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Paul Molitor: The case against

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Whenever I contemplate a managerial change at any level of professional sports, I usually use this maxim: make a case against him/her. It's easy to play "armchair quarterback" and toss out this criticism or that, but the fact of the matter is that most managers/coaches are good at what they do. If they weren't, they likely would not have ascended to the highest level of their respective sport.

For example, back in 2014, my case against Ron Gardenhire was three-fold: his seemingly utter defiance of analytics, a relationship with GM Terry Ryan that seemed to be souring, and body language that indicated he had lost some of his zeal for the day-to-day grind of managing a big league ball club.

With the Twins currently sitting at 36-48 and the ultra-competitive portion of the season having come to a close (barring some sort of complete lunacy transpiring in the AL Central), I am of the opinion that Paul Molitor should not be the manager of this ball club come 2019. Here is my case against Molly...

-He manages every game like it is Game 7 of the World Series (primarily taxing the bullpen to unsustainable levels). Now, I'm not one to support "tanking". In fact, I consider it perhaps as big a problem as any that faces MLB these days. Too many teams just throw in the towel at the beginning of each season, and to a certain extent I think that cheapens the integrity of the sport. Anyway, that is a bit different of an issue than what I am getting at with Molitor. During his tenure here, young arms (especially out of the pen) don't seem to be given as much of a chance as opposed to "the guys he trusts". Case in point: Matt Belisle vs. Allan Busenitz. There is no logical explanation for why Belisle continues to log innings on this major league club and Busenitz (whose "clock has already been started") is often the guy sent down to accommodate it. At some point, we have to move into the future arms, especially when the talent differential isn't all that wide of a gulf. This type of managing is also illustrated in Molitor severely overworking a hot-hand Ryan Pressley earlier this season, putting him in games where we were down by 3-4 runs "just to keep us in the game". That style may work in the postseason, or with a team that is obviously better than the current Twins iteration, but for now it seems to be a rather short-sighted approach.

-He doesn't show the emotion on the field that he did as a coach on Gardy's staff. Oddly enough, this was the reason I liked the Molitor hire in the first place! In 2014, I remember going to games and seeing Molly on the top step of the dugout seemingly directing all the in-game traffic, while Gardy slumped over the bench in the corner. I realize that sitting in the "big chair" has different (and greater) responsibilities than being a coach, but Molly seems to have lost some of that fire. There have been times this year where I wanted him to argue a bit more for our guys, and he just won't do it, even in light of something like a horrible umpiring call against us. I'd never advocate for firing a coach for "not chewing out umps enough" alone, but his stoicism as field general is starting to rub me the wrong way.

-He's a "lame duck" hire to begin with, only retaining his job because the Pohlads mandated it when Falvey & Levine came onboard. "Falvine" deserves a chance to pick their own manager, and this rift (imagined or real) cannot help in constructing a coaching staff. Either the GM has the power or the manager does, and it really can't be both. Because of Molitor's odd situation, the Twins have not achieved any clarity in this matter.

-For a man who has been lauded for years as a "base running guru" (both for this organization and others), the 2018 Twins have been very poor on the base paths. Here are some base running statistics from this season so far: https://www.baseball-reference.com/leagues/MLB/2018-baserunning-batting.shtml While the Twins aren't the worst in a lot of these categories, they are certainly closer to the bottom than the top in most of them. So, one could make the case that four years into his term, and his team has gotten worse on the base paths rather than better. Yes, we have been without Buxton for most of the season, but we've also been without Sano too, so I'll say those two things cancel each other out. Perhaps the greatest quantifiable aspect he could bring to this team has not been fully realized, in other words.

-Finally, when Molitor has done "well" (Twins winning), the team has been slightly above average. When he's done "poorly" (Twins losing), the bottom has dropped out of two seasons (one more so than any other Twins season before it). This is very troubling to me, as all teams (even championship ones) face adversity each season. It is tough to see Molitor taking us on a deep postseason run when he hasn't yet shown the ability to stop the landslide of two of the last three seasons (granted, I realize we still have almost half a season still to go in '18).

To me, then, and I'm going to steal a football analogy here, Molitor seems like a great coordinator but perhaps not quite suited for the top coaching spot. Norv Turner was one of the best offensive coordinators in NFL history, yet every time he was given a head coaching position he was gone within a few seasons. Closer to home, the Vikings saw excellent position coaches like Mike Tice (offensive line) & defense (Leslie Frazier) ascend to the head honcho spot, and not be able to handle the mode. I'll never say that Molitor isn't "good enough" (to use an all-encompassing phrase) to be a major league manager (I don't nearly know enough about him personally to make such a statement), but I wonder if perhaps he is best suited as a top-level coach on a staff.

My thoughts on the matter aside, I think it is reasonable to state that (once again) Molly will be managing for his job down the stretch here in '18. If the team continues to slide downward, I think Falvey & Levine will pull the trigger and find someone new. If the team gets a little healthier and catches a spark, then it might be a bit tougher of a decision. My take right now, however, is that I'm comfortable moving on no matter what happens in the remaining 70+ games this year.