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  • Can Ron Gardenhire Develop Young Players?

    Comments have been pretty negative about yesterday’s decision to grant Ron Gardenhire a two-year extension and retain the Minnesota Twins coaching staff. And that’s not just on the Twins Daily forums; check out stories on the Minnesota Twins Official site for some real vitriol. Twins fans are upset.

    A lot of those comments are rhetoric, which has the advantages of being powerful, entertaining and fairly obvious after a third year of futility and an especially brutal September. But rhetoric is also often logically dubious. One side will claim Gardenhire should be fired for three straight 96+ loss seasons. The other claims he should be retained for six division titles. Both are results which managers probably influence, but so do a lot of factors, like talent.

    Beyond the rhetoric, there are plenty of concerns regarding Gardenhire’s performance history. One of the biggest is whether a rebuilding organization can entrust a youth movement to Gardenhire and his coaching staff.

    Certainly, that was a problem this year. Aaron Hicks was a disaster. Chris Parmelee wasn’t much better. Trevor Plouffe stagnated offensively and maybe even regressed defensively. Only Brian Dozier – a player Gardy publicly lobbied to be promoted – ended up overachieving.

    That raises the question of how many past players really grew under Gardy’s tutelage. Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau, certainly, but they were always viewed as “can’t miss” stars. Jason Kubel probably didn’t have quite the career we expected, but there was the injury. Michael Cuddyer certainly developed, but it took him several years to shake the “underachieving” label. And the generation before developed mostly under Tom Kelly, breaking through largely in 2001 before Gardenhire took over.

    Similarly, there are questions about the development of the pitching staff under pitching coach (and former Gardenhire minor league roommate) Rick Anderson. Both Gardenhire and Anderson have been widely lauded for the development and handling of their bullpens, and this year’s group was no exception. But the organization is floundering largely because its rotation is among the worst in major league baseball and has been for three straight years.

    Again, questions arise about how successful this coaching staff has been in developing starters. Brad Radke carried a heavy load for several years, but he came up under Kelly. Johan Santana shined, but the turning point in his career is universally acknowledged to be when he perfected a changeup taught to him by AAA pitching coach (and current Twins bullpen coach) Bobby Cuellar. Kyle Lohse improved after leaving.

    More recently, Scott Baker and Kevin Slowey both were serviceable for a time, but never took the final step to be consistently excellent. Nick Blackburn followed the path of Carlos Silva, looking like a true success story but regressing back to a dismal finish. Finally, Francisco Liriano is starting tonight in the Wild Card game, resembling the pitcher we were waiting for him to be – the year after he left the Twins.

    It seems odd to ask whether a coaching staff that had a decade of success can develop young players, because a decade of success almost demands that they be able to do so. But looking at past examples, and especially looking at recent failures, the question is there. At least from the outside.

    It must not be for Terry Ryan. Because yesterday’s decision essentially entrusts Gardenhire to oversee the final developmental steps of a farm system widely viewed as one of the best in baseball. Beyond all the rhetoric about wins and losses, that is what yesterday was about.

    And perhaps that is why so many are upset.
    This article was originally published in blog: Can Ron Gardenhire Develop Young Players? started by John Bonnes
    Comments 40 Comments
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      So Gardy does not coach during the season?

      And paragraphs are your friend.
    1. LaBombo's Avatar
      LaBombo -
      Quote Originally Posted by John Bonnes View Post
      But rhetoric is also often logically dubious. One side will claim Gardenhire should be fired for three straight 96+ loss seasons.
      It's not rhetoric, it's history. Lose 270 games in three years, get fired. End of story. The few teams that didn't fire those managers fired them the next season anyway.

      I completely understand people wanting Gardenhire to stay on, as long as they acknowledge two things.

      One is that they're implying either that he's a Hall of Fame manager or that a historically bad front office has left him with as little talent as the worst expansion teams in postwar history, because those are the only two kinds of managers who get to keep their jobs after going 3x90L.

      The other is that they're advocating something that's never worked in 70 years. Teams that keep managers after three 90 loss seasons have always lost around 100 games the following season and...wait for it... fired the manager. Kelly was the only guy who wasn't, and managed just one more year. Three consecutive 90 loss seasons isn't a bump in the road, it's signaled the end of a manager's tenure with an organization every single time it's happened in modern history.

