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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. CDog's Avatar
      CDog -
      On the topic of whether players tune the manager out after some length of time...

      From the 2010 team there are FOUR position players still with the organization. Two of them are Drew Butera and Trevor Plouffe who barely played in 2010. There are THREE pitchers left from 2010, one of whom is Glen Perkins who pitched only 21.2 innings that year.

      From 2011, the only position player added is Parmelee (who had only his September callup that year, I'm fairly sure). And for pitchers you only add Swarzak plus two guys who got spot action (Diamond and Hendriks). So I don't think burnout of players on the roster being over-exposed to Gardenhire and his message is really a major issue.
    1. FrodaddyG's Avatar
      FrodaddyG -
      Quote Originally Posted by twinsnorth49 View Post
      That wasn't your question but feel free to keep moving the target.The point was there are plenty of coaches/managers who have held tenure without having the good fortune of finding the Holy Grail, reason being they were quality people and by all other measures successful. The same could be said for many players.

      For the record I'm not saying Gardy should stay, change inevitably happens, as it should. If one of the main arguements for firing him is that he has never delivered a championship, then I say that's pretty short sighted and too convenient.
      I'd say a sample of a dozen years is a pretty acceptable sample size. It isn't just that he hasn't won a championship, it's that the team hasn't even been competitive in the postseason. The reason the guys you listed were on there is because their teams looked like actual contenders when they hit the postseason. Levy went to multiple Super Bowls, ditto Grant, ditto Reeves. Reid went to one SB, and multiple NFC championship games. Knox went to multiple NFC Championships. Schembechler won multiple Rose Bowls in a time when winning the Rose Bowl still meant something. Ruff sports a winning percentage over .550 in the postseason.

      Guys like that stick around because of results, and when they don't perform, they get the boot in short order. (See: Reeves, Dan. NY Giants coach.)
    1. FrodaddyG's Avatar
      FrodaddyG -
      Quote Originally Posted by twinsnorth49 View Post
      Most of those coaches struggled in their final year, a couple of them the last two.
      Hmmm... something about that sounds familiar to this discussion...
    1. bcntwinsfan's Avatar
      bcntwinsfan -
      Quote Originally Posted by Badsmerf View Post
      You think Gardy had no say in these moves? Gardy doesn't make all the decisions, but he does have say in things like this.
      He might have thought Garza was a head case but I'm pretty sure he didn't propose trading Bartlett and Garza for Delmon Young. And I would bet my life on his not having anything to do with the Ramos for Capps trade. Bill Smith makes David Kahn look like Steven Hawkins. Insert black hole joke here.
    1. bcntwinsfan's Avatar
      bcntwinsfan -
      Managers have input on who they don't want on their team but they have nothing to do with trades.
    1. CDog's Avatar
      CDog -
      Quote Originally Posted by bcntwinsfan View Post
      And I would bet my life on his not having anything to do with the Ramos for Capps trade.
      I'd be careful about life-betting on that one. I don't have any inside info on who thought what or who was pushing things, but I do know Gardenhire sure seems to be a "proven closer" guy.
    1. Riverbrian's Avatar
      Riverbrian -
      Quote Originally Posted by CDog View Post
      I'd be careful about life-betting on that one. I don't have any inside info on who thought what or who was pushing things, but I do know Gardenhire sure seems to be a "proven closer" guy.
      Yeah... Think about that... Betting your life over Matt Capps. It just doesn't seem like a noble end.
    1. twinsnorth49's Avatar
      twinsnorth49 -
      Quote Originally Posted by FrodaddyG View Post
      Any examples of long-tenured guys who didn't win championships at any point in those runs?
      Quote Originally Posted by FrodaddyG View Post
      I'd say a sample of a dozen years is a pretty acceptable sample size. It isn't just that he hasn't won a championship, it's that the team hasn't even been competitive in the postseason. The reason the guys you listed were on there is because their teams looked like actual contenders when they hit the postseason. Levy went to multiple Super Bowls, ditto Grant, ditto Reeves. Reid went to one SB, and multiple NFC championship games. Knox went to multiple NFC Championships. Schembechler won multiple Rose Bowls in a time when winning the Rose Bowl still meant something. Ruff sports a winning percentage over .550 in the postseason.

      Guys like that stick around because of results, and when they don't perform, they get the boot in short order. (See: Reeves, Dan. NY Giants coach.)
      I don't disagree with any of this, I was just responding to your initial question above, which you have now slightly altered. It just points out that there have been many coaches and managers that have lasted despite not winning it all and rightfully so.

      Like I said, Im not necessarily advocating Gardy should stay, I just said that there are plenty of examples of long term coaches sticking that failed to meet what so people believe to be the gold standard. By the same token, there are probably just as many coaches who have won championships that bought them way too much currency to stick around unsuccessfully afterwards.
    1. bcntwinsfan's Avatar
      bcntwinsfan -
      Quote Originally Posted by Riverbrian View Post
      Yeah... Think about that... Betting your life over Matt Capps. It just doesn't seem like a noble end.
      Yeah I'm sure he said to Billy, why don't we trade our consensus number two prospect on a closer that the mighty Pirates DFA'd the year before. Don't want to get into a sabr metrics argument but his peripherals pegged him as a league average middle reliever at best. It's not Capp's fault that Bill Smith is an idiot. Why do you think Ryan came back? I could sell that idiot Smith a bridge in Brooklyn.
    1. FrodaddyG's Avatar
      FrodaddyG -
      Quote Originally Posted by twinsnorth49 View Post
      I don't disagree with any of this, I was just responding to your initial question above, which you have now slightly altered. It just points out that there have been many coaches and managers that have lasted despite not winning it all and rightfully so.

