Time to End Gardy Time?

You may have noticed that the Minnesota Twins are not good. They are certainly a long way from 2010, when they won the American League Central for the second year in a row. That meant it was time for certain writers to start talking (again) about how Ron Gardenhire was maybe The Best Manager in Baseball, because, hey, someone had to be making the Twins win against all odds (supposedly). It was “Gardy Time,” as Joe Posnanski liked to declare.

So, given last year’s 99-loss season and this season’s continuing fiasco, the Twin have to seriously consider firing Gardenhire, right?

Obviously the answer is: no. Well, that is not quite right, I really have no opinion on the matter. I know that some Twins fans will want me to point out Gardenhire’s tactical and strategic mistakes, e.g., problematic bullpen management. I would guess that most fanbases have similar complaints about their managers (except for Royals fans, of course — Boom, Yosted!), but generally it is accepted that those things do not make a huge difference over the course of the season.

However, while the Twins are getting to the point of needing to hope that the Royals do not regress to the mean in order to avoid finishing last, it is hard to see how their big problems can be laid at Gardenhire’s feet. Justin Morneau‘s mid-2010 concussion and slow recovery are not Gardenhire’s fault. Joe “Hometown Discount” Mauer‘s injury problems and lack of power in 2011 are hard to connect with Gardy. I’m pretty sure Gardenhire did not set out to get Denard Span hurt last season, or Scott Baker this season. I haven’t read that Gardenhire was the genius behind trading J. J. Hardy and Wilson Ramos for peanuts. It is also difficult to connect Gardy with Francisco Liriano‘s struggles after his tremendous 2010.

These are just some of the Twins’ main problems starting in 2011, and Gardy’s Fan Club (GFC hereafter) and the rest of us should rightly see that these are most of them have little to do with Gardenhire. But the funny thing about the GFC… they did not exactly see the Twins’ prior success under Gardenhire the same way. No, he was doing something that made those Twins teams win. Let me offer a different (perhaps obvious to all but members of the GFC) perspective.

For simplicity, let’s just look at the 2010 Twins. Did Gardenhire make sure and tell Justin Morneau to hit like peak-level Albert Pujols for the half-season before Morneau went down? If so, why didn’t he do it earlier in Morneau’s career? Did Gardenhire have some magic formula for getting Jim Thome to have the highest wRC+ of his career at age 40? If so, why is that not transferable to other players? Did Gardy forget to tell Valencia to keep his BABIP up near .350 in 2011 and this season? Maybe Gardenhier stopped telling Liriano that walks were bad after 2010.

[I will skip over the protracted discussions about managers’ ability to affect the team’s actual record relative to their Pythagorean expectation. The 2012 Twins are currently one game behind their 2012 pythagorean expectation; maybe Gardy is slacking in that area, too!]

All of this is clearly and deliberately ridiculous. However, contrasting the sources driving the Twins’ former success and current failures simply shows how illogical the emphasis on “Gardy Time” was in the first place. No one should think that just because the Twins have been absolutely terrible since 2011 started that Ron Gardenhire is thus a terrible manager, and no one is saying that. But if you are going to give him a big chunk credit for the wins of the prior seasons (“Strawberry, hit a home run!”), it seems logical that he should be getting a similar-sized chunk of the blame for the losses of 2011 and 2012.

It goes almost without saying that I have an immense amount of respect for writers like Joe Posnanski and Rob Neyer who have seemed to be part of the GFC. My point is not that the last season plus this month show Gardenhire to be a bad manager who should be be feeling the heat. However, the “logic” that led some to proclaim Gardenhire a great manager in 2009 and 2010 would seem to lead to that conclusion now. It seems to me that a better way of looking at this issue is that the same rational that leads us to absolve Gardenhire of most of the responsibility for the Twins’ current mess should lead us to see that he probably should not have gotten the credit some liked to assign to him in the past, either.



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Matt Klaassen reads and writes obituaries in the Greater Toronto Area. If you can't get enough of him, follow him on Twitter.


