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Monday, March 25, 2013

Rosenthal: Let Gardenhire go? That’d be lame

Just as I was about to play Avant Gardener. I’m having trouble managin’...

Even the Baseball Prospectus annual, a sabermetric publication that in the past tended to dismiss intangibles, acknowledged that while Gardenhire is not “some kind of tactical genius,” he “excels in the clubhouse, where he remains popular and has successfully minimized squabbles among players” and “deserves recognition for that.”

I don’t want to be too hard on the Twins — too often people in baseball lack accountability, so it’s difficult to criticize a club for holding employees responsible. On the other hand, this is all sort of silly. The Twins are foolish to even risk Gardenhire becoming a free agent, particularly when so many managers are entering the final years of contracts.

Such an outcome still seems far-fetched, given Gardenhire’s popularity in the Twin Cities. But know this: If the Twins allowed Gardenhire to depart, he’d probably be unemployed for about 10 minutes. And they’d probably spend 10 years trying to find another like him.

Repoz Posted: March 25, 2013 at 04:58 AM | 26 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: twins

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   1. Mike Emeigh Posted: March 25, 2013 at 09:40 AM (#4395693)
No, the decline is attributable to a number of factors — a failure to develop pitching, injuries to catcher Joe Mauer and first baseman Justin Morneau, the defections of key relievers after the 2010 season, the losses of high-character types such as outfielder Michael Cuddyer.

This is a rather weak defense of Gardenhire.

1. How does the manager get away from being held responsible for a failure to develop pitching? Granted that the Twins haven't had a lot of high-ceiling arms, still at some point you have to ask whether Gardenhire's gotten the most out of the ones he has on hand. (At least starters.)

2. The Twins left both Mauer and Morneau (as well as several other players) on the active roster for extended periods after their injuries before disabling them. That's also got to be on Gardenhire to some extent - yes, the medical staff is primarily responsible for overly optimistic recovery times, but Gardenhire certainly has to step up and say "Hey, I can't keep playing shorthanded."

3. Gardenhire's actually done a decent job developing bullpens. Did anyone really expect Glenn Perkins, for example, to develop into a valued member of a major league bullpen? Or Jared Burton? Sure, a lot of these were desperation moves, but the 2010 defections really didn't hurt the team all that much.

4. Cuddyer was adequately replaced by Josh Willingham, and Rosenthal doesn't name anyone else in his "high-character" list.

I don't entirely disagree with the premise - Gardenhire's probably the least of Minnesota's problems - but on the other hand I don't think he should just be treated as an innocent bystander.

-- MWE
   2. DL from MN Posted: March 25, 2013 at 10:13 AM (#4395723)
I think Gardenhire is an average major league manager. He generally gets the most out of what he is given but has some weaknesses for in-game strategy and preferring speedy infielders. I think he's actually pretty well suited to managing in the NL, does well with pinch hitting and double switches and knows when to pull a reliever. They get in trouble when they give him too much power deciding how to shape the roster (dump JJ Hardy for Alexi Casilla!?). The Twins haven't had any pitching talent lately and they won't win without pitching. Part of that is failure to spend money, part of it is organizational philosophy. I agree that you don't throw away average managers without being pretty sure your replacement is average or better.
   3. Jose is an Absurd Doubles Machine Posted: March 25, 2013 at 10:21 AM (#4395732)
I like Gardenhire a lot. His ability to build a bullpen is one of the few areas where I think a manager can really turn lemons into lemonade. Beyond that I don't see enough of Gardenhire to get a sense of his tactical acumen but he seems like a guy players like playing for which is a key part of the job.

Having said all of that it may be time for him to go. There is a point where a change of voice and tone are needed and the Twins may well be there. It's somewhat reminscent of Francona in Boston (minus the media-driven stupidity) that he's a good manager, he'll have a job as soon as he wants one, but a change probably would help.
   4. Crispix reaches boiling point with lackluster play Posted: March 25, 2013 at 10:48 AM (#4395749)
If the Phillies have nothing go right again and lose 90 games, I bet Manuel will be another one whose voice and tone needs to be changed. And I wonder if Gardenhire will be the next Phillies manager, in the new "rebuilding while still having a massive payroll whose recipients are all on the DL" era.
   5. Tom Nawrocki Posted: March 25, 2013 at 10:50 AM (#4395750)
4. Cuddyer was adequately replaced by Josh Willingham, and Rosenthal doesn't name anyone else in his "high-character" list.

