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My Annual Gardy Rant

OK, so, it’s happening again … every year I feel more and more certain that there has to be something I’m missing. I had a long talk with someone close to the Minnesota Twins … this someone is the latest in a long series of people who want me to understand just how wrong I am about Ron Gardenhire.

A little history: In 2008, I wrote a series of columns stating what I believe — that Ron Gardenhire is the best manager in baseball. This led more than a few people to believe that I was completely off my rocker and many of those people were Minnesota Twins fans who watched the man manage every single day and, as such, could recite hundreds and hundreds of reasons why Gardenhire was, in fact, a dreadful manager.

That’s a wide gap — best in the game (me) to dreadful (most of the people writing in). The 2008 Twins, despite hitting the fewest home runs in the league (and having the 10th best slugging percentage) and having a mediocre pitching staff somehow won 88 games and forced a one-game playoff with Chicago, which they lost 1-0. I thought it was another pretty impressive managerial run for a guy who had led his Twins to the playoffs in four of his first six years as manager. Others thought it was another lousy managing job.

And … the anti-Gardy crowd was overpowering. They bludgeoned me with stories of crazy lineup moves and bizarre bullpen maneuvers and folksy Gardy quotes that suggested he was at least Cardinal in the Roman Church of Grit. OK, I conceded the points, at least somewhat. I conceded that if Gardy was my team’s manager and I had to watch him every day, that I might not be the world’s No. 1 Gardy fan … but I don’t watch him every day, and I am the world’s No. 1 Gardy fan, and I still didn’t get why people did not give Gardy more credit for the Twins success.

Then came 2009. The Twins were without MVP Joe Mauer for the first month. They were without the 2006 MVP Justin Morneau for the last month. Their starting pitching was brutal, they were unsettled at numerous positions, they were six games under .500 in mid-August. And I heard from the Gardy people, doing their Billy Crystal as Edward G. Robinson impressions (“Where’s your Messiah now!”). Only then, the Twins won 21 of their last 35 (and 17 of their last 21) and they chased down the fading Tigers and the won the division again, Gardenhire’s fifth division championship.

And I again wrote the Gardenhire is a genius thing because, dammit, I’m nothing if not predictable. And again I got hit with the anti-Gardy denials — he didn’t do anything, the Tigers folded, anyone could manage the Twins, the UNDERachieved, he cost his team a dozen games with stupid maneuvers on and on and on. It’s amazing. The guy could build Hoover Dam and people would say he should have built it bigger. The Twins did lose three straight to the Yankees in the playoffs, which if I was reading the response correctly demonstrated again the point of Gardy’s incompetence (and apparently did not demonstrate the the point that the Yankees had a payroll three times larger). And once again I found myself just shaking my head and wondering why it seemed so lonely on “Gardy is Awesome” Island.

Then came 2010. Now I should point out here that part of the reason I’ve been so enthralled with Gardy is that I don’t think the Twins have been all that talented. Payroll isn’t everything, but it’s probably telling that in the first eight years that Ron Gardenhire managed the Twins, they never had a payroll in the top half of baseball. Not once. They have only once had the highest payroll in their own relatively low-spending division. Here is a look at the Twins payroll rankings:

2009: 24th (lowest in AL Central)

2008: 25th (lowest in AL Central)

2007: 18th (3rd in AL Central)

2006: 19th (3rd in AL Central)

2005: 20th (3rd in AL Central)

2004: 19th (2nd in AL Central)

2003: 18th (1st in AL Central)

2002: 27th (lowest in AL Central)

OK, so with those payrolls, the guy took his team to the playoffs five times. I mean, that’s SOMETHING isn’t it? Well, this year, something changed. The Twins payroll took a huge jump — they are actually 10th in the league in payroll (though still only third in the AL Central, behind Chicago and Detroit — yes three of this year’s top 10 payrolls are in the American League Central). And the payroll should go up quite a bit next year when Joe Mauer’s $23 million per year deal kicks in.

OK, so where did that extra money go for the Twins?

