When I got home from the Twins game Friday night and heard the news that the Twins had fired Doug Mientkiewicz, do you know what the first thing I did was?
Let out a blood curdling scream like a Klingon does when another Klingon dies. I called my Mom.
I called my Mom to tell her I loved her, and that the Twins just fired Doug Mientkiewicz. I still remember the day she went to the Twins versus Red Sox game at the Dome, came home, found out the Twins traded Doug to the Red Sox, cried, and went and watched him play first base, at the Dome, the next day, for the opposing team. She was devastated. We all were. Doug Mientkiewicz is an absolutely beloved Twin and will always be.
Surprisingly, my Mom didn’t seem so concerned when I told her about Doug’s firing Friday night. “Well, they must have had a reason,” she told me. On a logical level, that has to be true. It’s not like the front office was just playing Russian roulette, going through their phone book and randomly calling people and firing them, right? It was perfectly Derek Falvey and Thad Levine’s right to fire Doug.
But why did they do it? Doug has been managing in the Twins’ minor leagues for five years. His first year on the job, 2013, he managed the Ft. Myers Miracle to a Florida State League playoff birth and was named the Florida State League’s Manager of the Year. The next season, Doug managed the Miracle to a Florida State League Championship. In 2015, Doug became the manager of the Double-A Chattanooga Lookouts, and guess what he did there? He won the Southern League Championship. The whole thing. Doug moved back to Florida this year to manage the Miracle so he was closer to his family, and he yet again managed them to the playoffs.
Doug was even one of the finalists for the major league managing job after the Twins fired Ron Gardenhire. He lost out to Paul Molitor, who had no previous managing experience.
Now, maybe your retort here will be, “Well, it was the players who won. Doug was managing minor league teams with guys like Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano, so of course he won.” Partly true—but that also means he helped develop a lot of the best players the Twins now have. He was a huge part of that. He cares about those guys, and they care about him. Of the admittedly few minor and major league players I’ve personally talked to before this even happened, they always went out of their way to credit Doug Mientkiewicz. Players love him. They love playing for him.
Why? Because Doug is direct. He’s honest. He speaks his mind. He doesn’t hold back. I mean, we’re talking about A.J. Pierzynski’s best friend here. AND—maybe most importantly—he defends his players. Always. Players like playing for managers like that, and managers who players like playing for tend to do well. He cares.
I won’t be surprised to see the players also defend him. As Doug himself told Mike Berardino via text message:
“Minor leagues are about development. All my guys are winning up there. They want to win games? The teams I’ve had have always won. Ask any player I had in that clubhouse if I helped them.”
So why did the Twins’ brass fire Doug? I don’t know. Doug doesn’t know. He wasn’t given any explanation. He got a phone call, while trying to help repair his and his neighbors’ homes in the Key West after Hurricane Irma—a call not even from Falvey or Levine themselves—telling him he no longer had a job. That was it. No explanation
But the theories about why he was fired are out there, the prevailing (and most logical one) being that Falvine just didn’t get along with him. It makes sense. Mientkiewicz has been known to butt heads with everyone, from Kenny Lofton, to Red Sox fans, to an opposing minor league manager he literally ran out of the dugout and tackled on the field one time, and that time earlier this year the umpires ejected him before a minor league game even started.
What makes me so mad is that sort of attitude—Doug’s attitude—is what I felt the Twins need so much. Doug is not dumb. Doug is not inconsiderate. Doug loves (or loved) this organization quite possibly more than anyone in the entire world. Most importantly, Doug wants to win. More than anything. And that’s what he did.
Apparently, the Twins front office doesn’t feel the same.
Thad Levine has come out and said the timing of their firing was supposed to be a favor. According to Levine, firing Doug now gives him more time to find a new job. That is bullshit. No one is hiring managers right now. The season is still ongoing! Even Jim Souhan thinks this was carried out terribly. Jesus Christ.
I am so angry.