Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Goodbye, Molitor

It's easier to fire the manager than to fire 25 players. The Twins might spend a lot of this offseason doing both.

Starting with Paul Molitor, relieved of his managerial duties Tuesday.

Not everything that went wrong for the 2018 Twins can be fairly blamed on the manager.

It's not on Molitor that Ervin Santana's finger didn't heal with an offseason of rest or recover from surgery. Nor is it his fault that Jorge Polanco got busted for steroids or that Jason Castro's knee gave way.

But ... this was a team with the highest payroll in club history, it was expected to contend, and it didn't. The fielding was poor and the baserunning worse. And, perhaps most crucially, the young core at the heart of the roster did not develop. Even Eddie Rosario and Jose Berrios only duplicated their 2017 performances. The Twins enter this offseason far less certain of what they have than they were a year ago.

Dumping Molitor was always a possibility once Terry Ryan was ousted as the head of the Twins baseball operations. Molitor was forced on the front office duo of Derek Falvey and Thad Levine two offseasons ago; now they get to hire a manager of their own choosing.

Still, I was a bit surprised at the news Tuesday. Not only did Molitor still have two years left to run on his contract, he seemed -- with the possible exception of whether Polanco is a bona fide shortstop -- to mesh well with their new front office's analytic bent.

The Twins on Tuesday also dismissed their longtime major league strength and conditioning coordinator and a number of minor league coaches. It seems likely that there will be further changes on the major league staff. Slowly but surely, the Ryan-era figures -- players, managers, coaches -- are giving way to the new regime. In some cases, it seems, they are being ousted simply because they were there when the new guys showed up.

That may not be fair, but that's pretty routine around baseball. We're just not used to that in Minnesota.

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