Gregg Hoffmann

Midwest Diamond Report - 12/1

Two MDR teams took different approaches to hiring new managers after the regular season.

The Cubs hired veteran Joe Maddon to replace Rick Renteria. The Twins hired former Brewer and Twin player Paul Molitor, a first time manager, to replace Ron Gardenhire.

Maddon has a proven track record and is considered an innovative manager of the game. He‘s known for his positive approach and demonstrated that when he was introduced as the Cubs‘ skipper.

"I'm going to talk playoffs [next year], I'm going to talk World Series," Maddon said. "I promise you I am, and I'm going to believe it."

The Cubs are loaded with young prospects, so a veteran leader at the top could help guide the youngsters. The club also might seek some veteran, free agent pitchers, and Maddon could help there too.

"It might help with recruiting," Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein told Carrie Muskat of MLB.com. "Everyone wants to play for Joe, which is nice.

“I like where we are as an organization. It's a lot more fun to have an eye on competing. We're going to try to build the right way and not force it, not rush it. We're going to find the right fits and make the right moves and compete."

Molitor has been with the Twins in a variety of coaching capacities since retiring as a player, but the jump to the top managerial spot is a big one. But, other teams have had some success with managers who had less on-field coaching experience -- such as Mike Matheny with the Cardinals and Robin Ventura with the White Sox.

The move to Molitor also isn’t something that was a last minute decision. "It's been a long journey for me," said Molitor, who has been rumored before to be up for big jobs with the Twins and Brewers.

"I've had opportunities to think about this for many years. I've spun it through and spun it out, and finally everything kind of seemed to come together right. ... I have no doubt this is where I'm supposed to be.

"I'm coming here to win," added Molitor. "I think it's very important to lay that out there right from the start. Things can change in this game very dramatically at this level very quickly."

This writer got to know Molitor quite well during his playing days with the Brewers. He was one of those rare players who could teach the game both by doing and verbally. We produced a baseball tips column for youngsters, which was picked up by a few state newspapers in the early ‘90s. Molitor showed a deep knowledge of the game through that project and an ability to articulate that knowledge.

Of course, managing is different from being a knowledgeable player, or even a coach. Not all who were great players have had success as managers.

"We've seen successful athletes have trouble in managing or general management positions," Molitor said. "But this is a different challenge than playing. My playing obviously influenced this, but this is totally different. But I got a text from Jeff Idelson, the president of the Hall of Fame, and he told me to relax and that my plaque isn't going anywhere."

Molitor isn’t inheriting a situation like Maddon has with the Cubs. The Twins have some promising young players, but seem to have a longer road to rebuilding. But, don’t bet against Molitor long range.

Both the Cubs and Twins should be interesting to watch next season, despite their different approaches to hiring managers.

Updated Notes

Brewers

** RHP Taylor Jungmann, relievers David Goforth and Michael Strong and shortstop Yadiel Rivera were added to Milwaukee's 40-man roster

** Right-hander John Ely has agreed to a minor league deal with the Brewers. The 28-year-old saw sporadic playing time with the Dodgers over the 2010-12 time frame. The Brewers also announced last week that they have re-signed outfielder Jeremy Hermida and infielder Pete Orr to minor league deals.

** Craig Counsell said he removed himself from the running to be the next Rays manager, in part because he's enjoying his role as a special assistant to the general manager for the Brewers.

Cubs

** Free agent LHP Jon Lester reportedly has visited the Cubs and received a six-year offer from the club. Catcher Russell Martin, also of interest to the Cubs, signed with the Blue Jays. The Cubs also have interest in LHP Cole Hamels.

** The Wrigley Field bleachers, currently undergoing a major renovation, may not be ready by Opening Night because of unseasonably cold weather and delays with related projects.

**  First baseman Anthony Rizzo accepted the 23rd Annual Branch Rickey Award for humanitarian service. At 25, he is the youngest recipient.

Twins

** Veteran free agent OF Torii Hunter has said he is interested in returning to the Twins, but other sources said he is more interested in other clubs.

** Molitor is filling out his coaching staff. Eddie Guardado will serve as bullpen coach. . The Twins also have announced the hires of pitching coach Neil Allen, hitting coach Tom Brunansky, assistant hitting coach Rudy Hernandez, bench coach Joe Vavra and third-base coach Gene Glynn.

** The Twins added four players to their 40-man roster, including top prospects Miguel Sano, Alex Meyer and Eddie Rosario. The Twins have outrighted righty Anthony Swarzak.

White Sox

** The White Sox added a veteran power bat, agreeing to a two-year, $25-million contract with 1B Adam LaRoche. LaRoche wasn’t keen to fully transition to a full-time DH role, yet he told reporters during his introductory White Sox press conference that he’s happy to cede most of the first base duties to Jose Abreu. “They’ve got a kid [Abreu] that’s obviously going to be around and be really good for a long time,” LaRoche said.

** The Sox and A’s reportedly were talking about a deal that would send former Cub Jeff Samardzija back to Chicago for shortstop Alexei Ramirez.

** The White Sox have outrighted righty Ronald Belisario. Belisario was designated recently to make room for the claim of reliever Onelki Garcia. The White Sox have signed OF Tony Campana.

Halls of Fame

A group wants to establish a La Crosse Area Baseball Hall of Fame, with a walkway of commemorative plaques at Copeland Park and eventually a museum.

I’m serving on the board of this group and think it’s a great idea. If you want to donate to the La Crosse Area Baseball Hall of Fame, contact board chairman Mike Haupert at mhaupert@uwlax.edu.

Sticking with the Hall of Fame theme, the Old Time Ballplayers Association in Milwaukee inducted Greg Ebbert, Ken “Red” Oberbruner, Jamey Oberbruner, Greg Mahlberg, Ron Barbian and Jim Andrews into their Hall in early November.

MDR On Facebook

The MDR Blog now has an accompanying Facebook page. Updates to the Blog will be added there rather than my own personal Facebook page.

Don’t expect it to be updated as often as the old Midwest Diamond Report web site was updated, but it will allow a space for trades, rumors, spectacular results, etc. to be posted in between postings of the Blog.

Also feel free to add comments to it. The address can be found among the listing of place where the Blog is posted.

Pompous Prognostications

This writer didn’t do as well with his post-season individual awards as with his team finishes predictions. I picked Jose Abreu as the AL Rookie of the Year and Mike Trout as AL MVP, but swung and missed at the other award winners.

What’s Ahead

Baseball’s Winter Meetings will be held Dec. 8-11 in San Diego. Some moves often come out of those meetings.

The Rule 5 Draft will be held Dec. 11. The GIBBY awards will be announced Dec. 6. Hall of Fame nominations also will be announced in December.

Baseball then calms down for the holidays, but promotional events and preparation for spring training will happen in January.

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