Paul Molitor Must Ignite the Twins to Win

By Rebecca Herman @TheBaseballPHD /
May 11, 2016

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Paul Molitor is into his second season of leading the Minnesota Twins. While it is still very early in his MLB Manager role, he is in his 16th year of coaching at either the minor or major league levels. Couple that with his 21 seasons as a Hall of Fame (Class of 2004) player and you have a lot of wisdom and experience and an amazing mind for baseball.

But being a successful player, and especially a Hall of Famer, has never predicted success as a manager. Molitor was only the third person to begin a major league managerial career after being inducted into the HOF – his predecessors were Ted Williams and Ryne Sandberg, neither of which went on to have success as managers. Molitor hopes to break that trend and did incredibly well in his freshman year (2015), finishing 83-79, good enough for second place in the American League Central and just a few games outside of a wild card spot. In fact, his peers, via The Sporting News, named him AL Manager of the Year and he finished third in the MLB / BBWAA voting for 2015 in the same category.

Things looked promising at Spring Training. With 19 wins and 11 losses (.633), the Twins broke camp with the 3rd best record in the Grapefruit League and American League overall. But that hope and excitement was short-lived. The Twins started the season with nine straight losses. After being swept in 3 series, the Twins swept the Angels and split with the Brewers. But the losing resumed. To date, they have been swept six times, have a dismal 8 wins and 24 losses (.250), and are sitting firmly in last place of the AL and MLB overall.

We all know that it is a long season and anything can happen in baseball. To pull the Twins out of the cellar will take focus, passion, and tremendous leadership. The question is – will Paul Molitor be able to lead the Twins out of this funk? Twins owner, Jim Pohlad, believes he can and remains incredibly supportive of both Molitor and General Manager, Terry Ryan, and their collective ability to get the job done. So let’s take a closer look at what makes Molitor a Major League Leader.

When it comes to leading himself, his inward leadership, he has done this consistently for nearly forty years in professional baseball. While he doesn’t exhibit the rah-rah, in your face, passion of some, there is no mistaking the passion in his voice when he talks about the nuances of baseball. It would be difficult to devote a lifetime to a sport that many find to be a grind without passion; however, he may need to bring in the “Ignitor” persona to light a fire under this team.

What Molitor has always done extremely well is lead by example. As a player, he played the game as hard as possible and without being intrusive about it with others. He has consistently demonstrated what it takes to be competitive and has the opportunity of passing that spirit onto his players. As a manager, he recognizes that resiliency is important and he must remain calm, positive, and true to his character and values in the face of adversity – such as the current win/loss record.  He is opening accountable for his decisions, even when being second-guessed after a loss. Together, this contributes to his ability to garner respect with the Twins’ front office, his players, and throughout Major League Baseball.

For leading others, his outward leadership and a keystone of successful leaders, Molitor communicates well and focuses on building meaningful relationships. He has taken the time to get to know his players and can use his experiences as a player to put them at ease. This creates a culture of support and the players feel that Molitor has their backs. The players respect this and love him as a manager.

What fans tend to see the most is a manager’s ability to lead the game, his expert leadership. In reality, this is such a small portion of the role and job description but it is most visible and subject to much criticism because too many believe they could run a real MLB team like they run their fantasy team. Molitor certainly has an amazing amount of knowledge and is a great baseball man. He uses his detailed nature and ability to communicate effectively to work with the media on a daily basis. Again, this is especially challenging when things are not going well. Molitor is open-minded and has taken the time to better understand how to use data-driven decision making for his line-up and on-field decisions. Combine that with his keen commitment to preparation and he places his team in a position to win; it just doesn’t seem to be working as planned this year.

While Molitor has received public support from Jim Pohlad and Terry Ryan, he does need to find a way to flip the Twins’ downward spiral. Although he has some pretty good pieces in his arsenal, perhaps finding ways to emphasize teamwork and create a winning culture would help his cause. It would be great to  see Molitor find success in his sophomore year of managing.

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Dr. Rebecca Herman is a Leadership Professor, Best Selling Author, Keynote Speaker, and writes about Leadership & Baseball at the Major League Leader. Follow @TheBaseballPHD on Twitter.  This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Material from interviews, wire services, beat writers, bloggers, league, and team sources was used in this report. Additional, more specific sources include:

Baseball Statistics from Baseball Reference

Major League Leadership from Lead Me Out to the Ballgame