The Twins have named Paul Molitor "Mr. Manager," just their 3rd manager since the unfortunate breakout of Motley Crue. Molitor takes over a team that has lost a completely lame number of games since 2011. He will be given the massive task of transforming a young, talented, but super green team into a group of gritty winners who can battle. Hopefully, he can teach them more than "battling" because I think that might have been the previous manager's undoing.
Molitor is 58. He will be the seventh-oldest manager in the Majors, unless some of the open jobs go to older people. That seems unlikely, as the MLB manager trend seems to be trending younger. Terry Collins is the oldest MLB manager, about seven years older than Molitor. Joe Maddon is two years older, Bruce Bochy is a a year-and-a-half older, Ned Yost is a year older and Buck Showalter is a couple months older. Three of those managers have managed in the World Series and Showalter is considered to be a great manager despite not reaching that plateau. Oh, Ron Roenicke is three days older than Molitor too, but I'll be honest, I don't know who that is.
This SI.com article is a great illustration of the young manager trend. There's a pretty swank chart. If you look at managers hired between 2012 and 2014, nearly all are 51 or under (14 of 18). Only Bobby Valentine, hired by the Red Sox before the 2012 season, was older than 54 when hired. That hire worked about as well as slipping a free album into an iTunes account. MLB teams are hiring younger managers and the Twins have gone in the opposite direction.
Maybe Molitor isn't that old in spirit! He was at the Pearl Jam concert a few weeks ago. Of course, Pearl Jam's members are all in their 50s and their breakout album is only slightly younger than Oswaldo Arcia, so that might not actually be a point in his favor. The concert was tremendous though.
Looking back at that chart, only two of the managers older than 50 were hired with no MLB managing experience: Ryne Sandberg and Bryan Price. The others were experienced managers: Valentine, Ozzie Guillen, John Gibbons, John Farrell, Terry Francona and Lloyd McClendon. Molitor is older and less experienced than the average new hire. This is an odd combination and certainly one that goes against the grain. In fact, it there might not even be a grain.
The proverbial third strike against Molitor is in-group bias. The Twins LOVE in-group bias. When given the choice between someone in their "family" or some dirty outsider, they'll take their kin just about every time. Molitor joined the Twins' family late, playing his final three season with the team. However, he made a lasting impression, as the Twins have seemingly adopted him as one of their own. It helps that Molitor is from Minnesota, went to high school in Minnesota and went to college in Minnesota. We LOVE Minnesota.
And really, why wouldn't we? Loons? That's a dumb reason.
That said, his hire does reek of "playing it safe," a common Twins-related criticism. In fact, it's one of the few consistent criticisms that come from me. The Twins do err on the side of caution. They also err on the side of familiarity. In my opinion, being safe, cautious and familiar can help you win a lot of Division titles, but won't help you win a World Series.
Was Molitor the right choice? Given the options, he probably was. The Twins didn't seem to conduct an exhaustive search and the finalists were all brand-new managers, so the Twins picked the green guy they liked the most. At least Molitor has been around the MLB team. The other two finalists were younger, but they aren't really any more likely to be good managers than Molitor. They have some managerial experience and Molitor doesn't, but he'll learn. He's smart.
But then again, what do managers really do? Talk to the media after games? Make up silly nicknames? Bunt and steal? Make lineups? Haven't we already proved that none of this can be fully quantified? What if the real purpose of the manager is to make sure the players look nice in their uniforms by comparison? Molitor is in good shape, but he's still older than his players. They should look real sharp.
Beyond that, a manager? Who cares. Ron Gardenhire was both a good manager and a bad manager while managing the Twins, but he was pretty much always the same guy. When the team is good, Molitor will be a good manager and when the team is bad, he'll be a bad manager.
Molitor will be given the nearly impossible task of turning around a team that might not be completely invested in turning things around. The front office has not done the manager any favors recently, so the real question for 2015 is will Molitor be able to do more with this barren MLB roster than Ron Gardenhire did. The front office has already admitted that 2015 will be another transition year. Is Molitor the right guy for what will hopefully be the end of a major rebuild? Why not?