Monday, July 31, 2017

A Change Coming In The Twins Dugout?

Now into the final third of the 2017 Major League Baseball season, the Minnesota Twins have somewhat mapped out their destiny. Selling off short term assets, they will be positioning themselves to make a playoff run in 2018. In the first year under Derek Falvey and Thad Levine, the club was in somewhat of a feeling out period. Over the offseason, the biggest change could come in who heads up the dugout.

Paul Molitor was given a one-year grace period by owner Jim Pohlad. Despite mixed results his first two seasons, Molitor was saved as Pohlad mandated that whoever take over for Terry Ryan, keep the current manager in place. Now in the last of a three-year deal, Molitor has nothing to fall back on, and management could go a different direction.

When hired, Molitor was up against a group that included names such as Doug Mientkiewicz and Torey Lovullo. The other names in consideration were significantly younger than he was, and had a bit more going for them in terms of managerial experience. Molitor was a guy I backed, and thought made sense, but as we've seen, it's been a bumpy road. It's hard to go backwards and consider what could've been at this point, but the past three years lay a blueprint for Minnesota to avoid.

Chief among the issues that plague Molitor are in game decision making, and his relatability to younger players, which is currently the lifeblood of the Twins future. Regarding in game decisions, Minnesota's skipper has done everything from pinch running in odd situations, to making head scratching bullpen moves. In relief, Molitor has latched onto a few guys each year, and ridden them into the ground. For 2017, that name has definitely been Taylor Rogers. Despite running an overflowing bullpen for the bulk of 2017, the same select arms have been used.

There's been select games that one could point to in illustrating bad in game managing or bullpen usage, and there's also been a concerning trend of the same mistakes being made. For Molitor, it seems to boil down to a lack of experience, or an inability to best position the Twins for success. Being paired with help like Jeff Pickler this year, it's probably not something that has gone unnoticed by the men in charge.

Outside of the in game decision making, there's been a confusing inability to develop youth. While not in the clubhouse or involved in any conversations, it appears from the outside that Molitor struggles with relating to the backbone of Minnesota's core. Whether it be Jorge Polanco, Miguel Sano, Byron Buxton, or some other name, Molitor has dropped the ball at times over the past three seasons. Young players have either gone underutilized or put in odd situations at times, and knowing they represent the organization's future, that's more than a little concerning.

In reality, managers in baseball come in somewhere along the middle of the spectrum as far as coaches go. They maybe don't make as many impactful decisions as coaches of other sports do, but the few opportunities they get each night, can have a big influence. Employing an average or mediocre manager may not matter in the standings, but an above average or good choice can absolutely steal you a game or two. Conversely, someone below average as I would argue Molitor has been, can cost a few games over the course of a season. That hasn't mattered in recent memory for Minnesota, but a team with playoff aspirations as soon as next year should want more.

As things stand right now, I'm not sure where Derek Falvey and Thad Levine may turn. I do believe they'll go elsewhere to manage the 2018 Twins, and I don't think they can be faulted for that practice. Molitor is finishing out his contract, and I can't see a scenario in which Minnesota or another organization is lined up to give him more run. Paul Molitor the player was a great one, but as a manager, the Twins will need something more a year from now.

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