Twins seek new direction with Gardenhire dismissal
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The search has begun for a new manager of the Minnesota Twins for the first time in 13 years. After four straight seasons of at least 92 losses, the mandate to find a fresh perspective in the dugout has been made clear.
“We’re going to change the voice and change the presence,” general manager Terry Ryan said.
This is an organization that has historically promoted from within. In discussing Ron Gardenhire’s dismissal this week, both Ryan and team President Dave St. Peter acknowledged their belief in the benefits of hiring an internal candidate. Can the Twins do that and steer the team new direction at the same time?
“We’ll certainly open it up to anybody and everybody that is capable of managing a major league baseball team. I don’t think we ought to just stay within, although that would be a nice preference if you could,” Ryan said. “That will be addressed and certainly explored, but also there are people outside the organization you should consider. We’ll get it done as soon as we can.”
Ryan added: “It’d be nice to get a guy that’s inside because he knows the workings of this organization and the market and the ballpark and the personnel. That would be great, but sometimes it’s not meant to be.”
Paul Molitor has been widely assumed as a favorite to succeed Gardenhire since he was added to the coaching staff for the 2014 season. Born and raised across the river in St. Paul, a product of the same high school as Twins first baseman Joe Mauer, Molitor has “Hall of Fame member” on his resume plus a long list of tributes from players in the organization who’ve worked with him during his 10 years as a roving minor league instructor.
Though Molitor is an internal candidate with strong roots to the Twin Cities area, that doesn’t mean he’s in the same mold or from a similar style as Gardenhire. Molitor was the team’s bench coach in 2000-01 under manager Tom Kelly, but he withdrew from consideration when Kelly retired due to the unsettledness around a franchise on the verge of being eliminated by MLB owners. Gardenhire got the job and kept it for 13 years.
Molitor took a step back before rejoining the organization in 2003 to teach minor leaguers about base running and infield play. He was Seattle’s hitting coach in 2004 but came back to the Twins the following year.
Second baseman Brian Dozier is a proud protege, having worked with Molitor two years ago during his transition from shortstop on footwork and positioning.
“He takes so much time and effort to do that one thing, to get it down 100 percent correct, to get all the information we need ... whether that’s offense or defense or whatever it is,” Dozier said. “He’s probably the most knowledgeable guy about the game of baseball I’ve ever been around.”
That would clearly fit with Ryan’s stated preference of qualities for the position.
“We want him to be a strategy guy. I’d like to have him be an attention-to-detail guy. He’s got to be a leader, a tactician, handle the media, involved in the community, take an interest in our minor leagues and scouting and so forth, have a grasp of the organizational policies,” Ryan said.
Molitor’s influence on the up-and-coming players would certainly figure to work in his favor.
“Maybe a manager brings less to a more veteran team, but a manager can bring a ton to a younger team,” owner Jim Pohlad said.
This will be Ryan’s most important decision since he returned to his post in 2012, and the entire organization has taken the failures of the last four years seriously enough to realize the importance of assessing outside-of-the-box options.
Among the other potential internal candidates are bench coach Terry Steinbach, former first baseman and current Class A Fort Myers manager Doug Mientkiewicz, and Triple-A Rochester manager Gene Glynn.
With so many young players from Venezuela, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, a Spanish-speaking manager could be a wise move, so New York Yankees bench coach Tony Pena might be considered. Pena interviewed with Ryan in 2001 and was hired the following year as Kansas City’s manager. Other well-regarded bench coaches around the majors include Dave Martinez of Tampa Bay, Chip Hale of Oakland and Torey Luvollo of Boston.
Lots of options outside. Still, that lure toward the inside will be strong.
“Just because folks have been inside,” St. Peter said, “doesn’t mean that we don’t believe they could be successful if given the platform to have their voice heard and that they couldn’t be a part of establishing that winning culture.”