So long, Gardy, it’s been good to know ya.
On Monday the Minnesota Twins announced the dismissal of manager Ron Gardenhire, ending his contract one year before it was set to expire. He left a mixed legacy filled with some good moments (division title races and the like) and bad (the, uh, last four seasons). Ultimately it had to happen.
Gardy took over in 2002, inheriting a young but talented team from former manager Tom Kelly. With the talent he was given and a weak division the Twins dominated the American League Central for the next eight seasons.
But after 2010 things went south quickly and drastically.
In 2011 the Twins avoided a 100-loss season by narrowly winning their final game. The following three seasons would be much of the same with 90+ losses in each. This year was supposed to be some sort of step in the right direction, with young talent on the rise and a couple offseason moves giving the organization some promise for improvement. After that didn’t happen the decision was understandably made to dump the manager.
But what does the move mean? Is it the right one?
I don’t believe that the 90+ loss seasons were 100% Gardenhire’s fault. He unquestionably had to deal with a lack of talent, although there were some managerial decisions that I have questioned over the years. The first is his unwillingness to move Joe Mauer from the three spot in the lineup, where most teams put someone that can hit for average, have a decent on base percentage, and hit for power (seven homeruns a season does not count as hitting for power). He may not have had many other options but Mauer was definitely not the guy.
Another criticism, though maybe it was more pitching coach Rick Anderson than Gardenhire, is that they’d keep pitchers in when they were obviously out of gas. Any fan would be able to tell that a starter was done by the fifth but the coaching staff and manager would send them out for the sixth. Too often close games were blown because of decisions like this.
Ideally the new manager will not be bogged down by having to do things the “Twins’ way.” This obviously isn’t winning games. I would like a firecracker coach or one that is willing to do things a little differently. There are several names that come to mind when I think of managers like this, among them Ozzie Guillen, Mike Redmond and Ron Washington.
If the Twins are going to go internally I would expect Paul Molitor to be the new leader. This would be the cliché move by the Twins, seeing as he’s a Minnesota boy, played for the Twins, and is loved by everyone here already. It wouldn’t be bad, though, as Molitor is a student of the game and knows its nuances. In any case I expect the next coaching staff to be filled with a lot of bilingual coaches based on the influx of young talent from Spanish speaking countries.
The bottom line is that with the influx of youth on this team, and because the former regime was inept at developing promising talent (David Oritz, Aaron Hicks, J.J. Hardy and many more), this is the right time for a change of the coaching staff. Who that will be, and how much change it will bring, remains to be seen.