The three candidates left are St. Paul's own Paul Molitor, Fort Myers Miracle manager and former Twin Doug Mientkiewicz, and current Boston Red Sox bench coach Torey Lovullo.
Molitor is the favorite at this point and I am not exactly sure why. Yes he has been in the organization working with prospects on numerous things for a few years now, but this past season was the first season he has ever been a part of a coaching staff. Numerous baseball people will say Molitor sees the game differently than others and picks up on things others do not see. That's great in all, but can he handle a pitching staff?
Gardy was famous for over working his bullpens early in seasons and then the years we did make the playoffs they would implode from being so over worked. Or he would start pitchers like Brian Duensing in playoff games. Duensing has been average in the pen at best and he has started a playoff game for us, just let that sink in for a minute. While Molitor may have been being groomed behind the scenes and may have lots of baseball knowledge, he's not the ideal candidate.
Mientkiewicz is still fairly new at managing, having only managed 3 seasons at Single-A ball, one year for the Dodgers and 2 years for the Twins at Fort Myers. Since arriving here the past two seasons he has been very successful at Fort Myers, winning the league championship this past season. He brings a much needed fire. This clubhouse has gone stale and needs a kick in the rear to get going again. He also has worked firsthand with a majority of our top prospects and his familiarity with them, will only help them adjust to the majors when they arrive. While I don't think Dougie Baseball is the ideal manager just yet, if I had to choose between him and Molitor, I'd take him every time.
If I'm hand picking the Twins manager right now I'm taking Torey Lovullo. Lovullo is not only the most experienced of all the candidates, but he can bring a much better perspective on where this team needs to go because he has never been a part of this organization. Lovullo was a minor league manager from 2002-2010 winning the manager of the year award in his league 3 different times. Since 2011 he has been John Farrell's right hand man ever since. He was with him for the two years in Toronto and every since in Boston. If anyone knows how to handle a pitching staff it's John Farrell, who has been a long time pitching coach turned manager.
Lovullo is also known for being a big part of the analytical side of baseball, which the Twins have been slower to adapt too. He can bring that Sabermetric side of the game that we have never had. Lovullo would also bring some of the things that have made Boston so successful for the last 10-15 years. Some may say the Twins have been successful in that time period as well, but they don't have 3 championships. It's time to go outside the organization and bring in a guy who is ready, can handle a pitching staff, and has experience of winning and help change this culture. If he does come in there is one free agent the Twins could pair him with to really get this culture changed and turned around for the better, James Shields.
I know what most Twins fans are thinking, James Shields is going to cost too much and he's too old. I say hear me out first before you shoot this idea down. Shields has pitched over 200 innings in each of the last 8 seasons. He has been one of the most durable pitchers in all of baseball and has a career ERA of 3.72 and all in the American League. He isn't a flashy strikeout guy by any means, but his leadership and ability to build a culture has been proven time and time again.
Usually I'm not all for throwing money at clubhouse guys, but after watching the Twins this season, it was clear a new culture needs to be put in place. Shields is going to get a huge deal and will probably not live up to it since he will be 33 going into next season, but here is why the Twins should spend a ton of money on him. When he came up for the Rays in 2006 it was evident that he was going to be good, striking out 104 in 124 innings that year.
From the manager Maddon to the star first overall pick in David Price, everyone in Tampa credited James for creating the culture of not taking anything less than winning as an option. He has been known as a bulldog and even coined the nickname of Big Game James, thanks to his ability to come up big when his team needs him most. Now, he hasn't lived up to that name recently, but in the year the Rays went to the World Series, he was everything they needed and more. He quickly became the leader of the staff that led the Rays to the Playoffs in 2008, 2010 and 2011 before being traded to KC prior to the 2013 season.
There is a reason why the Royals gave up the then best prospect in baseball in Wil Myers for Shields. They too needed a culture change when it came to their staff and in the clubhouse. Watching the Twins this season, reminded me of when we used to see the Royals get creamed by us on a regular basis back when we were winning division titles. He came in and took over the staff from day one and groomed not only the young starters in the rotation, but the young arms in the bullpen as well. He has brought a swagger to this Royals team that needs to be injected into our clubhouse, our rotation, and our bullpen.
Now, I know it's highly unlikely that Shields would want anything to do with the Twins, but if you bring in Lovullo and give him enough years and dollars, with the young talent in the farm system you may just be able to get the guy we need to change this culture and to groom Meyer, May, Gibson, Berrios, Tonkin and all the other young guns coming up.
If you add Shields you have a rotation of Shields, Hughes, Gibson, Nolasco and May to begin the season. This allows you to start Meyer in the bullpen to begin the season, much like we did with Liriano in the 2006 season. Liriano started in the bullpen and gained lots of confidence having success in short outings and eventually stretched out and took a place in the rotation in late May. Meyer could do the same thing. He has lights out stuff, so let him come in and strikeout the side and gain some confidence before plugging him into the rotation. You also can control his innings early on, which will reassure the Twins who have been concerned about his shoulder issues the past two seasons.
All in all, it's time for a culture change in this organization if they want to have any success when these young players arrive. If they arrive in the current state, they will not succeed until they are gone. It's time to bring in the manager with no ties to the organization and it's time to bring in that veteran horse who can change the culture of losing and breed it into winning once again.
Written by Nick Calo, follow me on Twitter for more updates and sports thoughts @PRH1987