Should the Twins fire Ron Gardenhire?

REUTERS/Doug Kapustin
If and when the Twins re-emerge as contenders is Gardenhire the manager you want at the helm to get the most out of that new core of young talent?

I started writing about the Twins during Ron Gardenhire‘s rookie season as manager, 2002, and for that entire time some fans have called for him to be fired. Such is life as an MLB manager, but now that winning division titles on a regular basis has given way to losing 95 games per season on a regular basis the fringe of Twins fandom has become the people thinking Gardenhire should be allowed to stick around rather than the people calling for Gardenhire to be fired.

I’ve never called for Gardenhire to be fired and I probably never will. That’s just not my style and it has nothing to do with Gardenhire. However, anyone who’s read my writing for any length of time surely knows that I’m not a Gardenhire fan and even during the Twins’ run of success his batting orders, lack of platooning, small-ball tactics, public call-outs of young players, and various other traits never fit my personal managing ideal.

Once upon a time my criticisms of Gardenhire were met with people taking me to task for having the gall to question the manager of a consistent winning team, but now those same criticisms of Gardenhire — and surprisingly little has changed in terms of what irks me about him — are met with people taking me to task for not being harsh enough toward the manager of a consistent losing team. Such is life as a baseball blogger, I suppose.

Here’s the thing, though: Gardenhire has managed the Twins to four straight 90-loss seasons and possibly four straight 95-loss seasons. Only two managers in baseball history have kept their jobs after four straight 90-loss seasons. One was Connie Mack, who did so with the Philadelphia A’s from 1940-1943 and also happened to own the team. The other was Tom Kelly, who did so with the Minnesota Twins from 1997-2000 and also happened to be the manager Gardenhire replaced.

In addition to owning the team that continued to employ him as manager Mack was, at the time of his four straight 90-loss seasons, an 80-year-old five-time World Series winner and nine-time pennant winner with more than 3,000 career victories. Kelly didn’t have quite that same level of job security, but it was pretty close and for fairly good reason: He managed the Twins to a pair of World Series titles before all the sustained losing started.

Gardenhire is not the owner of the team, nor does he have multiple World Series titles. In fact, during his 13 seasons as manager the Twins have never gotten to the World Series and have advanced past the first round of the playoffs just once, in his first season on the job. His career record is barely above .500 in the regular season and 6-21 in the postseason. He’s managed the Twins to 90 or more wins just once since 2007.

Even his 2002-2010 run of six division titles in nine seasons came at a time when the American League Central was extremely weak and often there for the taking with only 87-92 wins despite the unbalanced schedule keeping the more powerful divisions away. You can only play the teams on your schedule and certainly the Twins took advantage of their good fortune, but “six division titles in nine seasons” was, at the very least, propped up by mediocre competition.

In the entire history of baseball there are a grand total of two instances of a manager keeping his job after four consecutive 90-loss seasons and both cases included circumstances which clearly do not apply to Gardenhire. He doesn’t own the team, he doesn’t have a Hall of Fame-caliber resume, and his pre-losing run of success is not World Series titles but rather division titles against weak competition followed by historic ineptitude in the postseason. Why should he be the third?

Forget for a moment how much responsibility for four consecutive 90-loss seasons should fall on Gardenhire’s shoulders versus the front office. Forget for a moment whether you think a different manager could have coaxed these awful teams to slightly less awful records. Here is the far more important question: If and when the Twins re-emerge as contenders is Gardenhire the manager you want at the helm to get the most out of that new core of young talent?


For a lengthy Gardenhire discussion featuring a reporter who’s covered him for years, check out this week’s “Gleeman and The Geek” episode with Phil Miller of the Star Tribune.

Comments (8)

  1. Submitted by Pavel Yankovic on 09/18/2014 - 09:35 am.

    The local….

    professional sports teams seem to be content with mediocrity. Getting rid of Gardenhire would only mean bringing in another guy to continue the tradition.

    If the Twins had an all star roster like the Yankees did and failed to make the post season then the manager should go. But they don’t have anything even close.