      Someone who's up for either of those viewpoints is probably a much bigger Gardenhire fan than I am, so my opinion about his ability to develop young players would very likely be disregarded as biased. And it probably is.

      That being said, as long as the Twins are GM'ed by a sworn enemy of free agency, if there's enough doubt to sustain a debate about whether their manager properly handles developing players, then he's probably not the right man for the job on that basis alone.
    1. Jim Crikket's Avatar
      Jim Crikket -
      When I look at the lineup put on the field by the Twins in September (and much of the season, for that matter), I think I could make a pretty good case for that roster having as little talent as many expansion rosters had in their early years.

      Historically, yes, GMs have fired managers after a series of years with so many losses. Often, I think that's been a way of deflecting blame so that GM can save his own job. Like it or not, Ryan's job is secure enough that he didn't have to worry about his own neck if he didn't find a scapegoat.

      Guess I'm among the people who just didn't care that much whether Gardy was retained or not, since I feel he had very little to do with the results.
    1. LaBombo's Avatar
      LaBombo -
      Quote Originally Posted by Jim Crikket View Post
      When I look at the lineup put on the field by the Twins in September (and much of the season, for that matter), I think I could make a pretty good case for that roster having as little talent as many expansion rosters had in their early years.

      Historically, yes, GMs have fired managers after a series of years with so many losses. Often, I think that's been a way of deflecting blame so that GM can save his own job. Like it or not, Ryan's job is secure enough that he didn't have to worry about his own neck if he didn't find a scapegoat.
      Well, just off the top of my head, if you're seriously contending that the Twins were reduced from a playoff team to an expansion team in just a couple of seasons, then it would seem that you'd be squarely in the 'or not' camp when it comes to liking Ryan's job being perfectly secure, along with pretty much everybody else in the front office.
    1. Jim Crikket's Avatar
      Jim Crikket -
      I think Terry Ryan is a pretty smart guy and a pretty good judge of baseball talent. That said, it's also true that I think he (and Dave St. Peter, for that matter) probably have too much job security. Doesn't mean I would have let them go right now, but Pohlad's comment about Ryan being the team's GM for as long as he wants to be was something I cringed at.
    1. twinsfan34's Avatar
      twinsfan34 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Halsey Hall View Post
      Can Gardy develop young players? Well I doubt it, but who knows. But that's not his job, anyway. He's the manager. His job, ultimately, is to put on the field, daily, the best players to win a game that particular day. ....

      Gardy spends most of his time with the major league team. He's usually standing around 2nd base or shortstop on most of the drills. And many of the drills are fundamentals, which these guys have worked on over and over again at every level. And there's still mistakes made. Gardy will take a player and talk with him if something is amiss, but he generally doesn't work with him. A coach will do that. Ulger will work with the outfielders, Steinie with the catchers, etc. The coaches are coaches, and the teaching never ends. Gardy is the manager, the overseer, and has these coaches to do the teaching and developing. Gardy has to appraise all these players, and ultimately decide which one's make the 25 man. Which 25 guys will give him the best team possible.
      Well said. Great that you're around this to 'see' whereas some of us (myself, perhaps others) is more from a 3rd point of view or based on analyzing decisions, interviews, etc.

      Thanks.
    1. Shane Wahl's Avatar
      Shane Wahl -
      By the way: another explanation for TR's devotion to Gardenhire: he now feels really guilty about trading both Span and Revere and leaving the CF situation in shreds. So this is his chance to let Gardy have the time to get the other end of the deals (May and Meyer).
    1. nicksaviking's Avatar
      nicksaviking -
      Quote Originally Posted by adjacent View Post
      One thing the article doesn't address is that time has passed. The Gardy that led the young 2002-2006 teams is not today's Gardy. It happens to all of us. Patience grows thinner. Communication becomes more difficult, etc.The last young team that was relatively successful under Gardenhire was the 2008 team. The 2010 team had a lot more veteran players in it. But probably the most disappointing issue going to next year is that there are no apparent changes in the approach to pitching. And if that doesn't change, we are in for a long 2014.
      I agree with this. The farther I get away from the 18-25 demographic, the more bothersome they seem to me. This was a common theme in TK's last years on the job.
    1. mlhouse's Avatar
      mlhouse -
      I think that the answer to the question is obvious and thus knowable, because of the results.