      Like I said, Im not necessarily advocating Gardy should stay, I just said that there are plenty of examples of long term coaches sticking that failed to meet what so people believe to be the gold standard. By the same token, there are probably just as many coaches who have won championships that bought them way too much currency to stick around unsuccessfully afterwards.
      The initial response was in reply to Seth's list, which had entirely guys who had won the pinnacle of their sports.

      When you throw out the list you did, then it begs the question: Why did they stick around if they didn't win a championship? That prompted the ensuing responses. Those guys were competitive in both the regular season and the postseason, and when they weren't, they retired or got fired. At this point, Gardy is a decade removed from being "competitive" (or as close as they've been in his run) in the postseason, and two years removed from even being competitive in the regular season.

      Better coaches than Gardy have been fired for less of a downturn in their team's fortunes. I mean, Dan Reeves went to three Super Bowl in four years, then got fired after going 8-8 three years later.
    1. johnnydakota's Avatar
      johnnydakota -
      Seth mentioned , for a culture change it needs to be a complete sweep from the instructional leaques to the front office ....totally agree, but for me it is more important to have the best teachers in the game at the lower levels, why do we have mlb players who cant hit a cutoff man or know how to bunt or steal a base?im guessing joe will be the next manager as a player manager and jake will be his bench coach....so if we are going to improve it needs to be in the minors in develpoing players and in drafting and scouting
    1. bcntwinsfan's Avatar
      bcntwinsfan -
      Little known fact. During the winter GM meetings they have the winter manager's meetings at a Super 8 motel in Cedar Rapids. That's where the big moves are made.
    1. ashburyjohn's Avatar
      ashburyjohn -
      Quote Originally Posted by bcntwinsfan View Post
      Bill Smith makes David Kahn look like Steven Hawkins.
      LaTroy's little brother?

      Quote Originally Posted by bcntwinsfan View Post
      Insert black hole joke here.
      Or wheelchair joke or voice-synthesizer joke, but maybe that's just me. Imagine the digitized voice offering "well then, how about Ramos for Capps?"
    1. bcntwinsfan's Avatar
      bcntwinsfan -
      I'm trade marking this. A brief history of untimely trades. If the Twins weren't such a loyal organization, Billy would be scouting in East Timor.
    1. Riverbrian's Avatar
      Riverbrian -
      Quote Originally Posted by bcntwinsfan View Post
      Yeah I'm sure he said to Billy, why don't we trade our consensus number two prospect on a closer that the mighty Pirates DFA'd the year before. Don't want to get into a sabr metrics argument but his peripherals pegged him as a league average middle reliever at best. It's not Capp's fault that Bill Smith is an idiot. Why do you think Ryan came back? I could sell that idiot Smith a bridge in Brooklyn.
      I agree... None of this is Capp's Fault...

      However, I'm not sure that you can insulate Gardenhire from front office decisions. The GM has the final say... I'm sure... but... it would be kind of a disfunctional operation if you didn't get input from the manager on team needs going forward.

      I don't know for sure but I would be very surprised if Gardy's input was shut out of any or all discussions.

      Bill Smith: "Gardy... We are in a playoff race... What do we need"
      Gardy: "We need a closer to get us to the playoffs"
      Bill Smith: "I could bring in Capps... The Nationals are shopping him... They'd like Ramos"
      Gardy: "Ramos won't help us much this year and the playoffs are in our grasp... I need a closer".

      I'm sure that the assistent GM and scouts are asked opinions... The Owners with the budget... All of it gets run together and the GM filters it and makes the final decision.

      All in All... I'd be shocked if Gardy's input isn't a very large part of roster construction. I assume that sometimes Gardy will have to swallow some stuff he isn't comfortable with but I also assume that most of the time the GM tries to get Gardy what he asks for.

      All assumptions on my part.
    1. ThePuck's Avatar
      ThePuck -
      Quote Originally Posted by Riverbrian View Post
      I agree... None of this is Capp's Fault...

      However, I'm not sure that you can insulate Gardenhire from front office decisions. The GM has the final say... I'm sure... but... it would be kind of a disfunctional operation if you didn't get input from the manager on team needs going forward.

      I don't know for sure but I would be very surprised if Gardy's input was shut out of any or all discussions.

      Bill Smith: "Gardy... We are in a playoff race... What do we need"
      Gardy: "We need a closer to get us to the playoffs"
      Bill Smith: "I could bring in Capps... The Nationals are shopping him... They'd like Ramos"
      Gardy: "Ramos won't help us much this year and the playoffs are in our grasp... I need a closer".

      I'm sure that the assistent GM and scouts are asked opinions... The Owners with the budget... All of it gets run together and the GM filters it and makes the final decision.

      All in All... I'd be shocked if Gardy's input isn't a very large part of roster construction. I assume that sometimes Gardy will have to swallow some stuff he isn't comfortable with but I also assume that most of the time the GM tries to get Gardy what he asks for.

      All assumptions on my part.
      funny thing is, at that point of the season, we had lost ONE game in which Rauch was brought in to SAVE a game.
    1. bcntwinsfan's Avatar
      bcntwinsfan -
      Wow. I managed to include Steven Hawkins and (indirectly) Noam Chomsky in a baseball thread. Lets play six degrees of Marx (Karl not Groucho)
    1. bcntwinsfan's Avatar
      bcntwinsfan -
      Gardy's input is who he doesn't want on the team (think Lohse) and what type of player (supposed closer etc.) he does want. But he has no say on who gets traded to get that player.
    1. bcntwinsfan's Avatar
      bcntwinsfan -
      Think Moneyball
    1. bcntwinsfan's Avatar
      bcntwinsfan -
      Art Howe had no say.
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