    • Submitted by Dan Hintz on 09/18/2014 - 09:55 am.

      All stars

      The Twins had an all-star centerfielder in Carlos Gomez who was stifled by Gardenhire, and only reached his potential under a competent manager. Who knows how many other potential all-stars are being stifled by Gardenhire.

  2. Submitted by Tom Christensen on 09/18/2014 - 12:46 pm.

    Only one decision left

    It would seem that four consecutive years of 90+ games lost would be a clue. We tried a new stadium to get beyond mediocre and that didn’t work. They’ve changed the general manger an that didn’t work. They’ve tried grossly over paying Mauer and we got under performance so that didn’t work. They’ve tried changing players and that didn’t work. They’ve tried bobble head dolls and that didn’t work. I guess they are down to changing the management – see yah Gardy and crew.

  3. Submitted by Bill Schletzer on 09/18/2014 - 08:56 pm.

    It is true that…

    the twins have released many guys in recent years who went on to great success and some of that has to be due to poor coaching. But I think any team paying 20+ million a year to a light hitting, .270 average first baseman is doomed unless they have an unlimited payroll to get some all stars at other positions. Many teams in this sport and others have proved that overpaying one guy in a team sport just results in lack of money to pay other needed guys. Example: Texas with A roid. And the 20 million dollar man goes over the hill it just gets worse. This team has no hope until Mauer leaves or they start paying him what he is worth on the field and not in the stands.

  4. Submitted by Edward Blaise on 09/18/2014 - 09:41 pm.

    Fire’em all…

    As someone who strongly supported Target Field construction: contacting my legislators, writing letters to the editor, etc… and following that up with purchasing a season ticket package I believe I have been completely and totally defrauded by the Twins. They were given a stadium that easily supports a $125m team payroll that have elected to have an $80m payroll and put the difference in their pockets. When will we hear from a Hennepin County Commissioner who voted for the stadium and now sits silently on the sideline as the Pohlads fail to follow through on their promise to use Target Filed revenues to retain players and field a competitive team. I sat in wonder during the 2010 season: a great experience. When I go to a game now I look around and hate Target Field: at least at the Metrodome they knew they had to win to draw, now they believe a new food booth gets the job done.

  5. Submitted by Doug Gray on 09/19/2014 - 12:13 pm.

    what would be the point?

    if the Twins lose Gardy they will have to hire someone who will cost more and arguably won’t be able to do any better with the mostly minor league level players they put in their taxpayer-supported ballpark.

    • Submitted by Martin Owings on 10/06/2014 - 05:08 pm.

      Agreed

      Yep you nailed it Doug. I don’t expect the Pohlad’s feel any obligation to actually field a decent team.

  6. Submitted by William Pappas on 09/20/2014 - 07:31 am.

    Twins hubris and futility

    I went to the game with Detroit Wednesday evening. The twins are a team of mostly minor leaguers and outclassed at every position. The organization is infected from the top down. Start with Terry Ryan. He is an old school baseball guy and the game has simply passed him by. His philosophy of “pitch to contact” and “work the count” has resulted in the organizations rejection of power pitchers and home run hitters. They actually hold a players desire to throw hard or swing hard against them. Getting to a 3/2 count is more important than hitting a homerun or double. How else can you explain the presence of HIcks in the lineup, a player that has struck out one third of his plate appearnces, can’t hit at all and doesn’t swing at much, preferring to take strikes than swing at them. The departure of future all stars that flourished in other systems is stunning: Loshe, Gomez, Ortiz and Hardy, Liriano come to mind while all star players the Pohlad’s refused to pay are legion: Cuddyer, Hunter, Morneau, Liriano, Santana, Pierzinsky etal. This is not to mention available free agents that were simply never considered a “bargain” for the Pohlads. Gardenhire has to go but everyone else associated with this completely dysfunctional organization must also, including the pitching and hitting coaches that signed onto those horrendous approaches (I give Molitor a pass here). Even the minor league system that seemed so promising can’t produce as those players seem to suffer injury or stumble in the Majors. They all have to go.

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