Cuddyer went to the Rockies, who promptly turned into one of the worst teams in baseball. Everyone in Colorado loved Cuddy's attitude, too, but he is pretty useless as a ballplayer, and I can't see where he made anyone else on the team better.
   6. Mellow Mouse, Benevolent Space Tyrant Posted: March 25, 2013 at 10:53 AM (#4395752)
I agree with most of #1 and #3. Good manager, not against him staying, not really against him being let go. Look at my firebrand opinions!
   7. DL from MN Posted: March 25, 2013 at 10:57 AM (#4395757)
BTW - this season should not reflect on Gardenhire at all beyond improvement as the year goes on. They've given him a rotation of mediocrities who are recovering from arm injuries. Their starting SS wasn't one of the top 10 SS in AAA last year and doesn't deserve a major league job. Their starting 2B is last year's washout at SS. Their starting CF has never seen AAA. If they win 75 games they'll be overachieving.
   8. Crispix reaches boiling point with lackluster play Posted: March 25, 2013 at 11:09 AM (#4395763)
Their starting 2B is last year's washout at SS.

At least it's not the previous year's washout at SS.
   9. Chris Fluit Posted: March 25, 2013 at 11:28 AM (#4395781)
At least it's not the previous year's washout at SS.

It was painful watching him at AAA.
   10. Craig in MN Posted: March 25, 2013 at 11:29 AM (#4395782)
Gardenhire is a perfectly average manager, but a huge part of who is comes from the organization...the same assistants (and minor league coaches, etc) that he's been with or hired because they are compatible with him forever. How he'd do if dropped into another team without that is a big question mark. How many of those guys he'd bring with him to another team is another question mark. I'm a little torn whether I'd mind seeing him go to another team, if it meant he'd take a bunch of guys with him and the Twins would get a bunch of new blood in their system as a result. That could be great (or terrible).

My main concern for Gardy doing well if dropped into another team is that he seems to be a good manager who hates the actual job of managing. He wants relievers put into their specific roles (closer, 8th inning guy, loogy, etc), so he doesn't have to think about how they should be used. He doesn't like players with nagging injuries that he can't rely on. He doesn't like to platoon players. He likes to sit players when he thinks they need to rest, not when matchups would make it a good day to do that. He wants flexibility on his bench, but he likes to just have one guy to swap when needed (the Punto effect), rather than be creative in how players are used. He wants a regular lineup that he doesn't have to think about from day to day (so the second baseman bats second, regardless of who it is). He wants to bring up players from the minors when they are ready to play his way, not when he can help them learn in the majors...he knows how he likes players to play, but doesn't like to actually teach them to play that way. He really seems to actively hate bringing up players from the minors unless they are anointed as certain everyday players or just bench filler. He likes good clubhouse guys so he doesn't need to do anything to keep the clubhouse functioning.

Most managers would be bugged by those things, and nobody likes it when other people make their jobs more difficult, but Gardy seems to me to be less flexible that way. If he ends up on a team that doesn't need much managing, and has guys for all the roles in his head, he could easily thrive. If he's on a team with players that don't play the way he wants or requires him to be creative, he might have a heart attack before the all star break.

   11. PASTE, Now with Extra Pitch and Extra Stamina Posted: March 25, 2013 at 11:35 AM (#4395787)
Craig: Sounds like he'd be a good fit for the Yankees.
   12. Craig in MN Posted: March 25, 2013 at 11:41 AM (#4395792)
That's funny. I almost wrote "He could manage the Yankees but not the Red Sox" but the Sox part of that didn't quite capture when I meant, and then I thought that the Yankees don't seem like they'll be an easy team to manage this year.
   13. Infinite Yost (Voxter) Posted: March 25, 2013 at 11:41 AM (#4395793)
The idea that Gardenhire is so titanically popular in MPLS that he can't be fired strikes me as a pretty bizarre one. Like most managers do, he had his rep suffer badly when the Twins sucked last year. He's not exactly Kirby Puckett.
   14. Cris E Posted: March 25, 2013 at 11:41 AM (#4395794)
I totally agree with Craig, but I have to point out that this year he's being forced out of his comfort zone and we'll know a lot more about him by the end of summer. They made him can a couple of his favorite coaches, they've been a little harder on him keeping stiffs like Butera on hand, they fought him on signing familiar but done guys like Thome, etc. It's a different organization this year now that they've dropped the pretense of winning and are rebuilding.

But I'll say this: even though Gardy is going without a lot of his old crutches I expect things to stay mostly the same. He's going to manage the same, he'll try to keep the roster steady and the roles structured and all the rest of the stuff mentioned above. And hopefully he can hang in and do well enough to stick around because I fear the alternatives. MN might go outside for a replacement, but if forced to bet I'd expect Vavra or someone like him from the existing team to be next mgr. (Unless Molitor accepted the job, which he's been hesitant to discuss in recent years.)
   15. Cris E Posted: March 25, 2013 at 11:46 AM (#4395797)
Like most managers do, he had his rep suffer badly when the Twins sucked last year.

