Hartman: Molitor would be perfect choice to lead Twins

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 12, 2013 - 12:58 AM

His talent, local ties and familiarity with the clubs’ minor league teams would be assets as manager.

Without a doubt in my mind, the next manager of the Twins will be Paul Molitor. After expressing little interest in manager job openings in Toronto, Milwaukee and Seattle over the years, Molitor has decided he is ready to give it a try.

But don’t expect the change this season because the Pohlad family has a lot of respect for current manager Ron Gardenhire and will likely let him finish the season, unless Gardenhire decides to quit.

Molitor was in uniform as a Twins coach when he worked for three seasons as a bench coach for Tom Kelly. Molitor has been working with the Twins as a special instructor since Gardenhire was hired as manager in 2002, with the exception of the 2004 season, when he left to be Mariners hitting coach.

The Twins had a gigantic coaching shake-up after going 66-96 last season — firing Steve Liddle, Jerry White and Rick Stelmaszek, and reassigning Joe Vavra and Scott Ullger while keeping them on the staff. At that point Molitor informed the Twins, after talking to his wife and thinking it over, that he was ready to take a coaching job if it was offered.

Molitor thought it was going to happen and the Twins front office wanted it to happen, but instead Gardenhire decided he wanted former Twins catcher Terry Steinbach as bench coach rather than Molitor.

Molitor has close ties

Molitor is a first-ballot Hall of Famer (2004) with tremendous ties to the Twin Cities, having grown up in St. Paul, graduating from Cretin-Derham Hall and playing with the Gophers before being drafted third overall by the Brewers in the 1977 draft and eventually ending his career with the Twins.

Molitor also has a good working relationship with several of the Twins’ minor league squads, having helping as a roving instructor with those teams for years.

He would be a tremendous guide for the franchise’s upcoming young stars. Molitor would be a great mentor for players such as outfielder Byron Buxton and third baseman Miguel Sano because he knows what it’s like to be a productive player in the major leagues after minimal time in the minors.

Molitor came to the majors as a 21-year-old after only one season in the minors. He proceeded to hit .273, steal 30 bases, score 73 runs and collect 142 hits and finished second to Detroit’s Lou Whitaker in the 1978 American League Rookie of the Year voting. He reached his first All-Star Game at 23 and led the majors in runs scored (136 in 1982) at 25.

Surely the Twins would feel comfortable having a person with Molitor’s history and talent there to guide their upcoming stable of young talent.

It’s that young talent that should keep fans hopeful that the Twins won’t replicate the long-term struggling squads that the franchise produced twice since moving to Minneapolis. For 15 seasons from 1971 to 1986, the team averaged 84 losses. During a stretch from 1995 to 2001, the Twins averaged 91 losses per season under Kelly.

For the team to be successful sooner rather than later, it’s going to need these young prospects to come up and produce while established players such as Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau are still playing at a high level. The Twins have to feel like Molitor is the best man to lead that team.

Kill works on PR

Gophers football coach Jerry Kill is doing everything he can to increase students’ interest in his team.

Before school let out, Kill and others in the athletic department met with 75 different groups, clubs or organizations to talk about getting more students to the games.

“We had a great dialogue with them,” said David Benedict, associate athletic director. “We talked about a lot of things and I think we got some great ideas moving. That was in addition that to the study that the MBA Group of the Carlson school did for us that also called out some things. We are working with [fraternities and sororities] and a lot of other various individual groups on campus to get them more engaged in the football game day.”

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