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  • Big Year for the Manager

    One of the bigger storylines of the offseason was the future of Ron Gardenhire as manager of the Minnesota Twins. Most years throughout his tenure, he signed a two-year extension before he got to the final year of his contract. However, after last season, Gardenhire did not receive an extension, so he is in the last year of his deal.

    On its own, that means very little. I mean, Terry Ryan could still choose to extend him any time during the season or following the season. Unfortunately, Gardenhire has been the man in charge on the field where the Twins have lost 195 games over the past two seasons. As you recall, last year, three of his coaches were not brought back for the 2013 season.

    Although Gardenhire is the same manager that won one AL Manager of the Year award and finished second in voting five other times, the on-field results have not been there the past two seasons.

    He has been at his best as a manager when expectations were low. He is beloved by his players. Unlike his predecessor, Gardenhire is willing to get thrown out of a ball game to back his players. Like his predecessor, he wants the little things to be done right and well, even though his players have frequently not been able to do those things well.

    Those who donít like Gardenhire as manager will choose to bring up several topics as well. Many will tell you that he hasnít won in the playoffs, an argument that canít really be disputed at this point. Some will say that he can be tough on rookies, but he isnít as hard on them as Tom Kelly was. Some will focus on his lineup construction, although that is something that likely every fan base complains about their manager. Some talk about how he uses his bullpen, but most in the industry say that he and Rick Anderson handle their bullpen as well as any.



    With Ron Gardenhire in the final year of a contract with a roster that Las Vegas thinks will lose 95 games again in 2013, what does he have to do to maintain his job throughout the season and beyond?

    For what itís worth, Gardenhire says that he isnít spending much time thinking about it. At Twins Fest, the manager told reporters, ďI donít even worry about that. Really, I donít. Itís only talked about because thatís the way the business goes. I really manage, what is this 11 going on 12 years? I think my predecessor went one year at a time. I donít think he ever signed more than a one year deal. You know what, I really donít have a problem with it at all. Itís just the way it is. I laugh about it. I kid about it. You know what, you should be held accountable year by year. I have no problem with that. Iíll go about my business. Itís not going to change what I do.Ē

    Gardy may not think about it, but unfortunately Terry Ryan likely will. And, we know that Twins fans will as well. So again, what will be the determining factors in the decision to bring back Gardenhire, or not? Here are some ways to look at it. There may be more.

    WINS/LOSSES


    Some may simply look at the Win-Loss record and determine whether or not he comes back. However, this is not a case of looking for a certain number. As mentioned, the team has lost 195 games over the last two seasons. To expect them to suddenly win 85 to 95 games is just not very realistic. So, is there a win total that would mean you would keep him? Is it 81? Is it 75?

    COMPETITIVENESS


    I think that it should depend upon many more factors than just the Win-Loss record. Would you be willing to accept a lower number if various players are hurt? Maybe you just expect them to be competitive until mid-July? At that point, the Twins could decide to trade some veterans and go with younger players. Is it fair to expect that younger team to continue to win at the same level?

    How about just being more competitive from game to game? How many times in the last two seasons have the Twins been behind by four or more runs after the first couple of innings? But, depending upon who Gardenhire is able to put on the mound each day, he has little ability to control the results.

    IMPROVEMENT


    I think itís important to see improvement from year to year, and even from month to month. A manager can try to motivate young players or struggling players. Of course, the player is the one who has to develop and perform. However, I would like to see guys like Liam Hendriks and Brian Dozier take a step forward in their careers in 2013. Both struggled in 2012, and both do have the talent to be solid big leaguers. Thatís not to say that those are the two players who should determine Gardenhireís future. Others will need to improve as well.

    Also, it will be important to see the team as a whole play better from month to month throughout the season. Again, that may or may not be measured by wins.

    HANDLING OF YOUNG PLAYERS


    It is likely that rookies such as Aaron Hicks, Kyle Gibson, Oswaldo Arcia and maybe others will debut in 2013. How will Gardy deal with them through the good times and the bad?

