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Twins’ Molitor Likely Safe for Now

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July 8, 2018

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The Twins haven’t historically made a habit of firing managers during the season, but that doesn’t stop speculation Paul Molitor’s job could be in jeopardy.

The Twins were predicted to contend for the Central Division title before the season started. Injuries and player performances below expectation have resulted in the team being 10.5 games out of first place as of today and 16 games out of a wild card spot. The club’s 38-48 record puts Minnesota 10 games under .500. The team has lost 10 of its last 16 games, although most recently the club has won three consecutive home games against the Orioles, who have the worst record in the American League at 24-64.

A friend of Molitor who has spent part of his professional career working in the business side of baseball said it’s been an unfortunate first half of the season and he hopes the manager is not “a casualty of it.” Molitor managed the Twins two years ago when they lost 103 games. But last season Minnesota finished with a surprising winning record and earned a wild card spot in the playoffs. “I don’t think he got stupid since last year,” Molitor’s friend said.

Molitor was named the 2017 American League Manager of the Year. He is known for his baseball intellect and steady manner. From the outside he looks like a manager most players would prefer to play for. “He’s a great ambassador for the organization,” the source said. “He’s a world-class guy. I would hate to see anything happen with Paul.”

Sometimes change occurs and it’s not an indictment of the people in charge. Management can decide it’s prudent to have a new leadership voice in the clubhouse. The Twins organization, though, is known for its loyalty and didn’t terminate Ron Gardenhire during seasons when he lost 99, 96 and 92 games. Gardenhire was, however, removed as Twins manager after the 2014 season and following four consecutive years of mostly disappointing results.

Falvey & Levine

Back then Terry Ryan headed the baseball department but he hasn’t been in charge since two years ago. Baseball bosses Derek Falvey and Thad Levine inherited Molitor when club president Dave St. Peter hired them in November of 2016. Last season Molitor was in the last year of his three-year contract and despite a successful summer performance by the team, the two decision makers took their time on a new deal. They waited until the season was over to ask Molitor to return, giving him a reported three-year deal.

There has to be doubt among the many Molitor loyalists on whether Falvey and Levine think they have their ideal field boss. The two decision makers are decades younger than the 61-year-old Molitor. They have also come up through a different era of baseball than Molitor and are data-driven executives.

If the Twins continue to falter this season, Falvey and Levine’s commitment to Molitor will be tested. The two seem like deliberate decision makers and a verdict on Molitor could more likely come after the season than during it. The decision on the manager is likely to be theirs, not that of St. Peter or owner Jim Pohlad who is long ago on record as a Molitor admirer.

If the Twins finish the season with an embarrassing performance and record, the most likely scenario could still be a Molitor return in 2019 but with a revised coaching staff. There’s no doubt most of the team’s failures so far are the result of misfortune with injuries and players not maximizing potential, but coaching always plays a role in team performance. Molitor has some staffers with limited MLB resumes who seem more deserving of scrutiny than the manger.

“This is a lost season,” Molitor’s friend said. “The chances of coming back (at mid-season) are impossible, or near impossible.”

The Molitor supporters just want to know the Hall of Fame player and Minnesota native will be in the dugout next season.

Worth Noting

Didn’t get enough fireworks the last several days? The Twins will have a fireworks show after their game Friday night against the Rays. The first 10,000 fans at Target Field that evening receive an Eddie Rosario bobblehead.

Sports Headliners reader Dana Marshall emailed a reminder that pitcher Eddie Bane made his professional debut 45 years ago on Wednesday, July 4, 1973 at Met Stadium. Bane was selected out of Arizona State by the Twins in the June 1973 amateur draft, and a crowd of 45,890 came out to see the beginning of the left hander’s career on July 4. Although Bane impressed in his debut against the Royals, the Twins didn’t win the game. He only had seven MLB victories during his career.

Former Viking wide receiver Ahmad Rashad is featured in the current issue of Sports Illustrated. The article references the part-time work Rashad did with WCCO TV during his career with the Vikings and how the experience helped his post-football broadcast career.

The feature describes the many relationships in sports and entertainment that have defined Rashad’s life. In Rashad’s 1988 autobiography, he tells of his close friendships with Bill Cosby and O.J. Simpson, according to S.I. More recently he’s known for being pals with Michael Jordan.

The S.I. issue is themed “Where Are They Now?” and among the stories about famous figures from the past is an article on another former Vikings wide receiver, Percy Harvin, who was troubled by severe anxiety during his NFL career and retired early.

Athlon Sports ranks former Eden Prairie star J.D. Spielman, now at Nebraska, the No. 17 wide receiver in college football. Gopher redshirt sophomore safety Antoine Winfield Jr. is one of the 50 most underrated players in college football, per Athlon.

Transfer Noah Rasinsk, after spending the first two seasons of his college career at Concordia University St. Paul, will play for the Gophers this fall and will have two seasons of eligibility. The Lakeville South High School alum was the Golden Bears’ top scorer in each of the past two seasons with an average of 75.64 as a freshman and 73.15 as a sophomore.

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David Shama

David Shama is a former sports editor and columnist with local publications. His writing and reporting experiences include covering the Minnesota Vikings, Minnesota Twins, Minnesota Timberwolves and Minnesota Gophers. Shama’s career experiences also include sports marketing. He is the former Marketing Director of the Minnesota North Stars of the NHL. He is also the former Marketing Director of the United States Tennis Association’s Northern Section. A native of Minneapolis, Shama has been part of the community his entire life. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota where he majored in journalism. He also has a Master’s degree in education from the University of St. Thomas. He was a member of the Governor’s NBA’s Task Force to help create interest in bringing pro basketball to town in the 1980s.

(1) Reader Comment

  1. avatar
    Tom Benemann
    July 12, 2018 at 8:30 pm

    Interesting that Shama goes to a former coach instead of the current one for a quote on a rule change

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