Earlier this week, the Minnesota Twins decided to make some major changes within their organization. Longtime General Manager Terry Ryan was officially relieved of his duties on Monday. The firing was certainly justified, as the Twins are currently in last place in the AL Central and have the worst record in the American League. Despite this, manager Paul Molitor will keep his job.
When Ryan was fired on Monday, the Twins had a record of 33-58 and were 21 games behind the firs-place Cleveland Indians in the AL Central. The 2016 season has just been one to forget for Minnesota. They had an awful start, losing their first nine games to start the year. After that, they just couldn’t recover. The Twins played somewhat better the rest of April, but were still 7-17 at the end of the month. By the time May ended, things weren’t much better, as the team had just 15 wins and had already amassed 36 losses. When the All-Star break came around, Molitor’s club was 32-56. After losing two of three games to the Indians this past weekend, Twins Owner and CEO Jim Pohlad decided that a change needed to be made.
Ryan ended up taking the fall for Minnesota’s abysmal start this season. This had been his second stint as General Manager of the Twins. He held the position from 1995-2007 until stepping down to become the Assistant GM. Following Minnesota’s decision to fire Bill Smith after the 2011 season, Ryan assumed the role once more. Under Ryan, the Twins were very competitive in the mid-2000s. The team won three straight AL Central titles, spanning from 2002-2004. They made the ALCS in 2002, but lost to the Los Angeles Angels.
This Twins team certainly isn’t that 2002 team. They’re currently on pace to lose over 100 games. With this season already lost, fans of the team already have their eyes on 2017. The day before the Ryan firing was announced, Molitor reportedly informed by Twins Ownership that his job was safe. Not only that, but they told him that they wanted him to remain the manager for the 2017 season. This is definitely a strong vote of confidence for the second-year manager.
Molitor will now get another chance in Minnesota. Part of the reason that he kept his job has to do with how well his team played last season. Molitor took over a team that hadn’t been to the playoffs since 2010. There was a lot of young talent coming up through the farm system, including Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton. He had a lot on his plate in his first season ever as a a manager. All in all, he did pretty well. Exactly one year ago today, the Twins were 50-44 and in second place in the AL Central. They continued to overachieve for a little while longer, but ended up falling off in the end. They finished 83-79, three games behind the Houston Astros for the second AL Wildcard spot. This surprisingly good season raised expectations for 2016.
Unfortunately, things didn’t work out so well for them. The starting pitching has been very bad for the Twins. Three of their main starters, Ricky Nolasco, Phil Hughes, and Ervin Santana all have ERAs over 3.90. Miguel Sano was injured earlier in the season while playing right field, a position he was asked to move to so as to accommodate Trevor Plouffe. Sano has since been moved back to his original position. Byung ho-Park, who the Twins signed from Korea this past offseason, hasn’t panned out. In fact, the slugging first baseman/designated hitter is currently in Triple-A because his performance hasn’t lived up to expectation. Simply put, 2016 has been a disaster for the Minnesota Twins.
Molitor has an uphill battle going forward. A former player himself, he played for 21 seasons in the MLB. Over the course of his career, he was a seven-time All-Star and won the World Series with the Toronto Blue Jays in 1993. He was the MVP in that World Series. Molitor was inducted into the MLB Hall of Fame in 2004. As a former player who has had success at the Major League level, he knows what it takes to succeed. Right now however, he doesn’t have the right tools to do this. Assistant GM Rob Antony will assume the role of General Manager for the time being. Whether he’s the GM next year or someone else, that person will need to provide Molitor with players that will make the Twins competitive once again.
The Twins aren’t in a great place right now. However, things can turn around quickly. If they take the proper measures, they could be competitive again in 2017.