Twins owner Jim Pohlad knows there are major issues with his ballclub, which is 25-53 after a 6-5 loss to the White Sox on Thursday, but he doesn’t believe that manager Paul Molitor is one of them and he expects Molitor to be back next season.
“I think he’s doing a great job,” Pohlad said recently when asked about Molitor’s season. “Does that sound stupid to say that since we have the worst record in baseball? But there’s nothing to indicate to me or anything I’ve heard that anything has changed on the bench from last year.”
Is his job in jeopardy?
“No,” Pohlad said. “I would say no to that definitely.”
While Pohlad said Molitor will be back next season, he did take a slight step back from that stance when asked the same question about General Manager Terry Ryan.
“Well, like anybody, and maybe I jumped the gun saying that about Paul, I mean we have to figure out what we’re doing wrong, what we’re doing wrong in the system,” Pohlad said. “If that points to the need to change personnel, I guess I would have to say we’d look at everything. But there has been no identification of anything like that. We’re beginning to discuss the process of how we examine doing things throughout our system.”
If the Twins’ winning percentage of .321 holds steady for the rest of the season, it would put them at 111 losses, easily the worst year in Twins history — the closest being the 1982 Twins, who finished 60-102 with a .370 winning percentage.
Pohlad was asked what ideas he has for improving the team next year. “I’m certainly not the baseball person, so my ideas would be more long-term, and we’re beginning to think about that because we believe there needs to be some long-term system-like changes,” he said. “But those don’t happen overnight, so that would be my focus. As far as what Terry’s doing in the baseball area for this season, he could speak to that.”
When asked if having players making a lot of money — like Ricky Nolasco, Ervin Santana and Phil Hughes — and not performing was a big issue, Pohlad said no.
“I wish money was the issue — if money was the issue, it would be a pretty simple fix,” Pohlad said. “I’m afraid it goes a little deeper than that. I don’t really believe that the money tied up to the players you’re referring to is going to be an impediment to us going into the future.”
Pohlad added that he, along with a lot of other people in the organization and around baseball, didn’t expect a team that went 83-79 last year and challenged for a playoff spot to fall off so badly.
“No, nobody did,” he said. “I know that sounds trite to all the fans out there, and any time there’s a season that doesn’t go well you can always say that. But I think everybody would agree that we all had, certainly the organization had, high expectations for this year and they clearly have not come to pass.”
Money not an issue
There’s long been speculation that the Twins skimp on spending in free agency, but as Pohlad believes that money doesn’t make a contender, he also says that he’s never turned down a request for a free agent.
“It’s a fact that Terry has never come and asked for money and been turned down on it,” he said. “Is it possible that we as the ownership group somehow have given him a message that he shouldn’t come and ask for that? I guess that’s possible. But that’s kind of my point, at this point anything is possible and we have to look at everything, philosophically, functionally and personnel-wise.”
Pohlad also said one of the frustrating parts of this season has been that top prospects such as Byron Buxton and Jose Berrios have not performed as well as might have been expected in the majors.
“I agree with that, however if you look back to those ’87 and even ’91 years you’ll see that even when the [Kent] Hrbeks and [Tom] Brunanskys, etc., got called up, they did not immediately produce,” he said. “They did not go from making that transition smoothly. It takes a little while in some cases. But should you be able to call someone up from your system to fill a spot need from time to time? Yes, you should be able to do that. You should be able to successfully fill that need and we haven’t exactly done that.”
Pohlad also said he knew when Target Field opened in 2010 that record-setting attendance numbers were not going to be sustainable unless the team put a winner on the field. He said that attendance issues are worrisome but the stadium has its own benefits.
“Well, yes, I think I can’t certainly say [dropping attendance is] not a possibility either,” he said. “I’m standing outside here on a beautiful Sunday day and I know how much I would love being at Target Field on a day like today. I would love it a lot more if they were winning, but I still love being there. I think the fans really appreciate the Target Field experience, but they, like we, would prefer to be winning.”
Yes, for Pohlad, the answers are not easy to find, but he knows the team is going to have to make drastic changes to improve in the long run.
“I don’t know for sure, but we’re not doing well in the standings but we could lead the league in roster change. That’s not a positive thing ever. I’m sure there will be additional changes during the year. As the trade deadline approaches I would hope that we could do something. I like that from a fan standpoint. Unfortunately, No. 1, I’m a fan, and I think that way, and that sometimes gets in the way of organizational planning — but I like those things, transactions and things that give short-term hope.”
• With NBA free agency kicking off, Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau was asked what his team’s biggest needs are now that they have drafted guard Kris Dunn. “When you look at the needs of the team, you can’t have enough shooting,” he said. “So we’ve obviously prioritized that with size at position, toughness, defense, those are things we want to add. I think most teams do. You have to look at who you think may fit covering up those weaknesses best and adding to the team. We felt when we looked at Kris that that was the best fit for our team. Now we move to the next phase, which is free agency, and we think there’s going to be quality players to add there, as well.”
• Former Bloomington Jefferson standout Cole Aldrich might be heading for a big payday with the insane money NBA teams are about to throw around in free agency. Aldrich has earned more than $9 million in six seasons but there’s good reason to believe the Clippers center could sign a deal worth $9 million per season.
Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on 830-AM at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. firstname.lastname@example.org