By BEN WALKER
The Associated Press
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 made 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 first-place 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 wild-card 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 69-93.
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 mid-August, outscored 27-8 at Target Field. Less than a week later, Arizona began a franchise-record 13-game winning streak.
Going into a new season, Lovullo’s team has a new target.
“It didn’t end the way we wanted. The Dodgers walked through us,” he said.