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Blue
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Blue
4 years 3 months ago

I always feel the need to point out on these “manager’s don’t make a difference” posts that the pretty well demonstrated fact managers can’t add a ton of victories doesn’t mean that managers cannot subtract several victories. A ceiling doesn’t mean there is a floor.

RC
Guest
RC
4 years 3 months ago

This.

While the value of a good strategic bullpen choice doesn’t increase your chance of winning very much, a poor one pretty much always costs you a win.

Bad bullpen management can cost you a ton.

Well-Beered Englishman
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Well-Beered Englishman
4 years 3 months ago

For instance, bad managerial decisions can cost you the 2011 World Series.

craigws
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craigws
4 years 3 months ago

and you can also win the 2011 world series in spite of bad managerial decisions.

todmod
Member
todmod
4 years 3 months ago

A poor bullpen decision almost always costs you a win? What an absurd statement. The best players don’t get on base 50% of the time – a “wrong” bullpen decision can work out plenty.

Jacob
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Jacob
4 years 3 months ago

No. The reason relievers don’t really matter is that there isn’t much of a difference between them

I am a Red Sux Fan
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I am a Red Sux Fan
4 years 3 months ago

Mike Napoli disagrees.

Dustin
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Dustin
4 years 3 months ago

Gardenhire might actually have had something to do with Scott Baker. Terry Ryan and Ron Gardenhire stopped just short of publicly announcing that Baker’s vagina was showing during spring training. They went on the record and said his diminished velocity was not a result of any injury, so it was time for Baker to let it go. I’m not saying the UCL wasn’t damaged, but they forced him on to the mound when he was telling them he wasn’t right.

dusty is crazy?
Guest
dusty is crazy?
4 years 3 months ago

u are joking right? baker was overthrowing half the time in 2011

LTG
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LTG
4 years 3 months ago

“Ok, Skip.”

(Crack. Ooooo.)

“I told him to do that.”

j6takish
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j6takish
4 years 3 months ago

Some of these guys got a bad attitude skip

BDF
Guest
4 years 3 months ago

Gigantism!

Oliver
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Oliver
4 years 3 months ago

The Twins have an institutional/cultural problem that is much bigger than just Gardy. Their approach to player scouting and development is obviously problematic, they make some seriously questionable decisions, like asking Francisco Liriano to pitch to contact. They seem to have seriously screwed up Scott Baker this spring. Their trades and FA signings have been awful, but that was Bill Smith.

Basically, drafting low-upside players isn’t a recipe for success, and then encouraging the ones who do succeed, despite your best efforts to the contrary, to conform to your organizational philosophy is a recipe for disaster.
As David Ortiz put it so eloquently,

“Something in my swing was not right in Minnesota. I could never hit for power. Whenever I took a big swing, they’d say to me, ‘Hey, hey, what are you doing?’ So I said, ‘You want me to hit like a little bitch, then I will.”—David Ortiz in The Boston Globe

The Twins need to clean house, from top to bottom. There’s a reason the Twins are in this position, and it’s not bad luck, it’s poor choices.

Oliver
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Oliver
4 years 3 months ago

Err, is a recipe for disaster.

Ian
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Ian
4 years 3 months ago

I’m not sure quoting a roider shows there was a problem in MN. For that, you’d probably want to look at how all players who played for Gardy and others performed after leaving. I believe a WSJ piece a few years ago did just that and ended up naming Gardy the best manager in baseball based on three measurable things – wins over pyth w/l record, how players played after leaving manager and how well the bullpen was used.

radicalhenri
Member
radicalhenri
4 years 3 months ago

that is an awesome quote.

Alex Remington
Member
4 years 3 months ago

According to Chris Jaffe’s research, Ron Gardenhire is one of the best managers of the last several decades: he and Mike Scoscia are probably the two best managers of the post Cox-La Russa era.

Jaffe acknowledges Gardenhire’s flaws, his preference for veterans and questionable batting lineup choices.