      We have had three consecutive 95+ loss seasons. This is the worse three year stretch in Twins history, with only 1981-1983 being comparable. But the significant difference between this miserable losing period and 1981-83 is that the has been almost a void in player development throughout. IT HAS NOT BEEN A REBUILDING PERIOD AT ALL.

      By 1983, Kent Hrbek, Gary Gaetti, Tom Brunansky, Greg Gagne, Frank Viola, Randy Bush, and Tim Laudner all had extensive major league experience. Other young players like Jim Eisenreich and Lenny Faedo had been tried and failed. The core of the team was melding together and by 1984 the wheat and chaff separated, allowing replacements to come in and replace the prospects that have failed.

      Thirty years later, I would argue we are no where close. We got glimpses of Oswaldo Arcia, Aaron Hicks, Kyle Gibson, and Josmil Pinto but those glimpses reflect the beginning of the rebuilding cycle rather than the middle/end (more like 1981 than 1983). We certainly cannot tell if any of them along with Brian Dozier/Trevor Plouffe will be able to contribute to a winning team.

      Not all of the problems are Gardenhire's alone. The management and ownership have failed him too. But, it is clear that Gardenhire does not have the patience to work with the younger players and that this has impacted our lineup as we went forward from 2010. Instead of having a rebuilding team, we just put out a cheap, less than mediocre team that had no chance to win and had not chance to get better.
    1. YourHouseIsMyHouse's Avatar
      YourHouseIsMyHouse -
      Quote Originally Posted by Jim Crikket View Post
      I think Terry Ryan is a pretty smart guy and a pretty good judge of baseball talent. That said, it's also true that I think he (and Dave St. Peter, for that matter) probably have too much job security. Doesn't mean I would have let them go right now, but Pohlad's comment about Ryan being the team's GM for as long as he wants to be was something I cringed at.
      I like Terry Ryan somewhat as a scout, but overall as a GM I don't. Bill Smith should get more credit for the big names in our minor leagues and did a MUCH better job with international signings, but not drafting. Hardly any of his free agent signing have panned out and even the ones that initially did fell flat (Doumit, Burton, Hammer). His trades are good though. Mixed feelings, but I want a stat head Moneyball guy.
    1. Jim H's Avatar
      Jim H -
      The decision to retain Gardenhire doesn't upset me, but if he would of been fired that wouldn't of upset me either. It isn't my decision to make, and I don't know nearly enough to make an informed decision. Some of the comments made do seem a bit radical to me. The idea that Gardenhire is too old to relate to young players(not said directly), I don't know how anyone can know that. People said the same thing about Kelly, but when he retired, they kept him around to work with minor leaguers. Go figure. I think people just want change, which is understandable but doesn't guarantee better results.

      What is true is that decisions have been made, Ryan and Gardenhire will likely both be with us for the next 2 years, minimum. I hope people can come to terms with it, because it sure will get old reading comments on every thread why both of them should be fired.
    1. Halsey Hall's Avatar
      Halsey Hall -
      Quote Originally Posted by mike wants wins View Post
      So Gardy does not coach during the season?

      And paragraphs are your friend.
      I had paragraphs, but it was timing out, so I copied quick as I could. When the posting finally timed out, I pasted it back, and it came out with no paragraphs. LOL, just my luck, but at least I didn't lose it all.

      I don't know if he coaches during the season, but he's got coaches that should be doing that.
    1. LaBombo's Avatar
      LaBombo -
      Quote Originally Posted by Halsey Hall View Post
      I had paragraphs, but it was timing out, so I copied quick as I could. When the posting finally timed out, I pasted it back, and it came out with no paragraphs. LOL, just my luck, but at least I didn't lose it all.

      Supreme Chancellor of Composition has signed your pardon. Please continue posting.
    1. beckmt's Avatar
      beckmt -
      I think Terry Ryan blamed himself as much as Gardy for the mess the Twins are. Will have to see how the offseason goes to address next year. Remember the coaches are all on 1 year contracts, the only contract the Twins would have to eat would be Gardy's if they changed direction. My feeling is that Gardy would have walked rather than sign a one year contract, a two year contract at least stops the players from thinking the manager does not matter because he will be gone at the end of the year.
    1. Mr. Brooks's Avatar
      Mr. Brooks -
      Quote Originally Posted by beckmt View Post
      I think Terry Ryan blamed himself as much as Gardy for the mess the Twins are. Will have to see how the offseason goes to address next year. Remember the coaches are all on 1 year contracts, the only contract the Twins would have to eat would be Gardy's if they changed direction. My feeling is that Gardy would have walked rather than sign a one year contract, a two year contract at least stops the players from thinking the manager does not matter because he will be gone at the end of the year.
      He gave himself a 2 year extension too? Great.
    1. JB_Iowa's Avatar
      JB_Iowa -
      Quote Originally Posted by Mr. Brooks View Post
      He gave himself a 2 year extension too? Great.
      Actually it sounds like he is czar for as long as he chooses. From the PP interview with Jim Pohlad:

