Spending four hours a day on the radio discussing sports leaves one plenty of opportunities to make statements that don’t end up looking too wise.
One example of this came during the summer of 2016 as the Minnesota Twins fell apart early, never recovered and lost a franchise-record 103 games.
Paul Molitor’s first season as the Twins manager had gone better than anyone could have expected – he guided what had been a struggling franchise to an 83-79 finish and a second-place finish in the AL Central – but the debacle of 2016 led to the conclusion that an overhaul was needed a nearly every level.
The first discussion about whether Molitor should be fired might have come as early as May and as the losses mounted so did the feeling that his tenure in the Twins dugout would be brief. But when general manager Terry Ryan was fired in July, Twins owner Jim Pohlad surprised everyone by announcing that the only person his new baseball boss would not be allowed to replace was Molitor.
This seemed like ownership dysfunction at the highest level, but chief baseball officer Derek Falvey and general manager Thad Levine had no choice but to go along with Pohlad’s edict when they took the job last fall.
Why would you stick with a guy who lost 103 games? You have to make change! That was the feeling articulated on the airwaves of 1500 ESPN.
He embraced Falvey and Levine’s baseball guidance, mixing analytics with his baseball savvy, and led the Twins to an 85-77 record and their first playoff berth since 2010. The 26-win improvement marked the greatest one-year improvement in club history.
On Tuesday, Molitor was rewarded for overseeing that turnaround by being named the American League Manager of the Year by the Baseball Writers Association of America.
The Twins lost to the New York Yankees in the AL wild card game, but with a solid group of young players in place and a front office that is expected to potentially add top-line pitching help this offseason, expectations are that Molitor should have a very good chance to lead the Twins back to the postseason in 2018.
Molitor managed this past season on the last year of his original contract, but was rewarded with a three-year extension in October. I can assure you when news of the extension came down, there were no complaints expressed this time around.