Detroit – Monday afternoon, on Opening Day at Comerica Park, the national anthem was performed by the Four Tops.
The Twins were so impressed they got a hit for each, plus a Top to be named later.
Not much of interest happened Monday to commemorate Paul Molitor’s debut as Twins manager. There was little pomp and lousy circumstance, as the Twins lost 4-0 to David Price and the Tigers, the game ending when Joe “It’s Quittin’ Time” West called Torii Hunter out on a checked swing, then headed for the exit like a wanted man at an FBI convention.
It’s not often a Hall of Fame player manages his first game for his hometown team, but nobody makes a big deal out of it.
After the game, I asked Molitor if he was going to keep a memento. He admitted he hadn’t thought about it, then grabbed the lineup card, which was creased but not crumpled.
“I didn’t think about that” he said. “I probably should keep something. I didn’t overly crinkle it. You think I would have, twisting it in my pocket the way I did. It probably looks a little better game-worn, anyway.”
He picked up the card and said, “Yeah, I think I’ll keep that.”
Molitor didn’t make any grand speeches about his debut, and his players didn’t buy him a cake. Not even the other Cretin-Derham Hall alum who became a Twin.
“We really didn’t say much about it,” Joe Mauer said. “We did want to get him a win, but that will come soon enough.”
The other native Minnesotan on the roster, Glen Perkins, said Molitor’s first speech of spring training felt more like a debut than the first game of the season.
“He’s been around us, so it wasn’t like it was a new regime coming in,” Perkins said. “He was with us all spring, too, so this didn’t feel like a big deal.”
It is, and it isn’t. Baseball makes more of history and milestones than any other sport, so Molitor managing the team he watched as a kid, the team with which he got his 3,000th hit, should have warranted a moment, an ovation, an Instagram or two.
Instead, Molitor found himself consumed with the mechanics of his new job.
“My biggest area of anxiety was about missing things,” he said. “I don’t worry about playing the right people … but maybe a little bit about getting the right pitchers in the game. You want to be sharp in terms of your timing and being clear-minded about strategy and using the bench, and I think that went pretty well.”
If first impressions during a 162-game season matter, it might be notable that the Twins, so sloppy for the past four years, played a clean game in the field, with shortstop Danny Santana ranging far to his right to grab a grounder in short right and throwing out a runner trying to advance to third in the second inning.
“Paul played hard, and smart, and got dirty,” Hunter said. “I think that’s the way we’ll play for him.”
Those who have worked closely with Molitor marvel at his baseball intellect and wonder about his ponderousness. As a manager, he won’t be able to mull over decisions. He’ll have to make them quickly, then live with them after losses.
Managing is an easy task and a hard life. Anyone can fill out a lineup card; not everyone thrives under scrutiny. Molitor spent the winter and spring preparing himself.
“It’s a big day,” he said. “Ever since November, we’ve been pointing toward getting started, and thinking about what it would be like to be out there. I’ve had so many people remind me about enjoying it. You know — ‘You put yourself in position to do this, you should make sure you enjoy the game because sometimes the job can wear you down.’ It’s good advice, because it can be a little overwhelming.
“I’m glad we’re through the first day. I was hoping to get through the first day with a win, but I think we’re going to be all right.”