When the Minnesota Twins hired Hall of Famer Paul Molitor to manage the Twins starting with the 2015 season they had to know that they were swimming up-stream and that the baseball gods were against them. The list of “modern” MLB Hall of Fame players that tried their luck as managers is relatively short and none of them have turned out to be Hall of Fame managers.
Frank Robinson may have been the best of the skippers that had Hall of Fame on his resume. Robinson managed four different teams (Indians, Giants, Orioles, Expos/Nationals) over 16 seasons from 1975-2006. Robinson took over the Orioles manager duties in 1988 after they had an 0-6 record and he managed them to 15 more consecutive losses before they won their first game of the season after an 0-21 start. The next season (1989) Frank Robinson was selected as the AL Manager of the year after leading his team to a second place finish and a 87-75 record. Although he may have been the best manager of the Hall of Fame group, he finished his managing career with zero playoff appearances. His career mark as a manager was 1,065-1,176 (.475).
Yogi Berra managed for all or parts of five season with two New York clubs, the Yankees and the Mets. Although his career managing record was 484-444, he did take both the Mets and Yankees to a pennant.
Bob Lemon managed for all or parts of eight seasons between 1970-1982 and had a lifetime managing record of 430 and 403 with the Royals, White Sox and Yankees. He does have two pennants and a World Series championship on his resume but in both of these cases he took over the job during the season and never managed a team to a pennant from start to finish.
Ted Williams managed the Washington Senators from 1969 through 1972 when he called it quits. He led the Senators to a 86-76 record in his first season (1969) as the Senators skipper but in 1970 his team was 70-92, in 1971 the team was 63-96, and in 1972 he was 54-100. Do you see a trend here? His career mark as a manager was 273-364 (.429) and zero play-off appearances.
Ryne Sandberg took over as skipper of the Phillies 44 games into the 2013 season and left after a 26-48 start to the 2015 season. Sandberg had a 119-159 mark as a skipper during his Phillies tenure.
Paul Molitor was hired to be the Twins manager prior to the 2015 season and todate his record as a manager stands at 94-113 (.454). Molitor took over a team that had not won more games than it lost since 2010 and in 2015 he led them to a 83-79 record. At first glance does not seem that bad over all, but, there is always that but. In May of 2015 the Twins were 20-7, if you subtract that month Molitor managed the team to a 63-72 record. This year Molitor’s record is 15-35, the team is playing at a lousy .300 winning percentage but even that starts to look good when you look at their road record of 7-20 (.259). You want to see more? The Twins are 0-6 against the White Sox, 0-6 against the Tigers, and 1-5 against the Royals but on the positive side they are 4-2 against the Indians. A record of 5-19 in your own division does not cut it, it is totally unacceptable even if you are playing just for fun and the Twins are certainly not playing for the fun of it.
Back in 1964 Rocky Bridges a long time minor league manager and a big league ballplayer for all or parts of 11 seasons between 1951-1961 played for seven different teams including the Washington Senators (where he was an All-Star shortstop in 1958) was quoted as saying “I managed good, but boy did they play bad”. Bridges said that in jest but I think the Minnesota Twins and Paul Molitor use it as their day-to-day philosophy. By the way, there is a real nice story about Rocky Bridges in Sports Illustrated (August 17, 1964) that you can find here.
This Twins team seems to have zero leadership both from above and from the players themselves. I think the players on this team respect Molitor for the HOF he was as a player but they don’t believe in him as a manager. If the players don’t buy in then it makes no difference if Molitor is a good manager or not, the team will not win and the team is not winning at a historical pace. In the first 44 games Molitor used 40 different line-ups, you could argue that because of the poor play he needed to do that but you could also argue that they played that bad because they have had no stability from day one. The pitching is a disaster both from the starters and from the bullpen, Molitor has no clue about managing his pitching, abuses his bullpen and his pitching coach (prior to his suspension on May 26) Neil Allen doesn’t even seem to exist. The team has two hitting coaches and the team is 12th or worse in the 15 team American league in runs (15th), hits (12th), HR’s (12th), SO (12th), AVG (13th), SLG and OPS (15th), and 14th in TB. How do you explain the Twins slow starts the last two years? In 2015 they started with one win in their first seven games and in 2016 they were 0-9 before they won their first game.
GM Terry Ryan and President Dave St. Peter are the leaders and both of them are responsible for their players and the decisions they have made. Both are very good men and I think they are willing to take responsibility for the mess the Twins find themselves in this season. When you are the decision makers in an organization you take the bad with the good. You make the big bucks and you take the glory when your team wins but you also have to take the flogging and beatings from the fans when your team plays like crap.
The time is coming very quickly where the Twins will have to decide if manager Paul Molitor and his coaching staff, GM Terry Ryan, and President Dave St. Peter should keep their jobs or if the organization needs to look for a new identity. The wheels in the Twins organization have always turned slowly under Pohlad ownership and they have almost always let the professionals such as Terry Ryan and Dave St. Peter run the show. How long is the leash that Jim Pohlad is using now?
The Twins have said over the years that one of the reasons that Tom Kelly did as well as a manager as he did was because he managed many of his players in the minors and helped them grow up. Does that mean that maybe the Twins should look seriously at bring in a Jake Mauer or Doug Mientkiewicz? Do you just write off 2016 and let things go until the season comes to an end or should the Twins start the ball rolling now and bring in some new blood?
GM Terry Ryan and President Dave St. Peter have had their jobs for many years and have earned many accolades for their work, I understand that. But sometimes you become just to comfortable in your job and you are basically just doing what has always worked in the past and for the most part just going through the motions. I worked in the same company for 38+ years and had a variety of duties. I can tell you that in the beginning of a new job you are bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and eager to learn, then you enter the next phase, which is the most dangerous, the phase where you think you know all there is to know about your job, and finally you enter the third and final phase where you take shortcuts or skip tasks because you can get away with it, you have put your job on autopilot and you won’t admit it to anyone but you are bored stiff and you are not interested in learning the new ways. People that do the same job for years on end lose the ability to think outside the box and find it difficult to deviate from the way that they have always done things because they always worked n the past. I am not saying that new is always better because in many cases it is not but at the same time you have to be open to new ways of skinning the cat. Age catches up with you, we need to continue to be challenged to be good at what we do, doing the same things year after year leads to trouble.