On Tuesday, the Twins, for the first time, hired a Hall of Fame player to be their manager.
Why stop there?
Why not surround Paul Molitor with other famous former Twins?
Why not hire coaches who will inspire admiration, if not fear, in the Twins clubhouse?
Traditionally, major league coaches earn their jobs through years of minor league work and organizational loyalty.
The advantage Molitor has now, and has enjoyed as a minor league instructor and spring training coach, is that his reputation precedes him. If a young player doesn’t know who he is, someone like Glen Perkins or Brian Dozier will tell that player, “Listen to this guy. He’s in the Hall of Fame, and he got there with his brain.”
Perkins said this week that he would find himself enthralled listening to Molitor explain baserunning or hitting techniques. “And if I wind up running the bases or hitting in a game, something has gone very wrong,” Perkins said. “I just found his level of expertise to be fascinating.”
Molitor commands respect with his mere presence.
The average major league coach, even those who are model employees, does not.
In an otherwise empty Twins spring training clubhouse in 1996, I was interviewing Chuck Knoblauch when Ron Gardenhire, then a coach on Tom Kelly’s staff, came in and told Knoblauch he was wanted on the field. Knoblauch said, “In a minute,” and didn’t move.
Gardenhire, angry, left. Knoblauch said, “What’s he gonna do? He’s just a coach.”
Knoblauch was being a jerk. He was also correct: The average major league coach wields little actual power. The average major league coach is seen as part valet, part worker bee.
Now imagine a clubhouse filled with young players, run by a manager named Molitor, and coaches named — take your pick — Dan Gladden, Jack Morris, Bert Blyleven or Eddie Guardado.
The Twins have already decided that hitting coach Tom Brunansky will return. He did good work last season, and also carries the caché of having played on a World Series-winning Twins team.
My ideal Twins staff would be Molitor, Brunansky, Guardado as bullpen coach, Gladden as outfield coach and Morris or Blyleven as pitching coach. The Twins would need to hire a Latin American former player who could communicate with the team’s Spanish-speaking players, and Molitor could use a veteran bench coach. Tom Kelly would be perfect for that role if he were willing to wear a uniform again. Veteran coach and scout Gene Glynn, who managed Class AAA Rochester last season, might also fit there.
There is another way to ensure that this team would be well-coached. The Twins could sign Torii Hunter to be a part-time outfielder and full-time mentor. He would be the ideal tutor for Byron Buxton, and would inject a winning personality into a quiet clubhouse.
All of the above were known for mental and physical toughness as well as success. They are all capable of keeping a clubhouse loose, or getting in a sluggish player’s face.
Just as Molitor can teach a young player the proper footwork required to steal bases in the majors, Guardado could show his own game films while demonstrating that velocity is not a prerequisite to pitching well in the big leagues.
Gladden can explain how he learned to expertly play left field, and how he adapted his hitting approach to different situations.
Morris and Blyleven can take apart games pitch by pitch.
To hire such big-name coaches, the Twins would have to raise the staff payroll. Most big-league coaches are happy to have a job and hold little leverage. The Twins would have to woo Morris or Blyleven away from good broadcasting gigs offering scheduling flexibility. That would be expensive.
The Twins would be buying credibility with their players, and credibility with their fan base. The organization strives to keep its best players close; they can’t get much closer than wearing a uniform in the dugout during games.
If nothing else, Gladden could teach young players exactly how to grow a playoff mullet. You can’t put a pricetag on that.