Decision On Paul Molitor Looming
Image courtesy of Daniel MickIn the very near future, the Twins organization will make a decision on Paul Molitor. They will either sign him to another multi-year deal, or they will tell him that they are not going to renew his contract and a search will begin.
One of the reasons given for letting Doug Mientkiewicz know right away that he was not going to be brought back as a minor league manager was so that he would have time to look for and potentially obtain another job. Managers and coaches are generally fired or let go within days of the end of the season so that the team can start its search right away.
So the big question that the Twins have to answer in the very near future is whether or not to bring back Paul Molitor as the team’s manager. By all indications, Molitor would like to come back and continue the progress made this season. Darren Wolfson reiterated on 1500ESPN’s Wild Card post game show Tuesday night that as of very recently, Molitor had not yet been approached about an extension.
So should the Twins bring back Paul Molitor, or should Derek Falvey and Thad Levine move forward with their own managerial choice?
There are many ways to look at it, so I did a little research to try to find out what makes a good manager. While it’s easier to think of what makes a good baseball manager, some principals required for a good manager in the business world should also be considered. The front office has said on several occasions that they hope to bring in people and ideas from a variety of disciplines in an attempt to obtain new ideas and new ways of thinking.
So here are a few characteristics that make a good manager in business or on the baseball field. As you read them, think about which Molitor may or may not fully meet the requirements of.
Here’s the reality, however. Much of what makes a good manager in any business can not be seen by outside observers.Much of what makes Paul Molitor a good manager (or not, if that's the thought) happens behind closed doors. I am fortunate to have spent some time in the clubhouse during spring training and a couple of times each year at Target Field. I see a cohesive group. I see a manager who has the respect of his players. I talk to players who speak very highly of their manager. But we see and hear only a small part. What happens in the clubhouse or on the phone or when no media is present and no fans are around is where much leadership tends to happen. So as much as we hear and as much as I may present below, it is only a small part of what makes a good manager or leader.
#1 - Goals and Results Oriented
In the “real” world, companies set goals for sales, revenues, safety and more. Often managers are judged by how their groups perform relative to those goals. A performance review may have categories such as Doesn’t Meet Expectations, Meets Expectations and Exceeds Expectations.
While Twins players, Molitor and the front office often said that they didn’t want to set any sort of Wins expectations or limitations for the season, you have to think that Molitor and the Twins exceeded expectations in 2017. You can also say that they didn’t meet expectations in 2016, and that they met expectations in 2015 when they were in playoff contention until the final weekend.
What we don’t know in this category is what goals and results and expectations were presented by Falvey and Levine to Molitor. Wins and losses are ultimately what matter in the big leagues, but the front office may have other metrics or data points that it will factor into their decision. Talent level factors in as well.
Clearly the big picture goal as laid out by the front office from the time they were hired and introduced is a sustainable, championship-caliber team and organization. Derek Falvey and Thad Levine need to determine if it is Paul Molitor who can take them there.
#2 - Assertiveness
Does a manager have to be assertive? I guess there can be several levels of assertiveness, but in the end the key is that everyone knows that the manager is in charge. While Molitor generally exudes a quiet, calm demeanor, his players understand that he’s in charge. He has clearly gained confidence leading this team, and the team responded.
On the other side, Molitor certainly is aware of who his bosses are and works well with them too.
#3 - Delegation
While the manager has to understand and pass on the organization’s goals while being in charge, he also has to delegate responsibilities. The Twins brought in a few new coaches in 2017, and Molitor certainly seems to have allowed them to do their jobs.
There appeared to be clear responsibilities for each coach. There appeared to be more communication. We read and heard about how Molitor worked closely each day with the front office and his coaches in developing game plans, understanding the advanced statistics and how to implement. The challenges have been taking the numbers, making them meaningful and figuring out how to present them to the players to make them usable.
