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Message to Twins: Accountability Means Change

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When it came down to it, the folks running the Twins couldn't find it in themselves to make Ron Gardenhire a scapegoat by sending him packing after another 96-loss season that wasn't influenced much by the field manager. Sure, you can argue that Gardenhire isn't a great skipper, and you can argue that the team would benefit from a fresh voice, but at the end of the day there wasn't much Gardy could have done to get significantly better results out of the substandard roster supplied to him this season.

Personally, although I wouldn't have been appalled to see the club go a different direction, I had no particular desire to see Gardenhire leave. Similarly, you won't see me advocating for the dismissal of Terry Ryan. For the most part, I tend to think that calls for coaches and execs to get fired are reactionary and uninformed, failing to account for the many circumstances that play into any outcome.

When a player's return from injury takes too long or recovery timetables are repeatedly extended, we see people calling for firings in the medical staff, ignoring the reality that medicine is an inexact science and quite often players are more responsible than trainers for setbacks. When the offense struggles and the hitters strike out at an unprecedented rate, we see people calling for the firing of the new hitting coach, ignoring the presence of inexperienced young players taking their (not unexpected) lumps. If the team fails to acquire legitimate free agents that can help, we see people calling for the firing of the general manager, ignoring the possibilities that maybe ownership vetoed certain spending initiatives or maybe the guys Ryan wanted simply wouldn't sign here.

Crying out for people to lose their jobs is easy, but it's not necessarily rational. I myself have no desire for anyone to get the axe unless it becomes blatantly clear that they're not up to the task, and I haven't reached that point with Gardenhire, nor his coaches, nor Ryan. However, there's no avoiding the fact that the Twins have descended into a horrible, horrible state and people need to step up and take responsibility. I don't care to see people fired, but I do need them to show accountability and convince me that they recognize what's gone wrong -- that they're ready to do what it takes to right the ship, even if that means moving outside of comfort zones.

We haven't seen that, and to me that's far more disheartening than the fact that Gardenhire and his staff were extended in the wake of another losing season.

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During a conference call with season ticket holders earlier this week, Ryan was asked about a recent column from Phil Mackey of 1500 ESPN, in which the radio host and scribe suggested that the Twins need to infuse some innovation into their outdated set of philosophies.

It's a good article that makes some extremely valid -- and perhaps obvious -- points. As Mackey puts it: "The Twins aren't masters of anything right now. They don't do one thing better than the other 29 teams in baseball. They used to. But they don't anymore."

When asked about the editorial, Ryan said he was aware of it and downplayed it by saying, "Sometimes I think he (Mackey) wants a job over here. That's OK."

Come on Terry. You're better than that, and you owe the fans a better answer than that. A writer puts together a thoughtful piece suggesting that perhaps the Twins need to uncover new strategies and approaches, considering that what they've been doing clearly isn't working, and Ryan responds by essentially saying, "Nah, we're doing fine, thanks."

That's the opposite of accountability. And we're seeing too many similar sentiments expressed lately. Ryan admirably is willing to take the blame for the current product, saying that it's his fault and not the manager's that the Twins continue to stumble in the wrong direction; what he's not doing is specifying just exactly what he's doing wrong or providing assurance that he's working to correct the misguided ideas that have plagued the organization.

It starts with rhetoric. Nobody wants to hear the same quotes about how free agency isn't a viable method of improving your club. Nobody wants to hear about how a team with one of the worst offenses in the league is still opposed to the simple and proven concept of platooning hitters. Nobody wants to hear about how the mediocre performances of low-upside veterans Kevin Correia and Mike Pelfrey were among the team's biggest positive takeaways this year.

Taking accountability doesn't necessarily mean changing personnel. It means looking inward, accepting that some things simply aren't working, and proving -- through both words and actions -- that you're flexible and receptive to changes in those ways.

And if that can't happen, then maybe it is time for some changes in personnel.
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  1. stringer bell's Avatar
    Good article, Nick. I agree with much you wrote, but have less patience. I think some of the talk needs to be backed up by a changed approach and new personnel. While I think Gardy is a good baseball guy and a good manager, his extension also symbolizes more of the same from a franchise that is a good bet to lose 90+ games for the fourth straight season. Ryan is doig a lot of talking and his rhetoric suggests to me that he hasn't bought in to the realities of this decade--that the Twins are a mid-market franchise, that the team needs to augment their talent by being a player in the free-agent market and that they need pitchers in the rotation that can make hitters swing and miss.
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