1. Mauer’s salary jumped $2 million.

2. Justin Morneau’s salary jumped $3.5 million.

3. Michael Cuddyer’s salary jumped almost $2 million.

4. They signed Carl Pavano for $7 million.

5. They signed J.J. Hardy for $5.1 million.

6. They signed Orlando Hudson for $5 million.

7. They signed Jim Thome for $1.5 million plus incentives.

8. Various raises to players like Jason Kubel, Franscisco Liriano, etc.

9. They are paying Joe Nathan $11.25 million — this is the same as last year, so that’s not why the payroll went up. But the point is I believe only the Yankees in the American League pay more for their closer.

I go through all that to show you that this year — for the first time in a very long time, I think — the Twins put some financial backing behind their efforts to win. They have a new stadium now, so I’m sure that helped. They also have perhaps the single most valuable property in baseball in Joe Mauer, and they re-signed him. For the first time in my mind they gave Gardy a team that is NOT small market, a team that has been given the balance sheet talent to win games and playoff series. Of the American League playoff teams only the Yankees (or, in a miracle finish, the Red Sox) have a higher payroll than Minnesota.

So this year’s different. Only then, it wasn’t so different. During spring training Nathan was lost for the season. How valuable is a closer? It’s a topic we’ve discussed here more than once … and I don’t know if we came to a consensus. But it’s fair to say that $11.25 million of that payroll was worthless for 2010, and a lot of people around the game thought that Nathan’s injury could be a death blow to the Twins chances.

And as if to prove the point, the Twins were a blah 45-42 on July 10. And it was right around then (July 7 to be precise) that they lost Justin Morneau, who had a strong argument as American League MVP when he suffered a concussion. He has not played a single game since then.

And where are the Twins right now? Exactly: First place, the American League Central is all sewn up, the Twins are only a half game behind Tampa Bay for the best record in all of baseball. They are 43-16 since hitting that low point — staggeringly awesome baseball. Gardenhire is about to take the Twins to the playoffs for the sixth time.

And, no, I don’t know if the Twins will do any better this time around — the Twins under Gardy have lost their last nine playoff games and have only won one playoff series — but on paper, to me, they at least seem in better playoff shape. They have the ace — Francisco Liriano has pitched as well this year as any pitcher in the league. They get on-base (second in OBP) and are fourth in the league in runs. Their bullpen, even without Nathan and with a couple of closers through the season, has been strong. We’ll see.

But I guess my point remains … I think Ron Gardenhire is the best manager in baseball. I think that not based on what we see but what we can’t see. I base this not on what I think a manager should do but on success. I base this not on individual moves but on the basis that the Twins are there on top one more time.

That someone close to the Twins — he would know more about this than I do. And I respect his opinion. And he insists that the Twins win DESPITE Gardy not BECAUSE of Gardy. And you know what? It could be true.

But you know what else? They sure do keep on winning despite him. So if nothing else, Gardy is the best I’ve ever seen at minimizing the damage he can cause and keeping his own deficiencies from ruining the story. It’s a lesson all of us could probably learn.

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51 Responses to My Annual Gardy Rant

  1. Anonymous says:

    Basically if your team wins about 100 games a year and wins the World Series year in and year out you have no complaint about the manager of your favorite team. Anything short of that and you will either be annoyed by your manager or hate him. So throughout history we have Joe Torre for about two years, Casey Stengel, Joe McCarthy, and Huggins as perfect managers and that is about it. Everybody else’s managers were horrible. Give fans a chance to gripe about their team’s manager and they’ll take up hours of your time.

  2. JHitts says:

    “Cardinal in the Roman Church of Grit”

    I’m assuming that Tony LaRussa is the pope in this Church, correct?

  3. Anonymous says:

    Gardy gets blasted because he pulls head scratching moves on what seems to be obvious wrong decisions based on that moment. The types that are easy for the general rube to pick out. However…

    In baseball they call them managers and in footbal they call them coahes for a reason. People need to quit trying to make judgements on managers based on what head coach criteria.

  4. Mitchell says:

    He absolutely is one of the best in my opinion. Even despite too much love for Nick Punto, he keeps the team together even when they lose great players. That is perhaps the most important thing he does. He has also carried on Tom Kelly’s emphasis on fundamentals. And this is a team that never seems to give up and bemoan their fate as small-market (okay, the owners would bemoan).
    Besides, he’s pretty good with the media and the fans.
    What’s not to like?