But his strengths are notable. Though Jaffe notes that Gardenhire has had a tendency to wear out his pitchers’ arms, Gardenhire’s Twins had the bullpens of the past decade.

Moreover, as Jaffe notes, the 2005 Twins finished in third place, 83-79, despite the fact that “Their normal lineup consisted of silly string, cardboard bits, and Nick Punto held together by duct tape and a generous spackling of Lew Ford.”

Alex Remington
Member
4 years 3 months ago

All of the above is paraphrased from “Evaluating Baseball’s Managers.”

http://www.evaluatingbaseballsmanagers.com/

Alex Remington
Member
4 years 3 months ago

The book’s stats were current through 2006, so it isn’t totally up-to-date. It’s possible that Gardenhire has worn out his welcome, or gotten long in the tooth, or something. But Gardenhire has been a demonstrably good skipper for a decade.

Brandon Warne
Member
Member
4 years 3 months ago

The most intriguing part of the 2005 club — at least in my view — that something like 98.7 percent of the club’s innings were thrown by 13 pitchers. The other two? Travis Bowyer — dealt for Luis Castillo — and the venerable Francisco Liriano making his ML debut.

That team was horrible, but holy crap was the pitching staff durable.

payroll
Member
payroll
4 years 3 months ago

I don’t see any glaring flaws in Gardy’s managerial style. I actually think he’s managing better now than he did in 2010 when he had better players. Call me crazy.

Brandon Warne
Member
Member
4 years 3 months ago

The only qualms I’ve had with Gardenhire is his bullpen management. For instance, he went to Matt Maloney, Jeff Gray, and Brian Duensing in high-leverage instances within the last week while Glen Perkins and the revitalized Jared Burton simply sat. Now of course, Burton hasn’t thrown extensively in a couple of years, and Perkins had actually fallen down the steps at home, so he was unavailable. Sometimes we don’t know all what the skipper knows.

I’ve said this: My notion is that the players would run through the wall for him; they like playing for him that much. But if last year was any indication, they’d run through the wall and then spend the rest of the season on the DL.

TFINY
Member
TFINY
4 years 3 months ago

He also likes to bat his second baseman or SS second in the lineup, regardless of who is batting. See Hudson, Orlando and Punto, Nick.

Andre
Guest
Andre
4 years 3 months ago

I know this style. See grammar, obnoxious.

payroll
Member
payroll
4 years 3 months ago

@TFINY: a switch hitting middle infielder gives Gardy some much needed flexibility with the bench. This team should arguably be carrying 12 pitchers and 3 catchers at all times, so that’s a welcome bit a flexibility, I imagine, and allows gardy to bat L-R-L at the top of the order. Again, at first glance, many of Gardy’s moves look questionable, however when you consider the pieces the FO gives him, he usually does the reasonable thing, IMHO. And then there are the cases where he is just privvy to something health / rest related that no one else knows about.

TFINY
Member
TFINY
4 years 3 months ago

I’d rather he just change his lineup based on the opposing pitcher if Gardy is that concerned with righty-lefty matchups. I don’t like giving extra plate appearances to players projected at less than .300 wOBA; drop them in the lineup.

payroll
Guest
payroll
4 years 3 months ago

I would agree with you for the most part. Why he ever batted Casilla or Punto in front of JJ Hardy in 2010… it is frustrating how some guys mysteriously seem to fall out of favor with him. I like to think that the whole “Gardy’s doghouse” complaint is just rubes being rubes, but I can’t be sure.

monkey business
Member
monkey business
4 years 3 months ago

There is also the Mauer, Morneau, Thome back-to-back-to-back in the lineup. Great news if you have a loogy. Give him some credit though, he may not know who to pick as closer, but he does put them in for the ninth in a tie game..

Bryz
Guest
4 years 3 months ago

@TFINY Hudson was signed to fill the #2 hole, and he didn’t exactly turn in a great season, but he still filled it adequately. However, Punto and Matt Tolbert certainly were terrible players that were batted 2nd.