    In speaking out Aaron Hicks at Twins Fest, Gardenhire said, ďI think one thing I know how to do is make these guys relax a little. Try to keep it as light as we possibly can. Thereís a stress out there that I canít control, and thatís him trying to make this baseball team. I can control how he handles himself, and I can try to keep him as relaxed as much as I possibly can with the rest of our staff and not put too much pressure on him.Ē

    This speaks beyond rookies though. It speaks to other young players, like Dozier, Hendriks, Darin Mastroianni, Joe Benson, Cole De Vries, Chris Parmelee and even Trevor Plouffe. How will their successes and their adversities be handled, and how will that be judged?

    INJURIES


    Letís face it, the Twins roster, particularly the pitching staff, has a lot of question marks tied to health that will affect the 2013 season. Kyle Gibson and Mike Pelfrey are returning from Tommy John surgery. Scot Diamond may not be ready for Opening Day due to removing bone chips from his elbow. Liam Hendriks had the same surgery in October, and Vance Worley had it in August. Other pitchers could get hurt throughout the season. The hitters sound like they are at 100%, but Morneau has missed a lot of time the last couple of years. Josh Willingham played a career high number of games in 2012. Can he stay relatively healthy in 2013? Trevor Plouffe missed a lot of time last year. And there are always unforeseen injuries.

    The manager canít control those things. Players get hurt, unfortunately. How he responds publically and within the locker room to those things is important.

    IN-GAME DECISION-MAKING


    This is a category that social media have seemed to make more important. Every decision a manager (or GM, or scouting director) makes is scrutinized. If a Manager goes with his gut, rather than the book on occasion, he will be called out by some. If he always does the same thing (even if that is what the book says to do), he will be scrutinized as being too predictable.

    Again, every fan baseís manager will make decisions throughout the season that the fans wonít agree with. I think this is a poor reason for firing, but some fans will think itís important.

    There are likely many other reasons to either fire or keep a manager around. Ron Gardenhire is the same manager that won a lot of games for this organization over the past dozen seasons. He has dealt with more injuries and lack of talent the last two seasons than in any of those previous seasons.

    It is clear that the Twins are building for 2014 and 2015 and beyond, so the biggest question really needs to be, Is Ron Gardenhire the right guy to have leading a young and developing roster? Thatís the most difficult question to answer as well. He has had a lot of successes with young players this century. Iím sure there have been some busts as well. Thatís the same with any manager or any team.

    Itís a tough question to answer, and at the end of the day, it will be Terry Ryanís question to answer. Hopefully the players will stay healthy and improve and the Twins will surprise a lot of people which will make Ryanís decision easy.
    This article was originally published in blog: Big Year for the Manager started by Seth Stohs
    Comments 82 Comments
    1. Gernzy's Avatar
      Gernzy -
      Great article Seth. Hopefully the people who want Gardy gone right now will read this and realize there is alot more to it then they think.
    1. Winston Smith's Avatar
      Winston Smith -
      I guess the manager wins games but the players, umpires, injuries, ______ fill in the excuse lose the games?
      No Gardy isn't 100% at fault but at some point it's time to move on. 10-12 years with one team is a long time, turn the page and start fresh, imo. He'll get another job.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      For several years Seth wrote the team no longer does the little things well. Now that people are suggesting Gardenhire accountable for that, it is somehow not the coaches responsibility? Who on the roster the last few years has really grown as a player under this staff? When have they over achieved lately?

