If you know anything about me by now you are fully aware that if you look up the word “Homer” in the dictionary, you can find my picture next to the entry that is neither a slang reference to a home run in the sport of baseball... or to the bumbling dad in the cartoon comedy, "The Simpsons."
Confession: I’m a guy who bleeds the colors of the local teams and the stars that they produce, so it should be no surprise to anyone that I’m against today’s firing of Paul Molitor by the Minnesota Twins.
Thing is, I’m not against it just because Molitor is a local legend, but rather because I don’t feel like the Twins' numerous shortcomings this season were so much Molitor’s doing, as they were the guys who just canned him.
I love(d) Terry Ryan, but when the Twins replaced him as General Manager with the duo of Derek Falvey and Thad Levine, I viewed it as a sign of progress.... a clear signal that the Twins were going to move into the 21st century and embrace the analytics that have become so pervasive in baseball.
That’s why when I look at the train wreck that was the Twins' 2018 season I not only have a hard time seeing how most of it was Moilitor’s fault, but frankly... I wonder how he got 78 wins out of that mess in the first place.
Lets start with the Twins' off-season additions, shall we? Was it Paul Molitor’s decision to sign free-agent pitchers Lance Lynn and Jake Odorizzi, and who could have predicted that both players would under-perform so drastically?
Then there’s Logan Morrison, a guy who allegedly pounded 38 homeruns and drove in 85 runs as a member of the Tampa Bay Rays in 2017. When Morrison was mercifully put on the 60-day disabled list in early September due to a “left hip impingement," he had hit just 15 homeruns, driven in only 39 runs, and was hitting just .186. Seriously... .186. That (on a one-year contract), courtesy of Falvey and Levine, for a $6.5 million base salary.
I wasn’t in the Twins locker room enough to know if Molitor, a guy who was just named American League Manager of the Year a year earlier, suddenly forgot everything he knew about baseball. Truth is, that’s not what I encountered, or what I heard from other media outlets.
There are reports that Brian Dozier was playing through an injury, but his numbers had dipped significantly... so I understood why Falvey and Levine (with an apparent glut of infield talent in the minors) traded him mid-season.
Same with Eduardo Escobar. His sizzling start to the season was atypical of his career numbers and I’m a fan of 'selling high,' which is what the Twins did in Eduardo’s case. With the removal of those two players, however, you also removed the heart of this team... and if anything Molitor should be commended for what he got out of this no-name squad that constantly had players coming and going from the lineup.
Miguel Sano coming into camp miserably out of shape? Not Paul Molitor’s fault. Neither was Ervin Santana’s lingering finger surgery, or Jorge Polanco’s 50-game drug suspension.
I do have issues with this whole pitching 'opener' thing. It’s new, and because it runs against convention I am suspicious, but not enough that I was vocally against it while watching it play out. I just don’t feel like the sample size was large enough, and I also don’t know if it was Molitor’s idea or something he was force-fed by Falvey and Levine. Since the Twins employed it at the minor league level first, my guess is it came from the brain trust.
The other major issue I have with the Twins, and I hesitate to say this because I don’t feel like I’m qualified to question Paul Molitor on any baseball matter... but I think the Twins have done a major disservice to center fielding phenom Byron Buxton. While Buxton has had a major issue staying healthy, the Twins have done him no favors in the way they have moved him around in the batting order.
If there is one thing I feel certain of, it’s that Buxton belongs in the leadoff slot. The Twins need to give him that job and just stay with him in that spot, every day he’s available to play, until his confidence catches up to his all-world athletic ability.
Was the handling of Buxton Molitor’s fault, or was he just taking marching orders from Falvey and Levine? I don’t know, and we may never know... at least until we see what the Twins decide to do with Buxton in the long term.
Paul Molitor is reportedly going to meet with the Twins in the coming weeks to discuss another role with the organization. Remember, there were other teams that wanted Mollie as a manager before he took the Twins job, and my guess is he’ll have other opportunities to manage again somewhere else if he still has that desire.
Joe Mauer’s contract (not the fault of either Molitor OR Falvey and Levine) is coming off the books, and maybe it is time for a fresh start. I just can’t help feeling like Paul Molitor did the best job he could with a bad situation, and he deserved at least one more year with a better hand to play.
Falvey and Levine? I don’t think they’ve had long enough to be fairly evaluated, but today’s move isn’t going to buy them any more time with a fan base that may not like Molitor’s dismissal any more than I do.
Homer... or not.