Baltar
Guest
Baltar
4 years 3 months ago

TFINY, you are correct to criticize Gardenhire for always placing a 2B or SS second in the batting order regardless of batting ability, but almost all MLB managers do that. On any given day, look thru the boxes and see the high number of mid-inf’s in the 2-hole. Then look up their stats and you will see that almost none of them belong that high in the order.
Bochy, for instance, has always done it, even batting Tejada and Cabrera there sometimes last year. He hasn’t done it much this season, but will as soon as Freddie Sanchez returns.
Dusty Baker normally puts almost his 2 worst hitters in the top two spots, as do other managers.
Offhand, I don’t know of a manager who doesn’t do this, but I don’t check it for everyone.
Obviously, this has something to do with a notion that mid-infielders are the best bunters, which is not only a poor reason but probably not even true.

radicalhenri
Member
radicalhenri
4 years 3 months ago

@baltar. girardi doesn’t do that.

j6takish
Guest
j6takish
4 years 3 months ago

Maddon has been putting Carlos Pena in the 2-hole a lot this season. Joe Maddon rules

Craig
Member
Craig
4 years 3 months ago

Coupla things:

The Twins have had an absolutely brutal April schedule. I want to give them another month or so before I pass judgment on where they are as a team.

Their offense is ranked 6th in the AL in wOBA and wRC+. Not bad. And they have played ALL of the teams ranked 1 through 5 in April.

Their pitching stinks, but it usually does in April. Baker is hurt, Marquis had a personal issue that caused a delay in his prep for the season, and they have had other issues like Zumaya lasting all of 13 pitches in ST. Those can not be placed at the feet of Gardy.

payroll
Member
payroll
4 years 3 months ago

They should be placed at the feet of the FO. Gardy, as usual, is just the lightning rod. You can tell its starting to wear thin on him. I wouldn’t be surprised if he left on his own.

Brandon Warne
Member
Member
4 years 3 months ago

Marquis also kind of stinks, FWIW

Ian
Guest
Ian
4 years 3 months ago

I’ve always thought that sabre types got too worked up at Posnanski’s piece, like him not using stats was an insult to them, and look for times to poke him with his Gardy piece.

Hurtlockertwo
Guest
Hurtlockertwo
4 years 3 months ago

What’s the old saying? You can’t fire the players, so the manager has to go.
Arizona seems to be a good example of a team that sucked one year and turned it around the next with a new manager. (and a new bullpen of course)

WinTwins
Member
WinTwins
4 years 3 months ago

I skipped right to the end, no comments or article read yet.

YES PLEASE.

I fancy myself on the first Fire Gardy Bandwagon members. I’ve been calling for his dumb head for years.

adohaj
Guest
adohaj
4 years 3 months ago

Oh gosh how I like it when Gardy gets ejected. I remember one time at the metrodome he threw his hat in the air and punted it. Then all the fans started to throw their hats onto the field. The boo’s lasted a solid 10 minutes. Best game ever.

If they fire Gardy who do they replace him with? I don’t see any better options.

williams .482
Member
Member
williams .482
4 years 3 months ago

Tito?

Sam Samson
Guest
Sam Samson
4 years 3 months ago

Too authoritarian. Anyway he died in 1980.

Brandon Warne
Member
Member
4 years 3 months ago

They’d hire from within. Why do you think Target Field’s address is “One Twins Way” ?

The Ghost Of Kirby
Guest
The Ghost Of Kirby
4 years 3 months ago

No we can’t lay all of the blame on Gardy. He has no control over players getting injured or a idiotic general manager but it is fact that Gardy didn’t want JJ Hardy because he didn’t fit into the mold of Gardy’s vision of a Twin. He could have fought Smith over trading Hardy, he has some pull in these decisions after all he is the long time manager.

My thing with Gardy is that he just doesn’t seem to fire his players up. He coddles his favorite players and criticizes the younger players. The team doesn’t have a leader, we haven’t since AJ or Torie. The M&M boys are too laid back to be leaders.

