Paul Molitor, who is in the final season of a three-year contract, has guided the Twins into first place in the AL Central with a style that seems to complement Derek Falvey and Thad Levine's emphasis on both analytics and relationships.
He's generally pushed the right buttons with a mix-and-match lineup while making gut decisions — like leaving Ervin Santana in to finish off a shutout in a 2-0 victory at Baltimore — that have worked out. I can't remember the Twins scoring a run this season without seeing Molitor on the top step of the dugout doling out congratulations.
When things went off the rails in last year's 59-103 season, it was fair to criticize Molitor. Now it's equally fair to praise him. This is his third season — one good, one bad, and one in progress that looks pretty nice.
Maybe 2016 was the outlier, not 2015? If so, we should expect to see more of Molitor beyond 2017.
Read Michael Rand's blog at startribune.com/randball. firstname.lastname@example.org.