Mike Bauman

Twins staying course with Molitor as skipper

Ryan believes in his manager, takes blame for club's disappointing start

Twins staying course with Molitor as skipper

MINNEAPOLIS -- When a team struggles to an 11-33 start, the conventional move -- the convenient, conventional move -- would be to dismiss the manager.

This is not happening with the Twins, nor should it. Manager Paul Molitor was third in the balloting for the American League Manager of the Year Award in 2015, a season in which the club took major strides forward.

It was obvious then that Molitor could manage and he didn't become a lesser skipper over the offseason. But you have seen highly capable managers dismissed before.

The other factor here is that the Twins general manager Terry Ryan is doing the right thing instead of the easy thing. Ryan is not blaming the manager. He is blaming himself.

"We're having a tough go, but it starts right at the top, and I'm sitting in that chair," Ryan said on Monday night before Minnesota's 10-4 loss to Kansas City. "We've struggled, to say the least, but that doesn't diminish the fact that my belief in Paul Molitor is strong. You don't have to worry about that."

Ryan added that he continued to have a belief in the Twins' coaching staff, as well.

Minnesota's shortcomings have been, to put it mildly, numerous in this young season. This is surprising given that the Twins won 83 games last year, finishing second in the AL Central and remaining in the hunt for a Wild Card berth until the final weekend of the season. It is even more surprising given the caliber of young talent in the organization.

This is where the managerial change typically comes in. It creates a built-in fall guy. It appears to explain everything while actually explaining nothing. It gives the appearance that management is doing, you know, something.

But that's not occurring in the Twin Cities.

"We're in this together," Ryan said. "I've said that and will continue to say that. This isn't a separation of the ranks. We are battling, we have to continue, we have to do some things to help the cause. But as far as the organization, we're very accountable. And we realize we've dug ourselves a huge hole. But we got ourselves in this situation and we have to get ourselves out of this situation."

Molitor enjoyed a Hall of Fame playing career that was defined not only by talent, but by applied intelligence. He has made the changes, the adjustments, the searches for the outcome-altering combinations that a good manager would. It is not his fault that the Twins, after 44 games, were last in the AL in runs scored and team ERA.

You would not know from Molitor's typically understated demeanor that his club is struggling this way. But maintaining a serene exterior in difficult times is far from his most pressing concern.

"I don't really try to prepare myself in terms of coming before you and 'I have to be calm now because we've lost nine in a row,'" Molitor said. "For me, it's about perspective. That's what I have to try to keep. Having the worst record in baseball is not a very pleasurable thing to endure, even for a quarter of season. But if I can keep some kind of perspective to what I'm trying to do with these guys, not only as players, but in other capacities, and keep staying the course, I think that should play well."

Molitor remains optimistic, within the boundaries of logic.

"I still see it getting better," he said of his team's season. "I can't measure that in games and wins because you can't win 10 games today, you know?

"A couple of good months would still leave you short of where you want to be at the end of July or the middle of August, so don't try to get too far ahead. But I do see some things that I like about the fact that we can win our share of games."

Maybe they can. Despite their record, the Twins are in good hands. Ryan was the primary architect of Minnesota teams that won six division titles in nine years during the first decade of this century. You cannot look at the most visible people in this baseball organization and find anyone lacking in acumen or diligence.

Knowing that, the Twins' record at this point looks like a typographical error. But it's not. When this organization climbs out of this hole it will have done so the honest way, by digging in and getting better. It will be a more viable path than singling out a scapegoat.

Mike Bauman is a national columnist for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.