Saturday, September 16, 2017

Good bye, Mientkiewicz

Doug Mientkiewicz's
teams in Fort Myers and
Chattanooga finished
first four times in five
Doug Mientkiewicz, who has managed in the Twins system for five years at two different levels, was fired Friday. His was the most prominent firing of three in the farm system (the others being pitching coordinator Eric Rasmussen and Larry Bennese, the trainer at Triple A Rochester).

Mientkiewicz, in an echo of his bitter comments in 2004 when the Twins moved him aside and then traded him to make way for Justin Morneau, reacted acidly to his dismissal. From a Star Tribune story:

“I’m out here working my rear end off, dealing with the remnants of the hurricane, and they call to tell me I’m fired. You think they will ever do something professional as an organization?”
OK, Mientkiewicz is in a stressful situation. He lives in the Florida Keys, and Irma did a number on pretty much everything there. And he has a rather impressive record as a minor league manager. And -- I can speak from experience here -- it's never fun being fired. But it happens to managers, at every level, a lot. And it's not going to do him any good to rip the guys who let him go.

Mientkiewicz interviewed for the big-league job when Ron Gardenhire was fired. He was my personal favorite for the position, but then-general manager Terry Ryan, perhaps with a push from above, picked Paul Molitor instead. Mientkiewicz reportedly was not even the runner-up. It may be worth noting that Mientkiewicz' name has not been connected with any managerial openings around baseball since.

Off what is visible from here, Mientkiewicz's firing makes little sense. He's developed players, and he's won. But much of the job of minor league manager -- major league manager too, for that matter -- is, like an iceberg, submerged and out of view. And Thad Levine, the Twins general manager, is correct in saying that the earlier in the offseason the firing, the better in terms of finding a new job.

I expect media criticism of Mientkiewicz' firing. It will come from the contingent of writers and talkers who can't or won't understand analytics. Mientkiewicz was a pretty reliable "good quote" 15 years ago as a player, and there are several guys with prominent platforms who harbor fond memories of those days yet. They've been itching for something to rip the new regime for. Mientkiewicz gives them an opportunity.

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