hit .353/.421/.882 since the disparaging remarks, as well as launching five homers in nine games. It might be fun to suggest that Molitor sparked something, but Sano's OPS was already .875 since July 1, and his nine home runs were more than welcomed by the Twins. In Sano, the Twins have gotten a guy whose strikeouts are mitigated by his immense power, and doing anything internall to stifle that it a silly decision.

Then there's the more recent example with Eddie Rosario. On August 9th, Rosario wore the Golden Sombrero striking out in each of his four at bats. Despite owning a .997 OPS in the 27 games since his recall prior to that game, Molitor decided his recourse for the rough day would be to put his youngster on the bench. On August 12, Rosario wore the Sombrero again, but Molitor decided to let things ride a day later on the 13th. Even with two awful games in August (through 13), Rosario is slashing .353/.377/.588. hardly worth riding the pine.

It may be fair to argue that Molitor was simply giving his left fielder a day off. That may be easier to pass through the sniff test if other actions weren't so contradictory. Rosario has consistently batted in the bottom three of the lineup, and particularly behind the aforementioned Plouffe. Prior to his injury, Plouffe owned a .682 OPS, and in the five games since his return, it's a dismal .369. Either Molitor has an unfortunate lack of statistical understanding, or Rosario is another case of a Molitor misstep.

Following the same vein as that of Rosario, Byron Buxton may be the biggest misstep thus far for not only Molitor, but the entirety of the Twins big league staff. The consensus number one prospect in baseball owns a career .349/.411/.571 slash line at Triple-A, but has yet to figure it out at the big league level. His major league struggles could be in part due to the initial jump from Double-A to The Show, but that can't continue to be the reason.

Sure, Buxton has hit every single time he's gone back to Triple-A, but the way in which he gets there is troubling at best. After scuffling at the big league level, it appears Molitor and Co. simply want to wash their hands of him, send him packing, and hope he figures it out. Rather than work through things at the level he needs to learn, the developmental curve has been stunted by the group of big league coaches.

Buxton has seen an improving strikeout rate over the course of the 2016 season, but things still aren't where they need to be. Rather than work through those struggles in the big leagues for a 90 loss team, Buxton is sent back to pepper the baseball against underwhelming competition. Molitor has drawn negativity from National writers in regards to his coaching ability, and none have been more vocal than ESPN Insider Keith Law. In his latest Klawchat, a question as to what advice should be given to Buxton is posed. Keith Law answers in saying, "Stay there [Rochester] and hope either Molitor & staff are replaced or that you're traded to an organization better quipped to develop you as a hitter."

At the end of the day, the list of detractors doesn't stop with singular stories when things relate to Molitor. Still riding the wave of a team that outperformed statistical expectations in 2015, strapping Molitor to whatever General Manager is tasked with righting the ship starts things off on the wrong foot. He's a great player that's a mediocre coach at best, and his handling of Minnesota's youth has been one misstep after another.

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