      Gardy clearly is a big part of the success. But if he gets credit when they do well, he needs to get blame when they do not.
    1. old nurse's Avatar
      old nurse -
      Quote Originally Posted by mike wants wins View Post
      Who on the roster the last few years has really grown as a player under this staff? When have they over achieved lately?
      Several Twins last year had career years. Revere ended up valuable enough that they got a starting pitcher and a prospect for him. Span developed under Gardenhire. Plouffe may have found a spot. The position players added via free agency last year did well. Diamond, DeVries and Deduno all had career years last year. Burton, Perkins and Fien all saw improvement last year. If Casilla turns it around for more than a year in Baltimore you can say it was Gardenhire's fault, but I don't know if that will happen.
    1. bcntwinsfan's Avatar
      bcntwinsfan -
      Anybody remember Bill Smith. Trading away Bartlett and JJ Hardy from an organization that can't develop middle infielders. Yes, I know,, Garza, and the Santana giveaway. And my favorite, Ramos for Matt Capps. I love watching Butera. at bats, they give me a warm fuzzy feeling inside.I think the Twins should make David Kahn the GM when Ryan retires. I'm sure Gardy's slashed billys tires already.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      I would say that managers get too much credit when a team wins and too much blame when a team loses. In reality, if another manager had the exact same roster that they've had the last two years, and all the same other issues, how many more games would the Twins have won. Likewise, if there was another manager through the good years, would they really have won (or lost) any more games? It definitely goes both ways.

      I've read people say that they think that the Twins have gotten "stale" in recent years... and I guess I don't know what to think about that comment. Will a new voice make the players better and hence not look stale? Would you hire a manager who yells more than Gardenhire? (Cuz he does quite a bit) Or would you want a manager that is more laid back and quiet? I guess maybe that's part of my question... what type of manager would you want to come in here? And, why would that make the Twins successful right away?
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      If managers have so little impact, Seth, why do you care who the manager is? Why are they paid as much money as they are?
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      Quote Originally Posted by old nurse View Post
      Several Twins last year had career years. Revere ended up valuable enough that they got a starting pitcher and a prospect for him. Span developed under Gardenhire. Plouffe may have found a spot. The position players added via free agency last year did well. Diamond, DeVries and Deduno all had career years last year. Burton, Perkins and Fien all saw improvement last year. If Casilla turns it around for more than a year in Baltimore you can say it was Gardenhire's fault, but I don't know if that will happen.
      Good list, and obviously there have been many more over the years as well. And, I'm sure the opposite can be said.

      I like Gardy. I think he's done a terrific job as the Twins manager. I'm not against them going a different direction, but I would caution those that think that is the answer to all the questions, I think they'd be disappointed. I certainly haven't agreed with everything Gardy has done during his years. But, my main point is that I don't think it's fair, or right, to solely judge his managerial abilities and whether or not he should retain his job by looking at wins and losses. So, that's my question, what are those factors for others that should determine it?

      MWW makes a good note that they haven't done a lot of the little things well, but I would also say that I don't think they practice them any less than they did when TK was around, so I don't know what the reasoning is.
    1. Willihammer's Avatar
      Willihammer -
      Is it a fact that the Twins have not done the little things well?
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      Quote Originally Posted by mike wants wins View Post
      If managers have so little impact, Seth, why do you care who the manager is? Why are they paid as much money as they are?
      Another fair point, but obvously the manager is a part of every team, and they are paid well... that said, 1st year managers generally make less than league minimum, and even Gardy making a couple million is not that big compared to the players who have more than 3-5 years of experience.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      Quote Originally Posted by Willihammer View Post
      Is it a fact that the Twins have not done the little things well?
      Someone would have to study that and even determine what that means... their 'little' guys haven't bunted well. They don't always run the bases real well. Defense has been down the last several years, but that's certainly the players... So, I dont know if it's true or not.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      To be clear, i don't think replacing Gardy is the one, sole, answer to the problems of this team. To be clear, I think Ryan has some great strengths. I would never argue they were not key contributors and largetly the architects of the sucess of the first decade of this century. I am arguing that every organization eventualyl replaces even its great leaders, and the best organizations don't wait too long to do so.

      I think the time is right on Gardy because I think this team will be largely rebuilt from the ground up over the next few years. That is a good time to bring in a new leader, to grow with the new team.
    1. ThePuck's Avatar
      ThePuck -
      Quote Originally Posted by Gernzy View Post
      Great article Seth. Hopefully the people who want Gardy gone right now will read this and realize there is alot more to it then they think.
      I've wanted Gardy gone since 2007.
    1. Winston Smith's Avatar
      Winston Smith -
      What has to happen on the field before it is time to make a change? We aren't talking about a guy that has won multiple world series titles. This isn't a HOF manager that has a great post season record of success. It's a manager that has won in a mostly poor division, and hasn't won a post season game since 2004.

