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Top '13 Stories: #1 - Gardenhire's Contract Extended

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ID:	6262These are trying times if you're the coach of a local professional sports team. Vikings head coach Leslie Frasier got the axe last week following a season that saw his team lose 10 games. Mike Yeo is on the hot seat with the Wild under-performing. And Rick Adelman might just give up with the number of tribulations that seem to endlessly plague the Timberwolves.

Ron Gardenhire has endured more losing than any local coach over the past three years, and as his most recent disappointing season came to a close there was some thought that he might also be on his way out. Instead, the Twins signed their longtime manager to a two-year extension at the end of September.

In re-upping with Gardenhire, the Twins acknowledged that the ugly results over the past few seasons can't be strongly tied to the manager's performance. With a transitional roster that has been riddled with injuries and hasn't been supplemented by much impact talent, Gardy has faced difficult circumstances that would have made it nearly impossible for any skipper to find success.

Known as one of the most loyal organizations in baseball (and perhaps in sports as a whole), the Twins elected not to make Gardenhire the scapegoat for a three-year stretch of misery that has been driven by plenty of contributors. It's clear that the front office still likes Gardenhire and puts more stock into his first decade at the helm -- which featured six division championships -- than his most recent run.

But the club's patience can't, and won't, last forever. The 2014 season figures to be a hugely important one for the game's second-longest tenured manager. With major money being pumped into free agency during the offseason, and with a handful of key prospects expected to join the fold, another year with no progress in the win column would likely spell the end for Gardenhire.

I've always been a believer that the role of a manager in a baseball team's success is generally exaggerated, but I think Gardenhire is good at what he does for the most part. He is liked by his players, he's an entertaining quote and he's shown some willingness to adapt his generally old-school tactical approach (Joe Mauer logging more than 400 plate appearances as the No. 2 hitter this year is a fine example).

If Gardenhire can continue to do those things and the Twins finally begin to pull themselves out of this lingering pit of despair, he figures to stick around for a while yet. But by no means does his new contract take him off the hot seat.
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