    P.S. Anyone know how I change my name on Google to post as “Bucky” instead of “Mitchell”?

  5. Breadbaker says:

    The things people point to about managers are rarely the things that matter for a manager. Keeping an even keel, making sure the players prepare well and don’t do bonehead plays, you don’t see that, but you don’t see the Twins unprepared, either.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Pros –
    Teaminess – The Twins don’t throw each other under the bus. They play hard and mostly smart (I’m looking at you Denard Span getting picked off as much as you do!)

    Undeniable success in the regular season.

    Whatever he did that Little Nicky Punto photographed that LNP uses to blackmail Gardy into putting him in the lineup as much as he does. LNP’s hammy strain has been a Godsend for the club.

    Manages to the statistic for saves. Thank goodness Crain isn’t titled “Closer” so he can be used in high leverage positions instead of the ninth when the 7,8,9 batters might be up.

    Overall – Managers in baseball are wildly over valued (See Torre in NY vs. LA and Girardi Joe) Be that as it may – we’re keeping him so go away NY Mets or whoever else.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I find it hard to argue against Gardenhire being one of the best. As a Tiger fan, we see it first hand every year. The joke in Detroit is that if you don’t have a 10-game lead over the Twins at the All-Star break you’re toast. Can it be a coincidence that the Twins consistently play their best in pressure situations, at least in the regular season?

    I also think the Twins are more talented than people give them credit for. Minnesota has long had one of the top organizations in baseball. Their farm system produces their regular players and now they are able to spend the money to keep them plus add free agents. The Twins are pains-in-the-ass to play because they are so fundamentally strong, something they are taught throughout the whole organization.

    Nick Punto plays because he is probably the biggest pain-in-the-ass they have, at least against the Tigers. No noticable talent, but always does something to help you win.

  8. David says:

    My view (as a Cub Fan who has lived in MN for the last 16 years):
    1. Gardy is part of an organization – the organization has a philosophy and approach and Gardy upholds that. The team’s success is partially Gardy’s, do doubt, he is a critical part of that organization. But his success can’t be isolated from the bigger picture.
    2. Critics pick on individual moves; Gardy manages a team for a season. What he does in April, May, and June often irks the ‘line item’ watchers, but it almost always pays off in terms of a stronger team for the 2nd half.
    3. There is a lot of “familiarity fatigue” in the Gardy criticism.
    4. For a large segment of the detractors, the post season failures completely override the regular season success (I’m not judging that. In fact, if they don’t win a series this year, I may join that chorus myself.)

    Some of the best things Gardy does (or that the organization does) are mentioned above: even keel, don’t throw each other under the bus, etc. I think this last few weeks also showed one of the big differences with the White Sox – the Sox whine, complain, and worry about non-baseball stuff a lot (or at least things that don’t have much to do with winning games.) The Twins don’t whine much, and I think that allows them to be more focused on the impactful things.

  9. As a long time Twins fan and observer of baseball Twins can get frustrated with Gardy and in some cases with good reason, but don’t all baseball fans react that way with their team? Gardy’s track record speaks for itself in the regular season. Remember, Tom Kelly won two WS, but had many dreadful seasons as well. I’ll take consistant winning Twins fans have now. Although, WS aren’t bad either. Fans who want change need to be careful what they wish for. What makes one think who ever manages next will do better? The chances are they won’t be more successful than Gardy. Be thnakful for we have.

  10. Woz says:

    I gotta say, as a life long Twins fan, I have never understood the anti-Grady crowd. Without reproducing this post, the evidence is overwhelming — you could give this guy the runner-up of the little-league world series and he could make a solid run at the AL central.

    The only possible knock against this guy is his lack of playoff success, but you’ve got to blame that on the players. Whether it’s Nathan giving up completely uncharacteristic runs to blow saves against the Yankees or the bats suddenly going cold, you can’t really blame these things on Gardy.

  11. Those fans that speak about Gardy’s record in the playoffs need to remember players make plays. The Twins simply need more timely hitting and better pitching in the playoffs. To advance in playoffs clutch performances are needed, Twins have had few of those recently.

