Paul Molitor has matched his two longtime predecessors by one measure: Award recognition.
Molitor, who led the Twins to an 83-79 record in his first season as Minnesota’s manager, finished third in voting for the AL Manager of the Year award on Tuesday — exactly as Tom Kelly did in 1987 and Ron Gardenhire did in 2002, their own debut seasons. Since both former Twins managers eventually earned the trophy, perhaps that’s a good sign for the 59-year-old Molitor.
For now, though, the honor belongs to Texas manager Jeff Banister, another rookie, who took the Rangers to the AL West title and an 88-74 record. A.J. Hinch, who managed the Astros to their first postseason berth since 2005, a wildcard entry earned with an 86-76 record, finished second.
Banister, whose team improved by 21 victories over its 2014 record, received 17 of the 30 first-place votes. Hinch received eight first-place votes and 13 second-place for taking the Astros to 15 more victories this year. Molitor received two first-place votes, three second-place and 14 third-place votes for helping the Twins improve by 14 games. Toronto manager John Gibbons finished fourth, followed by Joe Girardi of New York in fifth, Royals manager Ned Yost in sixth and Mike Scioscia of the Angels seventh.
Molitor received first place votes from David Brown of CBS Sports and Erik Boland of Newsday.
The Twins opened the season with a 1-6 record, yet remained in postseason contention most of the season, finally falling out of the wild-card race when they were swept by Kansas City over the final three games. The Twins finished with the seventh-best record in the AL, so perhaps it was remarkable enough that Molitor was one of three finalists in voting by a nationwide panel of 30 members of the Baseball Writers Association of America.
It wasn’t just the writers who were impressed, though; last month, Molitor was named Sporting News Manager of the Year, based on a survey of most of Molitor’s managerial peers. Molitor was attempting to become just the second Hall of Fame player to win the award, joining Frank Robinson, who earned the honor with the Baltimore Orioles in 1989.
Kelly and Gardenhire remain the only Twins managers to win the award since the BBWAA created it in 1983. Kelly won in 1991, the Twins' last world-championship season, and Ron Gardenhire, whom Molitor replaced last winter, finished runner-up five times before winning the award in 2010. In addition, Sam Mele was chosen the AP Manager of the Year in 1965.