Face with or without Gardy at the helm as manager, this team is going to stink for a few years. Perhaps its time to unload Mauer and his contract for solid prospects and players? Mauers big contract while we are rebuilding for the future will only hurt the Twins like Garnetts big contract did for the Wolves.

One more thing…getting basically nothing for Santana and Hunter has hurt this organization tremendously. Throw in the nothing we received for Hardy and Young and……..We had our shortstop to replace Bartlett, a right handed batter with power and we give him away for nothing…And I won’t even get started on Wilson Ramos….Gardy does have some power in the player movements…but…Just remember the line we were sold when the Twins wanted a new stadium….they needed it to stay competitive…well two seasons removed from opening the new stadium and how are things working out???

Bryz
Guest
4 years 3 months ago

Not only will no team take Mauer’s contract, but he also has a full no-trade clause. Mauer’s going nowhere.

pft
Guest
pft
4 years 3 months ago

He cost his team a Win against the Red Sox leaving his starter Marquis in way too long and allowing the Red Sox to tie it in the 7th making up a 5-3 deficit.

I know there is way more to managing in the AL than in game decisions, but Gardie has always been lacking in this area, and the bigger the game, the worse his decisions.

joe
Guest
joe
4 years 3 months ago

I think the upper management issues are the real root of the problem, and as such, Gardy is left with a bunch of crap.

The other thing I feel is an issue is that the 2011 and 2012 teams have no leaders and character. The “stars” of the team Mauer, Morneau, Span, Pavano, Liriano… none of these guys say a peep much less be leaders. Gardy seems to be very casual in his approach, until he goes off on an ump. He doesn’t really seem to be able to light the fire in the team. So with casual Gardy and no leaders on the team the team seems to just be really really flat a lot of times and play even below their already modest ability.

To bring things full circle I only think Gardy needs to go in favor of a more “inspirational” manager if they don’t start bringing in some character/leader guys to take care of that part of the team.

Brandon Warne
Member
Member
4 years 3 months ago

If big league players need ‘leaders’ to do their jobs effectively, they’re in the wrong business.

“Leadership” is something that sells papers, not wins ballgames.

S. Urista
Guest
S. Urista
4 years 3 months ago

Well, the Twins have had a pretty good 10-year run going back to 2002: Six playoff appearances in 10 years, and should have made it seven in 2008. And they’ve done it mainly on shoestring budgets: Check out the Twins’ payroll rankings: 27th in 2002, 18th in 2003, 19th in 2004, 19th in 2006, 25th in 2008, 24th in 2009, and a big jump to 11th in 2010.

That many winning seasons and making the playoffs that many years in a row with a payroll in the bottom third of the league the entire time is pretty damn impressive. The other good example of doing more with less: Oakland, which had a very good run in the early 2000s with payrolls near the bottom of the league (2000, 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2006).

I think Gardy was a big reason the Twins were so successful; he was the right guy for the right team at the right time. Also important – I don’t think you can have such an extended period of success with a limited budget unless you have a good scout team and solid farm system.

Of course, it didn’t matter much, because it’s really really hard to make it to the next level without at least one bonafide star either with the bat or on the mound, and the Twins alway seemed to be one or two players short. End result: Every year ended up with the Twins being a ritual sacrifice to the Yankees in the first round.

Alex Remington
Member
4 years 3 months ago

Then there’s the other other good example of doing more with less: the Tampa Bay Rays.

twin$gir!
Guest
twin$gir!
4 years 3 months ago

Yankees succcckk! And if I were into conspiracies, I would definitely bet that they paid off the officials in 2009 against the Twins in the playoffs. There were SO many bad calls made in that game! Money talks apparently. Oh and Gardenhire cannot do the work of the whole team. So therefore should not be blamed for their short comings. Moat teams ((that aren’t freaking robots ***ahem, YANkEES***)) hit slumps. It’s going to happen.

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