Doug Mientkiewicz, who followed his seven seasons as a player with the Twins with five seasons as a manager in the organization, was fired by the organization on Friday.
“I wasn’t shocked, because I had a message that changes were taking place,” Mientkiewicz said. “I feel bad for the kids who played for me, including the ones I managed that are helping the Twins make a run for the playoffs right now. Ask any of them about me as a manager.”
Mientkiewicz’s teams finished in first place in four of his five seasons at the helm. He led the Class A Fort Myers Miracle to first-place finishes and postseason berths in 2013, 2014 and this summer, winning the Florida State League championship in 2014, and his Class AA Chattanooga Lookouts won the Southern League championship 2015. He posted winning records in all five seasons as a manager, and compiled a winning percentage of .563 (385-299) overall.
But the 42-year-old Mientkiewicz was informed of his firing on Friday, as part of an overall reorganization of the team’s minor league and scouting system, as he cleared debris left by Hurricane Irma from his Florida Keys neighborhood.
“I’ve been cutting down trees up and down the block, cleaning up after the hurricane, and watching the National Guard go up and down the street. My cellphone was out for several days, and then I got a call today,” said Mientkiewicz, known throughout the organization as “Dougie Baseball” for his intensity about the game. “I’m out here working my rear end off, dealing with the remnants of the hurricane, and they call to tell me I’m fired. You think they will ever do something professional as an organization?”
Twins General Manager Thad Levine, though, said he and Chief Baseball Officer Derek Falvey were acting in Mientkiewicz’s interest by giving him as much notice as possible that he wouldn’t be back in 2018. “Changes are being made, and we have worked very closely with our senior leadership team and departments to determine the best course of action for the future,” Levine said. “Our hope and goal is to do so in a timely fashion, so that people who are not being retained have 100 percent access to job openings that may occur around the industry.”
Levine declined to reveal the reasons for Mientkiewicz’s firing. “First, I would note how much we appreciate the success that Doug has had within the organization, not only in the dugout as a manager but also in how much he’s impacted players and their development under him,” Levine said. “As for decisions about staffing, we would not go into those details. Those are conversations we would have with Doug personally.”
Mientkiewicz, however, said he was informed of the decision by Brad Steil, the Twins’ director of minor league operations, and not Falvey or Levine. In fact, he said, the only time he talked to either one during the Miracle’s season was when Levine called to inform him he was being suspended by the Twins for three games for an on-field dispute with an umpire.
The phone call frustrated him, too, Mientkiewicz said, and not just because he was being fired. Mientkiewicz congratulated Steil on his pending promotion within the organization, “and he said, ‘I couldn’t have done it without you,’ Then he said, ‘We’ve been going through the coaching staffs here, and we’ve decided not to bring you back.’ ”
According to Mientkiewicz, he asked Steil if the decision was his, or if it came from Falvey or Levine. “He said, ‘We don’t give out that information.’ I said, ‘I’m not just some guy; I go back with this organization 25 years. I deserve an answer,’ ” Mientkiewicz said. “And Steil said, ‘We’re not going to give you one.’ ”
Mientkiewicz was drafted by the Twins out of Florida State in the fifth round of the 1995 draft, came up through the system, won a gold medal with Team USA in the 2000 Sydney Olympics, and debuted with the Twins in 1998. He batted .275 in parts of seven seasons in Minnesota, won a Gold Glove at first base in 2001, and became one of the leaders of two division-winning teams before being traded to the Red Sox at the trade deadline in 2004. He won a world championship with Boston, memorably recording the final out at first base, and played for the Mets, Royals, Yankees, Pirates and Dodgers before retiring in 2009.
Rasmussen also out
Eric Rasmussen, a Twins employee for 27 seasons and the team’s minor league pitching coordinator for the past nine, also was fired Friday. He served as pitching coach for affiliates for 18 seasons, and filled in as Twins pitching coach for six weeks in 2016 during Neil Allen’s suspension following a drunken-driving arrest.
Steil, who has directed Twins minor league operations for five years, will be shifted to director of pro scouting, Levine confirmed.
In the newly created position, Steil will work with vice president for player personnel Mike Radcliff and pro scouting coordinator Vern Followell to coordinate the team’s scouting and analytics departments “to develop and synthesize our information gathering and analysis” of major league players and the Twins’ own roster.
“The position rounds out Brad’s portfolio as he poises himself for a career in senior leadership,” Levine said of Steil, a Twins employee for 17 seasons.
Levine and Falvey are implementing a reorganization of the scouting department, which included firing four area scouts last month. “[Former GM] Terry Ryan was supremely experienced and accomplished as a scout,” Levine said, but he and Falvey don’t have that background. So they are working to expand the department.
Star Tribune columnist Patrick Reusse contributed to this report.