Hall of Famer Molitor managing Twins

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"Molitor presser"

* The Toronto Blue Jays wanted to hire Paul Molitor (foreground) to manage twice … after the 1997 and 2000 seasons. Now, the home-town Hall of Famer has been hired by general manager Terry Ryan (background) to manage the Minnesota Twins. ….

2014 Canadians in the Minors … Canadians drafted … Canadians in College

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By Bob Elliott

Paul Godfrey can pick ‘em.

He was years ahead of his time.

As Blue Jays president, Godfrey wanted to hirePaul Molitor as manager after the 2000 season.

It took plenty of time and Minnesota Twins general manager Terry Ryan to prove Godfrey was a sharp talent evaluator.

Ryan hired Molitor to replace fired managerRon Gardenhire on Tuesday.

Those 1993 Blue Jays are coming into their second careers: Dave Stewart, MVP of the American League Championship Series is the new GM of the Arizona Diamondbacks, Darnell Coles is the new hitting coach with the Milwaukee Brewers and now Molitor, MVP of the World Series, is the new Twins skipper.

What’s next? Devon White as hitting coach of the Jays … their fourth hitting coach in four seasons?

Back on the final weekend of 2000, Jays manager Jim Fregosi was fired with 83 wins, losing the final three games of the season to the Cleveland Indians at Jacobs Field.

A couple of days later Godfrey told me he “might be able to hire a manager who could sell some season’s tickets.”

I remember saying “Paul, how many guys in Cleveland called their buddy Sunday morning and said ‘hey, let’s go down to the game today to watch Charlie Manuel manage?’

“The park was sold out because fans went to watchManny Ramirez. Jim Thome, Robbie and Sandy Alomar, Omar Vizquel and KennyLofton.”

Replied Godfrey: “what if I can get Moliitor?”

Hmmm.

That hire might had have sold some tickets.

Besides being on his way to the Hall of Fame, Molitor was highly respected as any Jays player during his three years in Toronto. molitor hof

He thought enough of the city to live here … the first player since Rick Bosetti in 1980, which is more than we can say of some past GMs or managers.

He would attend daughter Blaire‘s gym meets only to be recognized, a gentle noise would go through the crowd and he’d receive a standing ovation … sometimes while Canada’s aspiring Mary Lou Retton sped down the runway trying to concentrate on doing two full flips with 2 1/2 twists. So, he watched from the hallway.

After saying that he was interested in interviewing for the job, Molitor stewed for a week before declining the interview.

GM Gord Ash and Godfrey hired Buck Martinez for 2001. Ash had wanted to hire Molitor to replace Cito Gaston for 1998. Molitor elected to play that season, a final year, for the Twins.

Molitor knows the game.

He studied in elementary school under coach Denny Denning and both wound up at Cretin-Derham Hall high in St. Paul at different times. Denning went 378-78 winning six state championships in 11 trips to the state tournament, coaching the likes of NFL quarterbacks Steve Walsh and Chris Weinke, while Joe Mauer attended his youth camps.

Denning once said of Molitor “he’s so still at the plate, you could put a glass of water on his head, he could swing … and not spill a drop.”

The third over-all round pick in 1977 from the University of Minnesota Gophers, spent only 64 games in the minors at class-A Burlington, joining the Brewers at age 21. He broke in under manager George Bamberger, then played for Buck Rodgers, Harvey Keunn, Rene Lachemann, Tom Trebelhorn and Phil Garner, before joining manager Gaston for three years, winning the MVP of the 1993 World Series.

Toronto Blue JaysAnd then when the Jays could not guarantee him enough at-bats he left as a free agent to play for his home town team and grand master Tom Kelly and the Twins for three years.

Molitor’s short, slashing swing, his two-strike approach, his ability to hit the ball the other way, to steal, to read a ball in the dirt, to bunt and to go first to third on a ball to right or centre fit with the rest of the Twins.

Kelly managed the Twins for 15 seasons until 2001 and if you were just back from a 10-year trip to the North Pole you’d think Kelly was still managing. Never have we seen an organization change so seamlessly from one manager to another.

Gardenhire had the Twins in the post season three times in five years before being fired after four 90-loss seasons.

Molitor will try to get the Twins back to the way they played under Kelly and the early Gardenhire years. He was the bench coach with the Twins last year after serving different roles in the Twins system.

The man with the sweet swing enjoyed running the bases or hitting line drives with the Brewers, Jays or Twins.

Yet, one close Twins observer said he didn’t see “Molitor smile once last season.”

Going back 14 years we spoke to Molitor almost daily for a week after he expressed interest in the Jays managing job.

The Twins had given the Jays permission to interview Molitor, while Ash had spoken to Molitor’s agent Ron Simon.

Had he decided to interview?

Interviews are no big deal, saying yes or no is the difficult part to job searches, we thought.

Finally, after a week Molitor had an answer.

No, he did not think he was ready after only one year coaching to interview for the manager’s job.

When we finished he asked as he did once in a while — like his final year when he left the Jays and had a choice to accept contract offers from the Baltimore Orioles, the Indians, Brewers and Twins, “well, what do you think?”

I’m not going to Baskins Robins for ice cream with you.

“What do you mean?” asked Molitor.

By the time you make your decision, the ice cream will have melted.

Molitor laughed.

Here’s hoping the Twins give him a few laughs and smiles next season.

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