Moli­tor edges Fran­cona as AL Man­ager of Year

The Morning Journal (Lorain, OH) - - SPORTS - By Ben Walker

In­di­ans Man­ager Terry Fran­cona fin­ished sec­ond to the Twin’s Paul Moli­tor (right) as Amer­i­can League Man­ager of the Year. Torey Lovullo of the Di­a­mond­backs was the Na­tional League pick.

Paul Moli­tor and Torey Lovullo both presided over turn­around sea­sons, guided their teams into the play­offs and won Man­ager of the Year awards by wide mar­gins.

The paths they took, those were to­tally dif­fer­ent.

Moli­tor needed a club­house talk to calm down the Min­nesota Twins, his play­ers an­gered by moves the front of­fice at the July 31 trade dead­line.

“I still be­lieved,” Moli­tor said Tues­day, re­call­ing how he helped his team over­come “that speed bump.”

No such dis­trac­tions in the desert.

In his first full sea­son as a skip­per, Lovullo built a cul­ture of com­mu­ni­ca­tion with the Ari­zona Di­a­mond­backs. He of­ten re­ferred to the “love” team­mates had for each other — and Lovullo cer­tainly loved the mid­sea­son deal that brought big-hit­ting J.D. Martinez to the D-backs.

“We are go­ing to be one year bet­ter,” he said, adding his club would be even “more united” in 2018.

Moli­tor won the Amer­i­can League Man­ager of the Year award after the Twins be­came the first team to make the play­offs fol­low­ing a 100-loss sea­son.

Moli­tor drew 18 of the 30 first-place votes in bal­lot­ing by mem­bers of the Base­ball Writ­ers’ As­so­ci­a­tion of Amer­ica.

Cleve­land’s Terry Fran­cona was sec­ond and A.J. Hinch of the World Se­ries cham­pion Hous­ton Astros fin­ished third. Vot­ing was com­pleted be­fore the start of the play­offs.

Lovullo got 18 first-place votes, too, in earn­ing the Na­tional League prize. Dave Roberts of the Los An­ge­les Dodgers was sec­ond and Colorado’s Bud Black was third.

Roberts, Black, Mil­wau­kee’s Craig Coun­sell and Dusty Baker, since let go by Wash­ing­ton, also had first­place votes.

Moli­tor joined Frank Robin­son as the only Hall of Fame play­ers to win a man­ager of the year award, which was first pre­sented in 1983.

“I was aware of some of the his­tory,” Moli­tor said.

The Twins went 85-77 this sea­son and cap­tured their first play­off spot since 2010 be­fore los­ing to the Yan­kees in the AL wild­card game. Last year, the Twins led the ma­jors with 103 losses.

Brian Dozier, Joe Mauer and their Min­nesota team­mates were in the midst of a 5-13 slide when the Twins traded closer Bran­don Kint­zler to Wash­ing­ton for a mi­nor lea­guer less than a month after he made the All-Star team. They also dealt away Jaime Gar­cia after he won his only start since they got him from At­lanta.

“A lit­tle bit of a wrin­kle,” Moli­tor said.

Moli­tor’s message to the Twins at that point was “not mag­i­cal,” he said. In­stead, it was fairly sim­ple and straight­for­ward: Be­lieve in your­selves.

“I still had a lot of op­ti­mism,” he said.

The 61-year-old Moli­tor was born and raised in St. Paul, Min­nesota, and got the last of his 3,319 ca­reer hits with the Twins in 1998.

Shortly after the play­off loss, Moli­tor got a new three-year con­tract to con­tinue man­ag­ing the Twins.

The 52-year-old Lovullo guided the Di­a­mond­backs to a 93-69 record and their first play­off spot since 2011, a year after they went 6993.

Lovullo was Bos­ton’s bench coach when he ran the Red Sox for 48 games in 2015 while man­ager John Far­rell un­der­went cancer treat­ment.

Pow­ered by Paul Gold­schmidt, Jake Lamb and Martinez, and led by pitch­ers Zack Greinke and Rob­bie Ray, the Di­a­mond­backs made the play­offs this year. They beat Colorado in the NL wild-card game be­fore get­ting swept by the Dodgers in the Divi­sion Se­ries.

The Di­a­mond­backs were swept in a three-game se­ries at Min­nesota in midAu­gust, outscored 27-8 at Tar­get Field. Less than a week later, Ari­zona be­gan a fran­chise-record 13-game win­ning streak.

Lovullo’s team has a new tar­get in 2018.

“It didn’t end the way we wanted. The Dodgers walked through us,” he said.

BRUCE KLUCKHOHN — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Twins Man­ager Paul Moli­tor, right, greets third base­man Miguel Sano after a Twins vic­tory last sea­son.

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