      Q: Does Terry Ryan's status change at all with this extension?
      A: As long as Terry wants to be the GM, he's our GM. He knows that. He's in agreement with that. We have no reason to believe there's any feeling other than long-term continuity.

      http://www.twincities.com/sports/ci_...as-terry-ryans
    1. ThePuck's Avatar
      ThePuck -
      Quote Originally Posted by JB_Iowa View Post
      Actually it sounds like he is czar for as long as he chooses. From the PP interview with Jim Pohlad:

      Q: Does Terry Ryan's status change at all with this extension?
      A: As long as Terry wants to be the GM, he's our GM. He knows that. He's in agreement with that. We have no reason to believe there's any feeling other than long-term continuity.

      Minnesota Twins owner: Ron Gardenhire was Terry Ryan's call - TwinCities.com
      Trying to convince people accountability is stressed in this organization is hard to pass off when we're told the guy making all the decisions has a job for as long as he wants it.
    1. diehardtwinsfan's Avatar
      diehardtwinsfan -
      Quote Originally Posted by Jim Crikket View Post

      Guess I'm among the people who just didn't care that much whether Gardy was retained or not, since I feel he had very little to do with the results.
      Personally, I think it has nothing to do with the results and everything to do with the idea that he's not the right guy for the job going forward. The premise behind this thread was whether or not Gardy can develop talent. There's a subthreads here:

      1) Once a guy hits the bigs, does he still need to develop? If so, whose job is that? I'd argue "yes" as rarely does one make the big leagues as a finished product. That's a baseball thing too, not a Twins thing (though you can still argue whether or not they could stand to do a better job developing their guys in the minors). As for the second question, I'd say everyone.

      2) Is Gardy the best option to manage THIS team under THESE circumstances going forward? It has nothing to do with the talent level of the last 3 years. I get that it was bad. The question is whether or not Gardy is the right guy to man the ship going forward. This is where I really struggle. I see a guy who plays favorites (looking at you Doumit) and routinely throws those who are not one of his guys under the bus on many occasions. I get that I'm not in the clubhouse and that I don't know what is going on, but as a pattern, this is not something that people are just making up. It's been observable since he took over managing, and there's plenty of evidence (albeit circumstantial) that this hampers player's development.

      3) Is he willing to sacrifice short term success for the long term development of the team? Again, I say no here. Ryan Doumit's PT is a perfect example of that. While I don't know if Parmelee will ever be an above average player, Gardy's treatment of him really did not answer any of the questions we had. As such, we walk into next season with the same question.

      In all, I see this as a terrible decision on the part of Terry Ryan.
    1. howieramone's Avatar
      howieramone -
      Parmelee has been in the Twins Organization since 2006 and has 562 AB's. You can never answer all the questions, develop each and every player to their maximum potential etc., on a 25 man roster because the team comes first. I don't understand the agonizing over Parmelee, and I know others share your concern. I see him as a short term piece of the puzzle, no more, no less. Let me know if you see something I'm missing.
    1. mlhouse's Avatar
      mlhouse -
      Quote Originally Posted by howieramone View Post
      Parmelee has been in the Twins Organization since 2006 and has 562 AB's. You can never answer all the questions, develop each and every player to their maximum potential etc., on a 25 man roster because the team comes first. I don't understand the agonizing over Parmelee, and I know others share your concern. I see him as a short term piece of the puzzle, no more, no less. Let me know if you see something I'm missing.
      Parmalee is probably an example of a failed prospect. That is one aspect of rebuilding that is often ignored and why it takes time. Not every prospect works and you need to give them a chance before moving on. But the Twins simply have not done enough of this elimination and have definetly not found any keeps.
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