  12. David says:

    I would say that most Twins fans I know (I lived in MN for the last 5 years) are very pro-Gardy and pro-Twins. What they are is anti-Yankees. That’s a whole other issue, though. Gardy is clearly the best, and he’s finally going to get recognized for it this year, I would think. Frankly, it’s about time.

  13. low says:

    I think you’re right in that what Gardy brings to the team is what fans don’t see: the leadership, the clubhouse presence, how his players love him.

    Sometimes he makes seemingly dumb decisions and frankly dumb decisions but I don’t think you have to be Joe Madden to be successful as a big league manager. A lot of it is keeping your players motivated through 162 games.

  14. Dave says:

    Gardy’s faults all come with his game decisions. And the vast majority of those are bullpen related. He is, without a doubt, a terrible bullpen manager. Every year he destroys Matty G’s arm throughout the season with stupid 7 game stretches of meaningless appearances. He gets infatuated with arms and refuses to let off the throttle. Then the closers. We have had a dominant lefty in the pen every year but never do they get used as a LOOGY in the 9’th (or the 8’th for that matter). Every manager makes the same mistake, Gardy just does it 100% of the time. Its that unwaivering dedication to a bad formula that gets fans upset.

    The other part of his style that bewilders is lineups. Punto is a great bench guy to have. That is especially true when Morneau is in and thome comes off the bench. Punto is not a starter. Tough lefty? Better let Delmon get a day of rest in. Tough Righty? Move Cuddy to cleanup and bench Thome. Don’t even ask me about his absolute refusal to allow Mauer and Morneau to hit back to back for the first few years. Mauer in the two hole with Cuddy batting third was a disgrace.

  15. cmathewson says:

    I’m one of your Billy Chrystals. 2008 was one of the worst managing jobs I’ve seen, particularly with bullpen usage. They should have won the division going away. But even I think Gardy has done a great job this year. I still don’t think he’s the best manager. I’d give that honor to Joe Maddon. But he’s in the top five. That is a reflection of one simple fact: Gardy is willing to learn. And he’s learned a lot the last three years about this crop of players. So he’s doing a better job with the players he has.

  16. timprov says:

    As a Twins fan, I’ve thought for a long time that Gardy was probably the best manager in baseball, maybe in all of sports, in the things that any manager in any industry has to do. The dealing with people and getting everybody pulling in the same direction part of the job. And the results seem to indicate that that means more than we might anticipate.

    But it’s easy to see why the people who focus on the tactical moves think he’s terrible, because tactically he is terrible. His lineups are bizarre, his bullpen usage is atrocious, his pinch-hitting and -running decisions are complete headscratchers. Part of the reason the team keeps getting better is that the front office has learned to manage to roster around Gardy a little bit. He insists on batting his second baseman high in the order? Sign Orlando Hudson. He runs Matt Guerrier out there five times a week? Make sure you pick up an extra right-handed reliever at the deadline.

    The completely confusing thing, to me, is that being good at one aspect of the job and not the other is hardly uncommon among major league managers, and yet all of the responsibility continues to be put on a single person. Imagine how good the Twins could be if Gardy were left in charge of the team, but someone with some tactical skill were brought in to make those late-game decisions.

  17. Anonymous says:

    They say it’s a tie between Gardy and Ron Washington for Manager of the year. So I say give it to Al Newman. Do get it? Do a little research on the Twins preseason during the year of 1987.

  18. Gardy's Guy says:

    Here’s the deal:

    As fans, we live and die with every game.

    A manager should live and die every game too, but also has to have a long view — when to push the accelerator and when, over the course of a 162- or 163-game journey, to let up.

    As a manager (not baseball, but corporate) myself, this is where Gardy succeeds and we don’t give him credit. We moan about this loss or that one based on who he did/didn’t use.

    But what’s the goal? With pitiful payrolls in 2009 and 2008, it may have been win the AL Central and little else.

    In 2010, it should be much more. And, to date, we’re headed that direction.

    The playoffs are a different beast. Will be interesting to see if Gardy can get a much more talented team to win a couple of series, and overcome whatever bad calls Tim Tschida and Phil Cuzzi send our way.

