Souhan: Young Twins should listen and learn from Molitor

  • Article by: JIM SOUHAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 30, 2014 - 6:47 PM

Paul Molitor is one of the smartest men in baseball and a valuable resource for a young team.

hide

Twins coach Paul Molitor, left, and manger Ron Gardenhire shared a laugh after the first day of spring training Monday. Molitor also coached under Tom Kelly.

Photo: JERRY HOLT • jerry.holt@startribune.com,

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

– Paul Molitor might have been the smartest baseball player of his generation. As a Brewer, he became famous within the game for his ability to steal signs. As a minor league instructor with the Twins, he would sit on the bench with awestruck youngsters and call “slider” just before the opposing pitcher released just that.

He turned hitting into a science and baserunning into an art form. He seemed born to manage a baseball team, but with kids to raise and doubts about choosing the correct career path, Molitor tried out coaching before settling into a role as adviser and instructor with his hometown team.

After the 2012 season, Molitor decided he was ready to take the field again. The Twins were close to naming him to their coaching staff … and then they weren’t. Those close to the situation say that manager Ron Gardenhire, in the last year of his contract and with no assurances of being retained, didn’t want his likely successor on staff.

When the Twins signed Gardenhire to a two-year contract last fall, they insisted on Molitor being hired, putting another St. Paul native and Minnesota alum into Twinstripes.

“He sees the game differently than most,” said Twins vice president of baseball operations Rob Antony. “He brings presence and credibility. No disrespect to our coaches who didn’t have distinguished big-league careers, but this guy is a Hall of Famer. With him, it’s not just a title. He wasn’t just a good player. He was one of the smartest players who’s ever played the game. I want to believe our players will be all ears. I would be.”

Near the end of his playing career, Molitor would speak each spring about the joy of putting on a big-league uniform. Asked to imagine another opening day in Minnesota, he said, “It’s going to be great. It’s not like I’m getting ready to play my first big-league game, but I’m getting back to where I want to be. I have a team.”

As a player, Molitor could, like a great point guard, make the players around him better. When Molitor hit .341 in 1996 while turning 40, Chuck Knoblauch, Rich Becker and Scott Stahoviak all enjoyed the best seasons of their careers.

As a coach under Tom Kelly, Molitor once threw a tee onto the field to protest a call, another time in Cleveland he looked as if he wanted to fight the umpires and the Indians all at once.

“I think I got thrown out more as a coach in those two years than I did in 21 years as a player,” he said. “I don’t remember exactly why I snapped, but we heard about the Twins being a contender for contraction and it would be really bad for baseball if the Twins won.

“I don’t know how much there was to that, but against certain, more veteran teams, we weren’t getting a fair shake and our young players were getting taken advantage of by umpires, and other teams weren’t showing us the respect I thought you should have for any other team no matter how many times you’ve beaten them.

“It all boiled over, and I was still transitioning. As a player you have control. As a coach you don’t. TK thought I was losing my mind there a few times, but I think it’s good to back up your players, to show that you’re not whimsical about winning and losing.”

When he met with Gardenhire in the fall, Molitor asked whether the game has changed much. He wonders how he’ll adapt to players who are “more showy.” He wonders whether he’ll be able to steal signs.

“If someone lets their guard down you have to be ready to take that opportunity,” he said. “It’s important to let players know there is information being exchanged. There are a lot of things that go on, things that have to be communicated, and the question is, can you crack the code?”

At 57, did Molitor become a coach so he can coach now, or manage eventually?

“I wouldn’t call this a steppingstone,” he said. “This might enlighten me a little on where I think I’m going to spend the next half a dozen years or longer. I’m not getting out front like that.

“To be back on the field, in the day to day grind, we’re going to find out if it’s a good fit for me. If it is, we’ll take it where it goes.”

The man belongs in a big-league uniform. The Twins are lucky he wants to wear theirs.

