Just for fun, letís imagine that you have worked for a company for more than 25 years. Imagine you have been in a very important position within that company for a dozen years. Youíve given your heart and soul, worked hard and dedicated your energies to that company. You may not be the perfect employee. Frankly, for your job, there is no such thing as perfect. However, itís not an easy job, dealing with personalities and performances of others.
Imagine now that the last three or four projects that you were in charge of had not gone as planned. Though the expectations of some were that the projects would be simple, each had unforeseen challenges. You did your job in the right ways, continued to work hard, continued to work with your teams. You performed your job and did all the necessary work, but the projects were not seen as successes.
How would you want your boss and his or her superiors to respond?
Well, there are two options, arenít there?
Option 1 Ė They could decide to terminate your employment or push you to a different area of the company. Thatís probably the easier choice.
Option 2 Ė Despite the loud voices to the contrary, your boss can stand up for you and talk about how the whole team, the whole organization is responsible and accountable. The boss can ask you to work on certain things, and maybe look in the mirror at areas you can improve, in an attempt to improve the overall performance. The boss can stand behind you to his or her superiors because there have been many successes along the way, big and small.
With Mondayís decision to retain the services of Manager Ron Gardenhire for the next two seasons, GM Terry Ryan chose for Option #2, and my personal opinion is that it is the right decision.
Ron Gardenhire is not without faults. There are times I may question some in-game decisions, or why he chooses to call out a young player through the media, but overall, Gardenhire has proven himself on the field. He and his coaching staff also put in their work and their time, all in the effort of making players better every day. There have been several successes, and like all walks of life, there are plenty of mistakes.
The Twins lost 96 games in 2013, the third straight season they have lost at least that many games. The number of managers who have kept their job after three straight 90-loss seasons is very low. However, one such example of this is the Twins, and it was Tom Kelly. It should surprise no one that the organization wants to remain loyal and wants to build from within. In early September, the Twins found themselves with a 61-77 record. They proceeded to lose 14 of their final 19 games to end the year at 66-96. Of course, Justin Morneau had been traded and Joe Mauer missed the final six weeks with his concussion.
ďThe players want Gardy to come back.Ē To nobody's surprise, players were quoted over the weekend that they wanted Ron Gardenhire to return and spoke glowingly about his managerial style and how hard he worked. Listening to the quotes of players who are loyal to their manager is definitely not something the GM should base his decision on.
However, the only thing worse than making a move to appease the players is to make a move to appease the fans. Fans want wins, and thatís what everybody wants. Thereís nothing wrong with that. The GM's job is to find ways to win as quickly as possible while also looking out for the long-term future of the product on the field.
The idea of making a change just to make a change is obviously not smart. Consider this. A year ago, fans were screaming for Joe Vavra to lose the hitting coach duties so Tom Brunansky could take over. How well did that turn out for the Twins in 2013, a Twins team that struck out the third most times by a team in baseball history?
Many will choose to look at the last three seasons. Itís also hard to ignore his first nine seasons. In that time, he had six division titles, and a second place finish (after losing a Game 163). Just once in his first nine seasons did the Twins have a sub-.500 record.
Some choose to look at the Twins playoff record, and I understand that. However, what happens over a 162 game sample size is a more reliable indicator than a five game sample any day.
Manager of the Year voting is always an interesting endeavor. However, he won the award in 2010 after finishing second in voting five times previously. The respect that Gardenhire has in the baseball industry is great.
So, how much credit and how much blame should a manager get? The Cleveland Indians won more than 20 games more in 2013 than in 2012. Terry Francona took over for Manny Acta. The difference, however, was that Francona inherited a rotation in which four starters were able to strike out over eight batters per nine innings. They had a lineup of veterans that was supplemented with free agents Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn. Ron Gardenhire worked with a starting staff that seemed allergic to missing bats.
Remember: Ron Gardenhire could have been a free agent manager on Monday. He could have had his choice of open jobs in the coming weeks. I appreciate that he wants to stay here. As he said, he wants to be part of the answer for turning this around. He is going to need help from the front office to make that happen.
Despite being 102 games below over the last three years, Gardenhire is still 51 games over .500 for his 12-year career. He has not forgotten how to manage, and he has the respect of his players.
Brian Dozier and several bullpen arms took strides forward, and Joe Mauer and Glen Perkins played at their All-Star levels. Kyle Gibson, Oswaldo Arcia, Aaron Hicks, Josmil Pinto, Caleb Thielbar, Ryan Pressly and Michael Tonkin came up, took some lumps, gained some experience, and should be better for it. In 2014, Twins fans should see the debuts of Miguel Sano, Eddie Rosario, Alex Meyer, Trevor May, likely Byron Buxton, and maybe Danny Santana. Those guys will also likely take some lumps, so 2014 should again be a rebuilding year.
The front office and the scouting staff have put together some great minor league talent that will be another year closer in 2014, but for the team to take a major step forward, starting in 2014, the front office will have to acquire some veterans that can be counted on. Also, Josh Willingham and Ryan Doumit, if around, will have to be better.
It's going to be 2015 before we see just how good this team can be. The youth and hopefully some complementary veterans will help. And Ron Gardenhire is the right guy to get this team back to contention.
I can see Gardenhire doing just like his predecessor, Tom Kelly. After Kelly led the Twins to four straight 90+ loss seasons, he went with a youthful group that, in 2001, competed into the second half of the season. Thatís what I can see happening in 2015. Should that happen, I can see Gardenhire saying, "OK, this team is back to where it should be" and turning it over to the next manager who will lead the way for the next decade or more.