by, 05-02-2012 at 12:34 PM (1478 Views)
Coupled with the lousy start, the constant Jim Wacker-esque obscure positive spins and excuse making, there is a growing sentiment around the Twins fanbase that sweeping changes need to be made within the organization, starting with management. Short of Lou Brown rising from the grave to turn around the Twins season, it might be time to start thinking about putting Gardenhire and his staff out to pasture at season's end. While it's easy put the blame on the manager, it also begs the question of who could possibly be a viable replacement. Taking a look at some of the jobs that were available at the end of the season (Cubs, Red Sox, et al), and who were some of the finalists, there are some candidates that could inject some life into the organization and maybe generate some excitement in the fan base.
The Old Guard: Terry Francona, Don Baylor
Both Francona and Baylor are managers with significant amounts of experience, and in the case of Francona, a championship pedigree. If the Twins go into full-scale rebuilding mode, Baylor could be a good fit. He has some Twins ties from the 1987 championship season, and has had some success as a manager, winning NL Manager of the Year in 1995. While Baylor might not be a "sexy" pick in the eyes of Twins fans, he could be someone who could groom a future manager by bringing in someone like Matt LeCroy as a bench coach.If there's ever been a manager that could benefit from a change of scenery, it's Terry Francona. The two World Series championships speak for themselves, but in Boston, it's "what have you done for me lately"? Francona could thrive in a place like Minnesota where the scrutiny is nowhere near the level of the East Coast, and it's the perverbial "big name" that Minnesota sports fans can get excited about.
"Young" Guns: Ryne Sandberg, Dave Martinez, Sandy Alomar, Jr.
All three of these candidates have been finalists for other managerial positions in the past, and the one that stands out to me is Dave Martinez. As the bench coach for the Rays, he has learned under the tutelage of one of the top managers in the game today in Joe Maddon. Sandberg has been mentioned several times as a managerial candidate, particularly for the Cubs opening after last season. With Theo Epstein passing on him in favor of Dale Svuem, it would appear the Cubs ship has sailed. He has been managing in the minors since 2007, most recently with the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs where he was awarded 2011 Minor League Manager of the Year by Baseball America. While another big name hire, the downfall here is that his name will likely come up every single time the Cubs job opens up, whether there is mutual interest or not, which is a headache the Minnesota sports fan doesn't need these days (see Smith, Tubby). As the bench coach with the Cleveland Indians, Alomar is certainly familiar with the AL Central. Plus, there's the old adage that former catchers make the best managers, a la Mike Scioscia. He has been on the short list for managerial positions with the Blue Jays, Red Sox and Cubs. One has to wonder why he has been a finalist so many times and never been hired (see Fraizer, Leslie), but he is a well-known name with a significant about of baseball knowledge that could translate well to a young team.
Long Shots: Tom Brunansky, Paul Molitor, Matt LeCroy
Former Twin Matt LeCroy is currently the manager of the Eastern League’s Harrisburg Senators, a Washington Nationals farm club. LeCroy led the Single-A Potomac Nationals to the Carolina League playoffs last season, and he was manager of the Single-A Hagerstown Suns in 2008-2009. While well liked within the Twins organization, at age 36 he is likely too raw for a major league manager gig. However, I'd like to see him brought into the organization as a bench coach to learn under a more established manager.Molitor and Brunansky have never really expressed any interest in managing, so they're the real long shots. Both would be interesting candidates considering their obvious connections to the Twins. Bruno has enjoyed a lot of success as a hitting coach in the Twins organization, and that would likely be the best fit for him at the major league level. Molitor's name has been thrown around on several occasions for a myriad of job openings, but since he's never bitten on one to date, it's hard to imagine him going that route at this point, especially with no managerial experience. That being said, it would be worth the Twins while to make a run at him for a role within the coaching staff, perhaps as a 3rd base coach, or returning to the role of bench coach.
Granted, it's premature speculation that Gardy would be relieved of his duties. But if the Twins continue at their current pace, it's at least intriguing to consider what options are out there.