      Sometimes that old chair or sweatshirt just has to go and start new!
    1. fairweather's Avatar
      fairweather -
      It should be sink or swim. Either he makes this roster competitive from the very beginning of this season or he's gone.
    1. jmlease1's Avatar
      jmlease1 -
      There's a school of thought (started in the NFL, but I can't recall which coach said it) that after a 10 years or so you need to move on because the players start to tune you out. I don't know if that's true or not, but I think it's a fair concern.

      I would judge Gardy this season on a few factors, and winning isn't really one of them.

      1. Does the team quit on him at any point in the season? If they do, then it's probably time to make a change.

      2. Does Gardenhire embrace anything new this season to try and find success for this team or does he only run out the same bag of tricks? Managers need to grow too. I don't expect him to suddenly become a different guy, but if he doesn't show any growth either, it's worth considering.

      3. How well does he work with the young players? This team will need to embrace the wave of talent coming up through the minors. If he's not able to work with and develop that talent, he's probably not going to be the right fit. This is admittedly a tough category to judge on; people will tend to evaluate it more on how well the young players perform, which as Seth points out isn't necessarily right.

      4. Does he lose the fans? Yep, Gardy gets judged this season on PR a bit. Look, he's one of the most recognizable faces of the organization, with a serious platform and connection to the fans. If he's not able to help keep the fans connected and convince them that this team has a future worth watching, than that's a real strike against him.

      All of these things are possible. I don't think any of them are unreasonable. The difficulty is none of them are easily quantifiable.

      Seth is right in that managers do get more credit than they probably deserve when the team wins and too much blame when the team loses, but at the same time a lot of the criticisms leveled at Gardy have been consistent through good times and bad and a lot of them are certainly fair. The reasoning that most other managers act the same way isn't a particularly good one for keeping someone around, especially when one of the keys to success is being better at things that others fail at.

      I think Terry Ryan has a lot of these things in mind, and that's why this season is a "prove it" year for Gardy. Ryan needs to see that this is the right guy for the future. Loyalty has kept him in place this long; a lot of places would have moved on already, to placate the fan base if nothing else.
    1. DAM DC Twins Fans's Avatar
      DAM DC Twins Fans -
      I am a Gardy fan and always have been. I think he has done a great job with a team that has not always been the most talented. Having said that--I agree with others--we are starting to build a new team around Hicks, Sano, Buxton, etc. I think after a dozen years it is time for a change--bring in a manager (Bruno??) to build this team.

      More important and Seth didnt address this--get rid of Anderson--we need a better pitching coach (Cuellar?).
    1. DAM DC Twins Fans's Avatar
      DAM DC Twins Fans -
      Quote Originally Posted by jmlease1 View Post
      There's a school of thought (started in the NFL, but I can't recall which coach said it) that after a 10 years or so you need to move on because the players start to tune you out. I don't know if that's true or not, but I think it's a fair concern.
      In general I agree with the comment--but not always the case--I know soccer (what the rest of the world calls football) is not a big sport here--but arguably the best manager in any team in any sport--Sir Alex Ferguson of Man. United--has been there 26 years and looks to win another title this season...
    1. twinsnorth49's Avatar
      twinsnorth49 -
      Quote Originally Posted by DAM DC Twins Fans View Post
      In general I agree with the comment--but not always the case--I know soccer (what the rest of the world calls football) is not a big sport here--but arguably the best manager in any team in any sport--Sir Alex Ferguson of Man. United--has been there 26 years and looks to win another title this season...
      And being the richest club in the sporting universe has nothing to do with that.
    1. Badsmerf's Avatar
      Badsmerf -
      Quote Originally Posted by bcntwinsfan View Post
      Anybody remember Bill Smith. Trading away Bartlett and JJ Hardy from an organization that can't develop middle infielders.
      You think Gardy had no say in these moves? Gardy doesn't make all the decisions, but he does have a say in things like this.
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