FORT MYERS, FLA. - No longer in charge of putting together a major league team and getting it ready for a long season, Paul Molitor showed up at Twins spring training anyway Monday. And his reason was the same as any typical Minnesotan: the weather.
“I picked a bad year to get fired,” the former Twins manager deadpanned. “It was a rough winter.”
Molitor, fired two days after the 2018 season ended, visited his old team’s clubhouse, chatted with successor Rocco Baldelli and even said hello to Derek Falvey, the man who decided to change managers six months ago. If the Hall of Fame hitter is angry at Falvey, the Twins chief baseball officer, or his old team, it certainly doesn’t show.
“When it first happens … the emotion plays a larger role in maybe how you look at it, and over time you can kind of understand better what their thought process was, where they want to go, and how the game is transitioning,” Molitor said. “I don’t feel it was personal at all. And I haven’t held onto any grudge about that.”
So when Molitor’s 12-year-old son, Ben, wanted to see some baseball over spring break, the ex-manager, who still lives in St. Paul, decided to visit his old haunts for a few days. He called the Twins to let them know, and just in case, he stopped by his old office “to make sure that [Baldelli] knew we were down here and not create any waves or issues,” Molitor said. “I’m not here in any official capacity. More to have a nice trip with my son to watch some baseball.”
He hasn’t ruled out eventually having an official capacity, however, but said he is looking forward to a summer off first, after playing or working in baseball every year but one — 1999, the season after he retired as a player — since being drafted by the Brewers in 1977.
“I’m not quite ready to be done-done. I’ll be 63 this summer, and I still feel that there are some ways that I can contribute, although the game, as we all know, has changed in a lot of different ways,” Molitor said. “I would still like to work, but taking some time, after everything that’s happened, is not a bad thing right now.”
Seeing him in camp wasn’t a bad thing, either, Baldelli said. It wasn’t awkward or uncomfortable.
“It was great that he was here. Paul means an incredible amount to this organization and to the [Twin Cities] area, and my conversations with him have been phenomenal. He’s a great baseball man,” the current manager said of the previous one. “Truthfully, at some point it would be great if he were part of the Twins organization again in almost any fashion that he would like to take part in. I mean that.”
But would he follow the lead of his predecessor, Ron Gardenhire, and seek another managing job?
“That’s fairly unlikely,” Molitor said. “Very rarely do you slam doors but — let’s be real, the trend of the game is not to go out and hire an old manager these days.”
So he is staying in touch with the Twins, who still owe him $3 million each of the next two years.
“They’ve been open about the potential future, trying to find out if there’s something that would work eventually,” Molitor said. “I don’t think we’ve really tried to define anything. Where that goes, whether it’s throughout the course of this summer or into next fall, I couldn’t tell you the schedule on that and how we might proceed. I’m open about it, and they’re open about it. That’s a good thing.”
He might be gone, but he’s still definitely interested in the players still here. Molitor said he follows the news from camp and “had a nice chat” with Baldelli about how the first-time manager is handling the job.
“I’m impressed by him. He’s really excited about the chance [to win] here,” Molitor said. “I’ve been following the progress of the spring, everything from unfortunately what happened with Miggy [Sano], and [Byron] Buxton having a good spring, working out their pitching issues. … But yeah, I’ve been following it. Hard not to. I’ve got a lot of friends in that clubhouse.”