On Tuesday the Minnesota Twins introduced the 13th manager in club history, Paul Molitor, and gave him a chance to address the many questions that have been floating around since he emerged early on as the front-runner for the job.
The new field boss takes over a team that's lost 90+ games for four consecutive seasons, and has serious questions to answer before they return to baseball relevance.
But for his part the new skipper seems undeterred by the challenge.
“I'm coming here to win,” Molitor said at his introductory press conference, “I think that it's very important to lay that out there right from the start. Things can change in this game very dramatically at this level very quickly.”
So how will that change come about? Both Molitor and his boss Twins GM Terry Ryan know that it comes down to pitching.
“I like some of the things we saw about our pitching,” Molitor said, “I'm sure Terry will tell you that we're always going to keep our minds open about trying to find ways to improve our roster – I mean who doesn't do that? - but I'm also prepared to look at what we have and say hey there are some good things there.”
“We've got to address a few holes here,” GM Terry Ryan said, “As you've heard me say many times, payroll's not everything, but it certainly helps, so we'll use it to our advantage. If there's somebody out there that we think is going to help us, we'll have the ability to go chase that player.”
While Molitor will certainly have input on the eventual 25-man roster, his job will be primarily be about coaching and managing whatever players Ryan gives him.
And since Molitor's never managed at any level before, there are some questions about his experience. Questions he's aware of an didn't shy away from.
“Playing, coaching, developing, it's not the same as being the leader at the top,” Molitor said, “I certainly was transparent with Terry about I know what I know … but you have to know where you're going to need help. I think assembling a staff that's going to be supportive, that's able to fill some of those gaps for me … will be very critical, and it's something that we plan to get started on.”
Asked if Molitor's lack of managerial experience factored in his decision-making, Ryan said he was certainly cognizant of it.
“If there's one thing that Paul wasn't experienced in, it's making out the lineup card,” Ryan said, “and that certainly crosses any general manager's mind about the hiring process. And then you look at some of the recent history of major league managers, there's many guys that are succeeding that haven't made out a lineup in their life. And after obviously knowing Paul for the many years that we have around here, that's secondary.”
Beyond experience, there are questions about Molitor's ability to connect with all of his players. There's a narrative in sports that players of Hall of Fame ability struggle to coach players who aren't as naturally gifted.
Molitor didn't sound overly concerned about it.
“We've seen successful athletes not have much success in management,” Molitor said, “If that happens, it won't be because I didn't think I did the right thing, or why would you mess – just leave a good thing alone. This is a different challenge, it's totally separate from my playing.”
He even quipped that the Hall of Fame reached out to him after he was announced as manager.
“I got a text from Jeff Idelson yesterday, the president of the Hall of Fame,” Molitor said, “and he said, 'Relax, enjoy this. No matter what you do, your plaque is gonna stay in the plaque room. Give you a little freedom.'”
What about the increased use of advanced metrics in the game? Will Molitor embrace the trend towards using sabermetrics to optimize his teams performance?
“It's changed a lot. Information has incredibly increased,” Molitor said, “ I will be open to using what's helpful to me. My concern is that there is so much out there that we try to pass on to players, that you see the smoke coming out of their helmet when they're trying to remember what this guy does on Wednesdays, in a three o'clock game when he has a guy on third base in the sixth inning with two outs.”
But perhaps the most telling answer Molitor gave on Tuesday was to a pretty straight-forward question: What will a Paul Molitor-managed team look like?
“I think that people will probably have their ideas on what it's going to be after they watch our team play for a year,” Molitor said, “Everyone's going to have their own little unique stamp hopefully that they put on their club. I don't know if there's going to be major changes in certain things that we do. Hopefully part of the stamp that I put on is trying to help these guys understand the critical aspect of being good base-runners and learning how to score runs.”
That answer is reflective of a simple truth: anyone who tells you they know what kind of manager Paul Molitor is going to be – including Paul Molitor – is speculating at best.
Until he gets out there and does it, no one really knows how this is going to work out.
Molitor won't be able to turn this thing around on his own. Unless the Twins starting pitching improves - giving the bullpen a break and maximizing the impact of the seventh-highest scoring offense in baseball last season – the difference in managerial styles from Ron Gardenhire to Paul Molitor won't show up much in the team's record.
Those looking for answers from Molitor on Tuesday got a few. But the answers to the most important questions won't start being answered until April 6th, when the Twins kick off their 2015 campaign in Detroit.