Sure, the global vision for the organization now comes from Derek Falvey. There was a lot of oversight and evaluation in his first season. How that vision was forwarded to Molitor and from him to the players is how Molitor’s delegation abilities will likely be evaluated.
It’s a very broad term and ties to the areas above, but Molitor was the leader. He seemed to understand the strengths of his players and coaches and worked with them individually to bring out their best. He showed good patience through player struggles, delegated work to his coaches and motivated the players. Several players had tough stretches and yet look at how many Twins players had breakout years or returned to form.
Any worker will respond best to a boss who they believe is real, is authentic. They need to believe that their boss has their back and truly cares about them. They need to know that their boss has been where they are. They need to believe that their boss (manager) is working as hard at his craft and understanding the game and preparing as they are. They want to know that he has a passion for what he does and a will to be great.
Those four characteristics are filled with things that we as fans can’t know. We don’t know how Molitor would grade in these categories. We see pieces of them when FSN shows him in the dugout. We get snippets of Molitor’s personality and thought-process from his post-game interviews or the quotes he provides to the media before and after the games.
We can’t see what is happening behind the scenes, but we do see what happens in a game, at least on the field.
We can see the lineups every day. Obviously. But that gives us 162 (and with the Wild Card game, 163) data points. While we aren’t going to agree with every spot in every lineup, there can be trends. Brian Dozier stayed in the leadoff role. Joe Mauer was primarily batting second. After that, it would change from month to month, week to week and sometimes game by game. Molitor was clearly developing and showing a willingness to go with the hot hand, to play matchups, to break up lefties, to use platoon splits and more. He gave Jorge Polanco four games off and had him working on things ,and when he returned to the lineup, he took off. By season’s end, he often had Polanco, Rosario, Escobar and Buxton hitting 3-6. Think about that. That’s a willingness to adapt. Of course there are several unknowns that go into it, such as family situations, minor illnesses, who is taking great rounds of batting practice or impressing the coaches with extra work.
Bunting… yes, we all hate bunting. At least we hate bunting in most situations. The Twins bunted as much as (OK, more than) any team in baseball. How did the front office feel about that? Obviously Falvey, Levine, that analytics folks, Jeff Pickler were involved in those daily discussions, and I’m certain it would have come up in discussions, yet Molitor continued to bunt quite often. Does that mean that the front office approved of that strategy, or they could use it as a negative data point for Molitor? And even if it is, relative to everything else, how important is it?
Many question Molitor’s bullpen usage, much as they questioned Ron Gardenhire’s bullpen usage. I wonder if Tom Kelly’s bullpen usage (or Sam Mele’s) would have been questioned to this extent had Twitter and other social media been around in those years. That’s pretty normal.
To be fair, there were not a lot of givens in the Twins bullpen this year. Brandon Kintzler earned his closer’s role and did well. Taylor Rogers was fantastic against lefties and righties in a great first half. He probably was used too much, but things were going so well. It took Molitor a few too many outings to realize that his splits against right-handers caught up to the mean, but that’s also understandable. Molitor stood behind Matt Belisle through his early-season struggles and that paid off. He didn’t use Trevor Hildenberger or Alan Busenitz in high-leverage situations for a while, but as they got the job done in low-leverage situations, Molitor trusted them more and they responded well. Over 162 games, it’s going to be impossible for any manager to use a bullpen in an ideal manner. And, how much of a role does (or should) the pitching coach have in bullpen assignments?
These are just some of the in-game decisions that a manager can be judged upon, and even for each of them we don’t necessarily understand the full picture.
So, Derek Falvey and Thad Levine have a tough decision to make. Or maybe they don’t. What do you think? Should Paul Molitor be brought back? Should Paul Molitor be brought back? Will he? At this point, only Falvey and Levine know, but the rest of us will learn soon. If there’s one thing I know, it’s that the Twins front office has given it more thought and likely had many more data points than we do.
- brvama, Cory Engelhardt, Broker and 1 other like this