Their relationship began about a year ago in Cleveland. Twins manager Paul Molitor flew out to have lunch with Derek Falvey, an executive with the Indians who had just been hired to become the Twins’ chief baseball officer.
Falvey was still working for Cleveland, which ended up losing the World Series to the Cubs in seven games. But with Major League Baseball’s blessing, he began planning things with his new club. And building a partnership with Molitor was one of those tasks.
The state of that partnership was evident on Tuesday at Target Field as the two discussed Molitor’s three-year contract extension that will keep him in charge through the 2020 season.
“During the course of the year,” Falvey said, “it felt like we were building that relationship.”
Molitor remained as the Twins manager in 2017 at the behest of owner Jim Pohlad, completing a three-year contract. The prevailing wisdom was that a new regime — Falvey and General Manager Thad Levine — would bring in their own guy. Molitor admitted Tuesday that being in that situation was “not a totally comfortable thing,” but chasing a playoff berth made it easier to be patient.
The Twins went 85-77 during the regular season, a 26-win improvement from 2016. They also became the first team to lose 100 games in a season then reach the playoffs the following year.
Just as importantly, Molitor and Falvey jelled as a working partnership. On many gamedays, Molitor’s office door was open as reporters walked by. And Falvey — often with Levine — would be seen in there, examining charts or having talks with Molitor when such meetings could have been more private.
Falvey, 34, said they didn’t always agree, but they share similar views on how to grow the organization. Molitor, 61, said the two executives never “meddled with” things like lineup decisions or how he worked with the coaching staff.
Pohlad said he monitored the Falvey-Molitor relationship during the season and liked what he heard.
“It’s not love at first sight,” Pohlad said. “Sometimes that happens in real life, but relationships take time to build. I heard throughout out the year that’s the way it was going.”
Working well together while making the playoffs usually means someone is getting an extension. Molitor reflected on his first meeting with Falvey — then-interim GM Rob Antony joined him on the trip that day — as he addressed his return for 2018 and beyond Tuesday.
“There obviously has been a process in that regard,” Molitor said. “I think back to, in particular, in Cleveland last year. They were still involved with the postseason and we went out there and we squeezed in a lunch to kind of get things initiated.
“There’s been things about the growth in the first year that have been very, very positive.”
After losing to the Yankees in the wild card round on Oct. 3, the team arrived in the Twin Cities around 5 a.m. Molitor met with Falvey and Levine for lunch at an Edina restaurant a few hours later, when he learned they wanted him back.
“I immediately expressed appreciation that was the direction they decided to go,” Molitor said.
Most of the coaching staff, Molitor said, will return in 2018. The one exception is pitching coach Neil Allen, who was fired on Monday night by Falvey. The Twins already have started a search for a new pitching coach, and hope to have one in the next few weeks.
“I feel Neil and I had a very good relationship,” Molitor said. “I consider him a very-late-in-life found friend. It’s difficult to make those calls. I think, collectively, we decided that we are going to try to pursue someone in that role that will help push our pitching forward.”
And Molitor looks to push forward in all areas, as the Twins look for ways to build on their successful season. He will do so knowing that his relationship with Falvey and Levine could not be any stronger.
“The three of us have agreed that now that we have been able to get over the hurdle of the first year of trying to find a way to build our connection that we are looking forward to the next chapter even more than the first,” Molitor said. “That’s a very positive thing that we are all are excited to be part of that dynamic of the three of us working together.”