Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Beginning the Molitor Era

Paul Molitor will be introduced as Twins
manager Tuesday morning.
The Twins made it official Monday: Paul Molitor will be the new manager.

I was pulling for Doug Mientkiewicz, but the Molitor selection neither surprises nor dismays me. Terry Ryan knows more about the candidates than I do, and he has skin in this game. I don't.

There is one sizable drawback to Molitor: He has never managed on any level. That does not seem to be as significant a deterrent to getting the job as it once was. Indeed, as I observed about a month ago here, half the teams in the division series were skippered by men on their first managerial job.

Molitor does have some obvious advantages. First, he is quite familiar with several of the key players coming up the ladder from his years as a roving instructor. Second, he is open to analytics, probably more so than was Ron Gardenhire. Third, Molitor is a known figure to the major league players after spending 2014 on the coaching staff, several of whom have gushed about Molitor's knowledge.

Which ties into the one attribute any manager absolutely must have: He has the respect of the players. He's a Hall of Famer, to start with, and while the managerial track record of truly great players isn't all that striking, it is a credential that figures to command at least the initial respect of everybody.

The general rap on great players as managers is that they can't identify with the struggles of lesser athletes, and by definition most players are lesser athletes than Paul Molitor was. Given the high marks he's gotten in the past for his work with minor leaguers, I don't think that's going to be an issue for him.

Molitor was widely viewed during his playing days as a manager-in-waiting. For whatever reasons -- and I don't think it was just one reason -- it hasn't happened until now. Molitor is 58, and that's fairly old for a first-time manager. That is a minor checkmark against him, and part of why I was interested in Mientkiewicz. The odds are that Molly won't have a decade-plus run in the job as Gardenhire and Tom Kelly did. That doesn't mean he can't be a success.

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