  19. Neil says:

    The comments here give you a good snapshot of Gardy, the good and the bad. If you watch the Twins day in and day out, Gardenhire’s decisions do tend to grate on you. (One as yet unmentioned point: Twins lifer Scott Ullger has to be the worst coach in baseball.)

    But I do believe that most of a manager’s job is conducted out of sight of the fans, and I have to believe that in these aspects of the job, Gardy is tremendous. Joe you might want to look up something Zack Greinke said at the end of last season, when the Twins beat him on the final weekend. Basically he said the Twins are the only team he’s seen that plays better in tight situations. I take that to mean the Twins are ultra-prepared, but I found it a fascinating comment from an opposing player.

    Point is, there’s just no way the Twins could do as well as they’ve done since ’02 without significant contributions from the manager. You are correct on this.

  20. ilroyalfan says:

    As a Royal’s fan I hate it when KC has to play the Twins. I have never thought that the Twins win despite Gardenhire. He is the type of manager that any fan would want to have for his or her team.

    And as far as Nick Punto goes, at least Gardenhire didn’t put Jason Kendall in the 2-hole for most of the season.

  21. David in Toledo says:

    Tyler Kepner’s article in Saturday’s NYTimes picks up on Joe’s columns about Ron Gardenhire and about more/fewer strikeouts in 21st century baseball.

  22. Anonymous says:

    I’ve been a little critical of Gardy in the past, but it’s the type of complaining you do about your family because you know them so well. I wouldn’t want anyone other than Gardy to lead my Twins and if we lost him for some reason I’d be devastated. I’ve always noticed that some coaches/managers are better with talent, while some suceed getting results from lesser talent, it seems Gardy can do both and that makes him rare and valuable.

  23. Justin says:

    The recouped 3/4ths of Nathan’s payroll via insurance money this year.

  24. Anonymous says:

    The only thing I really hate about Gardenhire is his infatuation with Nick Punto. Punto’s injury forced him to play someone else at 3rd, and what do you know, Danny Valencia has put up a 123 OPS+ while Punto’s is 73. Of course, as soon as Punto comes back I’m sure Valencia will have to hit the bench.

    Most things that Gardenhire does are defensible in some fashion, but his love for Punto is indefensible. In 2007 Punto was given 536 plate appearances and posted a 53 OPS+. That’s no misprint.

    His handling of the bullpen, other things he does with the lineup, any hit-and-runs or steal attempts that may fail…all defensible in some manner. But giving someone over 500 plate appearance to be half as good as the average major league hitter is atrocious.

  25. My general take on managers is that they will all do things that look bizarre. Every manager deserves at least an arm’s length of leeway when evaluating the moves they make and the things they say. The most important thing is, does the team hang together? Do they give the sense of a tapestry or a loosely assembled bunch of threads? Bullpen management and keeping your best players on the field count too, but I’d be hesitant to fire a crappy strategist if he’s someone everyone wanted to play for.

  26. phoenixwoman says:

    If Gardy wasn’t our skipper, the Twins would barely break even in the AL Central. Period.

    He is the best manager in baseball. Period.

  27. phoenixwoman says:

    Oh, and yes, we can beat the Yanks and the Rays. In fact, when we met the Rays in Tampa, we split the series with them.

    Target Field. Playoffs. October.

    Sounds brilliant.

  28. Anonymous says:

    Longtime reader, first time commenting. This is one Twins fan who has thought that Gardy was the best manager in baseball since he took over in 02. Thanks for sticking up for him.

  29. Anonymous says:

    Very good manager, from spring training to start of play-offs….In the playoffs,butt-ugly espically ,the yankees…

  30. JerBear50 says:

    Could you please forward this to Rick Morrisey?

  31. Chuckles549 says:

    Gardy is the Marty Schottenheimer of baseball: great in the regular season, can’t coach/manage in the playoffs. I will take Tom Kelly and his two World Series titles over a bunch of division titles and early exits. Kelly had crap to work with most years compared to what Gardy has had in his career. The ONLY thing that matters is winning the World Series.