The defense was weak, but it was a decent bullpen with a decent offense led down the drain by a horrific rotation. Any manager handed that starting rotation is going to get a pretty substantial amount of grace in most cities, particularly given how Liriano's season finished up. He's the one guy where relationships and confidence played a role in how much he played, and he didn't change much once he was moved.
   16. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: March 25, 2013 at 12:26 PM (#4395835)
in a leadership role it's often a huge advantage to have a well defined plan. but that needs to be balanced by some degree of ability to adapt to circumstances

tony larussa had a very clear game plan but when things got in the way, like injuries, larussa would conjure up other approaches

plan, yes. rigidity, no

could be ron needs to hear that message
   17. PASTE, Now with Extra Pitch and Extra Stamina Posted: March 25, 2013 at 12:31 PM (#4395837)
Earl Weaver was like that too; he had a plan for every roster spot. He had to adapt on the fly as injuries and such came up, but it was tactics within a strategy.
   18. Jim Wisinski Posted: March 25, 2013 at 12:47 PM (#4395848)
I don't entirely disagree with the premise - Gardenhire's probably the least of Minnesota's problems - but on the other hand I don't think he should just be treated as an innocent bystander.

I agree with this. Also, Gardenhire is another case of a guy who earned a rep with the media and can't seem to lose it no matter what happens. Many managers would be getting skepticism about their competence at best and outright calls for firing at worst if they had Gardenhire's postseason record. Actually many coaches/managers in sports have gotten fired for better postseason records. In his first year the Twins made the ALCS (which they then lost 4-1) but since then he is 2-15 in playoff games including 0-9 in the last three appearances. I know they often had low payrolls compared to their opposition but geez, 6-21 is really freaking bad. The 1962 Mets think that's a crappy record.
   19. DL from MN Posted: March 25, 2013 at 12:56 PM (#4395856)
One reason I think Bill Smith is gone is he ceded too much power to Gardenhire. Gardy asked for a "closer" and Bill Smith traded a good prospect for Matt Capps. Gardy said JJ Hardy was too slow to be his SS and Hardy was traded to Baltimore for nothing. Part of that is Bill Smith never played ball and didn't even scout much. Terry Ryan has enough baseball street credibility to tell Gardy to play the guys he gave him.
   20. spycake Posted: March 25, 2013 at 01:43 PM (#4395888)
DL -- that's my take too. Drew Butera became a primary backup (and too often starter) in the Bill Smith era as well. Also, the original Johan and Delmon deals from Smith's first offseason may have suffered from Gardy's influence (or at least, they were bad moves made by Smith from a similar perspective as Gardy's -- get rid of "malcontents", get a speedy CF, get a RH power bat, etc.).

Say what you will about Terry Ryan, but on the surface, he definitely does not cater to the manager or the fans with his moves, and with his good results so far, you've got to admire him for it (even if it means he's a bit unpopular among fans and manager).
   21. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: March 25, 2013 at 02:09 PM (#4395908)
The managerial stability in Minnesota is pretty amazing. They've had twelve managers since moving to Minnesota, and that includes two months of Cookie Lavaghetto before they fired him just after moving to Minnesota.

By contrast, the Florida Marlins have also had twelve managers in their franchise history since 1993.

The last time the Twins changed managers:
-David Ortiz was in Minnesota
-Johan Santana was coming off his rookie season
-Jesse Orosco was active

Its not Walter Alston/Tommy Lasorda, but its getting there.
   22. DL from MN Posted: March 25, 2013 at 02:24 PM (#4395922)
BTW - By "gone" I mean "not in charge anymore". The other remarkable thing about the Twins is when they fire a guy they still keep him around. Most other people would not have taken the demotion and stayed with the team.
   23. Crispix reaches boiling point with lackluster play Posted: March 25, 2013 at 02:24 PM (#4395923)
And the previous time the Twins changed managers, Phil Niekro was an active player. Actually he wasn't, because he had just been released by the Blue Jays, but had not yet signed with the Braves for his final start.

The first game Tom Kelly managed was against a Rangers lineup featuring Larry Parrish (born 1953) and Tom Paciorek (born 1946).

Now Gardenhire apparently has a starting centerfielder born in 1989.
   24. spycake Posted: March 25, 2013 at 03:10 PM (#4395983)
BTW - By "gone" I mean "not in charge anymore". The other remarkable thing about the Twins is when they fire a guy they still keep him around. Most other people would not have taken the demotion and stayed with the team.

Good point. I think the recent coaching shake-ups haven't resulted in many (any?) dismissals either, just a lot of reassignments. When was the last time this team actually fired a guy?
   25. DL from MN Posted: March 25, 2013 at 03:43 PM (#4396035)
There were coaches fired in the shakeup. They fired their half-blind bullpen coach (who had held the position since 1981), their first base coach and their bench coach. They also sacked the trainer. Two coaches were reassigned to new roles. Two of the "new" guys are Terry Steinbach and Tom Brunansky - both former players. Bobby Cuellar has been the AAA pitching coach for years.
   26. Walt Davis Posted: March 25, 2013 at 04:21 PM (#4396093)
When was the last time this team actually fired a guy?

It's Minnesota, practically Canada ... firing people just seems rude somehow.

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