First off, one measuring stick of someone getting old has to be players that you watched as a kid suddenly getting jobs as managers. For me, Washington’s Matt Williams and Minnesota’s Paul Molitor are in that category. However prior to the Baltimore Orioles playing Molitor’s Minnesota ballclub yesterday in Grapefruit League action, the manner in which Molitor got his gig struck me.
Please don’t misread my point here; in no way do I believe that Molitor is undeserving, and I’m certainly not suggesting that he’s going to be a poor manager. All rookie managers have to be given a learning curve, just as we saw in Washington with Williams last year. But for just a moment remove the context of the fact that Molitor is managing Minnesota, and that he’s Paul Molitor. Would he have gotten hired as a manager?
He served as Minnesota’s bench coach from 2001-’03, and spent one year as a hitting coach in Seattle (2004). Last season he was on Minnesota’s coaching staff as an instructor, and also assisted with in-game strategy.
Courtesy of Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Don’t misinterpret my implication; I do think that Molitor is going to be a good manager. Molitor was essentially a career DH, and during all that time spent on the bench during games he undoubtedly observed the likes of Cito Gaston and Tom Kelly doing their thing. And if you look at other sports, guys who spent a lot of time on the bench probably make good coaches (Pat Riley in the NBA, as an example). And of course in baseball you can point at the Orioles’ Buck Showalter, although he’s more of a career coach.
Without saying that Molitor isn’t qualified, I’m indirectly saying that. But more poignantly I’m saying that he didn’t necessarily “pay his dues” in a sense. You’ll remember that last off season the Washington Nationals were rumored to be interested in Cal Ripken Jr. as their manager (before eventually hiring Williams). And one could look at that similarly; Ripken would have in essence been hired with no professional coaching experience. More bluntly, because of his name.
Teams can hire anyone they want in whatever capacity; the same is true in the business world. In fairness, the idea is to hire the best candidate; and as I said, I believe that Molitor is going to be a decent manager. Having said that, think of how hires like this come across to someone like Ryne Sandberg, who paid his dues and then some in the Chicago Cubs’ minor league system. He appeared to be the candidate in waiting for some time, and was passed over numerous times. Every situation is different, however if I was a guy like Sandberg (who’s currently the manager of the Philadelphia Phillies, who are facing the Orioles today in Sarasota) I’d be somewhat frosted by the thought of a guy being handed a job when I knew I had to earn it. (And in that case he didn’t even get the job in “his organization.”
The flip side of this is that one could argue that I’m coming off as saying that guys like Sandberg (among others) could justifiably have a sense of entitlement. I’m the first one to tell you that I despise senses of entitlement – when someone thinks he should truly be “handed” something. However when in fact one’s earned their stripes, it’s not outside the realm of acceptability to question why others are advancing. And to be fair, Sandberg became a manager before the likes of Paul Molitor. However he was forced to take a much more difficult route to get there.
Again please don’t misinterpret my point here; this is not an attack on Paul Molitor or his resume. I can’t blame the candidate for accepting the job he was offered. My issue is that while different teams might look for different qualifications in a manager, I can understand how someone who’s paid his dues might not take kindly to being passed over in favor of someone who hasn’t. And for the record, Paul Molitor is a career baseball guy. For his sake, I’m glad that he got a managerial job, and I wish him the best of luck.