Monday, November 3, 2014

Challenges Facing Paul Molitor's Managerial Career

Well the wait is finally over. It took the Twins over a month and multiple interviews to finally settle on the man many believed would be the guy for the job from the beginning.

Paul Molitor will be named the 13th manager in Twins history at the beginning of this week. He will also be only the third manager in nearly the last three decades following in the line of Tom Kelly (1986-2001) and Ron Gardenhire (2002-2014). Molitor takes over a Twins team that has lost 92 or more games in each of the last four seasons.

Some fans will be very excited with the hiring of Molitor, the St. Paul native and Hall-of-Fame hitter.The hire won't be seen as much of a surprise but his baseball IQ has been lauded and he will be a new voice at the helm. However, there will be numerous challenges facing during his first managerial tenure.

1. Hiring a Coaching Staff
These will be some of the most interesting decisions to watch at the beginning of Molitor's career. Many familiar names could end up back on Molitor's staff. Tom Brunansky has been considered a very good hitting instructor and this could mean he's kept in the fold. Terry Steinbach also has a likely chances to stick around. It will be interesting to see if Triple-A manager Gene Glynn gets asked to join the staff after being passed over for the managerial job. Frank Viola, a Triple-A pitching coach in the Mets organization, seemed interested in the role with the Twins if he was presented the opportunity. It would also be nice to have a Spanish speaking coach on the roster to help with some of the younger Hispanic players.

2. Tampering Expectations
This isn't going to be a quick turnaround and Molitor isn't going to be a miracle worker. It was rumored that Molitor was offered the opportunity to take over for Gardenhire in July 2013. Even if he had taken over the squad at that time, it's hard to imagine the club winning a ton more games last year. The roster wasn't built to win in 2014 or 2015 so fans are going to have to be patient with Molitor. He's never had a managerial gig so he might have to learn some of the nuances of the job on the fly.

3. Building for the Future
The core of the 2015 Twins will be relatively young and the squad is only going to be getting younger as some of their younger prospects make their way to Target Field. Top prospects Alex Meyer, Miguel Sano, and Byron Buxton could all make their debuts next season with plenty of hype surrounding each of their arrivals. Other young players like Oswaldo Arcia, Danny Santana, and Kennys Vargas made a big impact last season. Molitor has also been given a lot of credit for helping Brian Dozier with the transition to second base and his breakout season on the base paths last year.

4. Pushing the Core Four
Joe Mauer needs to get back to the Joe Mauer of old. Brian Dozier needs to make strides on the defensive side of the ball while continuing to put up strong offensive numbers. Phil Hughes is coming off a record breaking season on the mound and he needs to lead a pitching staff that could contain some younger members. Trevor Plouffe is also coming off his best season at the plate and in the field. Can Molitor continue to help this core four to make strides? Each of these men will be key during Molitor's first couple of seasons as manager.

5. Changing the Coaching Culture
In his first season as a member of the Twins coaching staff, Molitor was in charge of defensive shifts. These types of shifts have started to become common across the baseball universe and the Twins can continue to improve in this area. One of the best frustrating things about Gardenhire was his inability to utilize a platoon system when there were players on the roster who would have greatly benefited from this kind of usage. Molitor has been around the game of baseball for decades but will this mean that we get more of the same old thinking. The hope is that he will be much more open to the changing culture of the game versus the previous regime.

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