sports 2 days ago

Twins' Paul Molitor wins AL Manager of the Year award

Star Tribune (Minneapolis) — By Phil Miller Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

Nov. 14-- In trying to sympathize with his plight, Paul Molitor joked last winter, "everyone tells me they look at our roster and don't see a 103-loss team." Just one problem, Molitor liked to point out: "Well, that doesn't really reflect very well on the manager."

One year later, Molitor is more than willing to identify with his Twins. They won 85 games in 2017, became the 13th team ever to follow a 100-loss season with a winning record, and the first in history to qualify for the postseason. And on Tuesday, Molitor was rewarded by being named the American League Manager of the Year, as voted by a 30-member committee of Baseball Writers of American members.

The 61-year-old Molitor is the third Twins manager, and third in a row, to win the award, following Tom Kelly in 1991 and Ron Gardenhire, whom he succeeded three years ago, in 2010. He's also just the second Hall of Fame player, along with Baltimore's Frank Robinson in 1989, to be honored for his managerial skill with the BBWAA award, which was created in 1983.

The St. Paul native was chosen as the league's top manager over two other finalists, each of whom led their teams to 100-win seasons: Cleveland's Terry Francona, a two-time winner, and Houston's A.J. Hinch, who helped the Astros win the World Series championship earlier this month.

Molitor received 18 of the 30 first-place votes, six second-place votes and four third-place votes for 112 points. Francona had 11 first-place votes, nine seconds and eight thirds for 90 points. Hinch had one first-place vote and 56 points.

Molitor's win total was more modest; his 85 victories are the second-fewest ever to win the AL honor in a full season, ahead of only the 83 wins recorded by the Royals' Tony Pena in 2003. But so was the Twins' perceived talent level, making his accomplishment, including winning an AL wild card berth, stand out. He helped develop a young roster of position players into an offense that scored 815 runs, the fourth-highest total in the league and fifth-highest in Twins history. And he fashioned a winning record despite a pitching staff roiled by injuries and ineffectiveness; 36 different players took the mound during the season.

That Molitor was even in the Twins' dugout might have been due to the support of owner Jim Pohlad, who made retaining the manager for the 2017 season a condition of hiring new executives to run the team, chief baseball officer Derek Falvey and general manager Thad Levine. The new leaders validated Pohlad's confidence by rewarding Molitor with a three-year contract extension in October.

"I'm not ready to stop working," Molitor said at the time. "I still feel driven. I still feel there's more to accomplish."

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