Paul Molitor Wins 2017 AL Manager of Year Award

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistNovember 14, 2017

Minnesota Twins manager Paul Molitor watches against the Detroit Tigers in the third inning of a baseball game in Detroit, Thursday, April 13, 2017. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
Paul Sancya/Associated Press

The Minnesota Twins' Paul Molitor was announced Tuesday as the winner of the 2017 American League Manager of the Year Award. 

The Baseball Writers Association of America confirmed Molitor's win after he led the Twins to an 85-77 record and an unexpected berth in the MLB playoffs.

Molitor took home 18 of a possible 30 first-place votes, with the Cleveland Indians' Terry Francona raking in 11. The Houston Astros' A.J. Hinch was the only other skipper to secure a first-place vote. 

Minnesota entered the year as a virtual afterthought after losing 103 games in 2016. Joe Osborne of OddsShark noted they were listed at 125-1 odds to win the World Series in late March, which was the sixth-worst mark in all of baseball.

The Twins far exceeded those expectations in a year where Molitor was likely managing to keep his job in the final year of his three-year contract.

The 61-year-old Saint Paul native talked about the difficulty of navigating his lame-duck status after signing a three-year extension in October, per Jon Krawczynski of the Associated Press.

"It's not a totally comfortable thing," Molitor said. "But I think for the most part, staying task-focused ... obviously having a competitive season with a wild card appearance, helped keep that focus consistent without being too distracted by it. I tried to put it on the back burner as best as I could."

Offensively, Minnesota received typically strong seasons from Brian Dozier and Joe Mauer, a breakout year from Eddie Rosario and Byron Buxton finally showed signs of living up to the hype as a top prospect as the club ranked seventh in runs scored.

Although the pitching staff wasn't quite as strong, finishing 19th in ERA, the Twins made up for it with strong defense. Their .987 fielding percentage was tied for the second-best mark in the league.

The result was the team's first postseason berth since 2010. It had gone 142-182 in the first two years under the guidance of the Baseball Hall of Fame infielder, who ended his playing career as a member of the Twins in 1998.

"He's extremely baseball smart," Twins catcher Chris Gimenez told reporters. "He's in the Hall of Fame for a reason. Yeah, he was a great player, but you have to think the game to do what he did on the field. I see it constantly. He's very much ahead of the game. Sometimes it hasn't worked out necessarily the way you draw it up, but I think for the most part I'd take him any day of the week."

The Twins' season came to a close with a loss to the New York Yankees in the Wild Card Game.

Nevertheless, Molitor now has an AL Manager of the Year Award to add to a list of accomplishments that already features seven All-Star Game selections, four Silver Slugger Awards and a World Series MVP trophy. It's hard to argue with the selection given the Twins' strong bounce-back campaign.