 

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions
Final123456789RHE
Minnesota000000000040
Detroit «00100002X340
@Ballpark Replay
Preview | Matchup | Lineup | Log | Wrap | Box
W:D.Price(15-12) L:K.Gibson(13-12) S:J.Nathan (35)
HR: MIN- None DET- I.Kinsler (17)

ADVERTISEMENT

Oakland - LP: D. Otero 8 FINAL
Kansas City - WP: J. Frasor 9
Minnesota 10/2/14 7:25 PM
Green Bay
Buffalo 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Detroit
Chicago 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Cleveland 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Tennessee
St. Louis 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Philadelphia
Atlanta 10/5/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants
Tampa Bay 10/5/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Houston 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Dallas
Baltimore 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Indianapolis
Pittsburgh 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Arizona 10/5/14 3:05 PM
Denver
Kansas City 10/5/14 3:25 PM
San Francisco
NY Jets 10/5/14 3:25 PM
San Diego
Cincinnati 10/5/14 7:30 PM
New England
Seattle 10/6/14 7:30 PM
Washington
NY Islanders 5 FINAL
Boston 3
NY Rangers 2 FINAL
Philadelphia 4
Ottawa 1 FINAL
Winnipeg 2
Carolina 1 FINAL
St. Louis 3
Tampa Bay 5 FINAL
Dallas 1
Colorado 0 FINAL
Calgary 2
Los Angeles 4 FINAL
San Jose 1
Fla Atlantic 10/2/14 6:00 PM
FIU
UCF 10/2/14 6:00 PM
Houston
Arizona 10/2/14 9:30 PM
(2) Oregon
Louisville 10/3/14 6:00 PM
Syracuse
San Diego St 10/3/14 9:00 PM
Fresno State
Utah State 10/3/14 9:15 PM
(18) BYU
(6) Texas A&M 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(12) Miss State
Ball State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Army
Iowa State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(21) Oklahoma State
Marshall 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Old Dominion
Southern Miss 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Middle Tennessee
(20) Ohio State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Maryland
Purdue 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
Florida 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Tennessee
SMU 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(22) East Carolina
Virginia Tech 10/4/14 11:30 AM
North Carolina
Eastern Mich 10/4/14 1:00 PM
Akron
North Texas 10/4/14 1:30 PM
Indiana
Massachusetts 10/4/14 1:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
Tulsa 10/4/14 2:00 PM
Colorado State
New Mexico 10/4/14 2:30 PM
TX-San Antonio
(3) Alabama 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(11) Ole Miss
(14) Stanford 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(9) Notre Dame
(17) Wisconsin 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Northwestern
Navy 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Air Force
(7) Baylor 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Texas
(4) Oklahoma 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(25) TCU
Wake Forest 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(1) Florida State
NC State 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Clemson
Buffalo 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Bowling Green
Ohio U 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Central Mich
Oregon State 10/4/14 3:00 PM
Colorado
Vanderbilt 10/4/14 3:00 PM
(13) Georgia
Kansas 10/4/14 3:00 PM
West Virginia
Kent State 10/4/14 4:00 PM
Northern Ill
South Alabama 10/4/14 5:00 PM
Appalachian St
Texas-El Paso 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
(15) LSU 10/4/14 6:00 PM
(5) Auburn
UAB 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Western Ky
Texas Tech 10/4/14 6:00 PM
(23) Kansas State
Michigan 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Rutgers
Hawaii 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Rice
Toledo 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Western Mich
ULM 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Arkansas State
Georgia State 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Louisiana
Idaho 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Texas State
Memphis 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Arizona State 10/4/14 6:30 PM
(16) USC
So Carolina 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Kentucky
Pittsburgh 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Virginia
Miami-Florida 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Georgia Tech
(19) Nebraska 10/4/14 7:00 PM
(10) Michigan State
UNLV 10/4/14 7:00 PM
San Jose St
Ga Southern 10/4/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico St
California 10/4/14 9:30 PM
Washington St
Utah 10/4/14 9:30 PM
(8) UCLA
Boise State 10/4/14 9:30 PM
Nevada
Winnipeg 10/3/14 6:00 PM
Ottawa
Calgary 10/3/14 9:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Edmonton 10/4/14 3:00 PM
Toronto
Brt Columbia 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Hamilton
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Is it the right move to replace Ron Gardenhire?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close