  32. Anonymous says:

    People keep bringing up Nick Punto, but really I think the whole issue is overblown. Sure Gardy loves his light-hitting utility infielders (especially Punto), but I think he’s shown this year that he’s willing to go with better options when they’re available. Punto got so much playing time over the 08-09 seasons because the Twins didn’t have any better option. Casilla, Tolbert, and Harris, all part of last year’s infield merry-go-round, couldn’t much Punto’s defense and were only marginally better offensively. So of course Punto was going to get plenty of time on the field.

    This year the Twins finally have regulars at 2nd and shortstop, and yes, thanks to Punto being sidelined, Valencia was finally called up to complete the picture. In case you haven’t noticed, Punto is healthy again. But also in case you haven’t noticed, Gardy hasn’t played him that often. Heck, even when Valencia had to sit a few games with an injury, Gardenhire sent Matt Tolbert to play 3rd base. Simply put, now that Gardy has regulars at each position, Punto has been reduced to the backup utility role you’d expect him to fill.

  33. Anonymous says:

    “I think Ron Gardenhire is the best manager in baseball. I think that not based on what we see but what we can’t see.”

    Exactly. Most, but not all, of the Gardy criticisms fail to recognize that most of what a manager does is NOT in-game moves…and even then we, as fans, rarely get access to all of the info that goes into a particular decision. A move that looks nonsensical in the Strat-O-Matic sense can have all sorts of extraneous factors involved.

    On the playoff record, Gardy takes way too much grief. He managed the Twins past the far superior A’s in the 2002 ALDS before they lost to the Angels in the LCS and the Angel;s eventually won the World Series. In each of the Yankees series, the Twins haven’t had the ROSTER, payroll or not, to win those series. No lineup with Jayson Tyner, Matt Tolbert, Jose Morales, Phil Nevin, Rondell (Actually, RonDL) White, etc. is World Series-worthy.

    In 2006, Gardy wasn’t responsible for dropping two home games to the A’s…he didn’t hang a change-up to Frank Thomas for a decisive 2R HR in the first game, or play a two-out single to CF into an inside-the-park 2R HR to Mark Kotsay (?!?!) in game 2.

    2010 is different. THIS Twins team should be expected to win the ALDS and, if not win, play an extended, competitive LCS. If the Twins lose this year by playing unprepared, THEN Gardy will deserve criticism.

  34. E says:

    Losing requires a lot of explanation. Winning eliminates the fans’need for explanations. In Gardy’s case, little, if any, explanation needed.

  35. Spud says:

    I like the publicity for the AL Central. First the Kenny Williams story, then this, and the Thome article comes this week. And of course I’m guessing we’ll see some sort of “state of the Royals” post around the end of the season.

  36. MNTwins says:

    The bullpen comments are true, and I think probably Gardy’s biggest weakness. He is also extremely stubborn and sticks to what he thinks – which is also his biggest strength because most of the time we fans don’t really know what we are talking about anyway. I do disagree with the one poster who said he refused to bat Mauer and Morneau 3-4. He actually stuck to that formula even when Mauer was not a 3 hitter. I’ve heard numerous fans complain that he lets their best hitters hit back to back even though they are both lefties and other teams will always bring in a lefty reliever to make things difficult on them.

    Overall, though, most of the complaining is in house, family type complaining. I can’t imagine any other manager doing better with this ball club.

  37. Breaker says:

    I’m a lifelong Twins fan, and Gardy’s winning record isn’t a fluke. He gets the team to buy into the organizational philosophy, and gets them to all play together. Those that say most of his impact is in the things you can’t see or measure, I agree with.

    I also agree with those who berate his tactical skills. He will absolutely destroy arms in the bullpen, and has a ridiculously strong love for any player that reminds him of himself as a player – a no-hit middle infielder who ‘battles his tail off’.

    My biggest complaint about Gardy is that he has ‘favorites’ and a ‘dog house’. This situation has led to way too many plate appearances for Nick Punto and the trades/non-tenders/DFA’s of Kyle Lohse, Matt Garza, Jason Bartlett, etc. He does not like young, confident players, and the front office has had to learn to deal with that fact.

    The statement that Nick Punto’s injury was a God-send is absolutely correct…There is no way that Danny Valencia would have been given the opportunity that he has received this year if Punto had been healthy.

    I tend to believe the Twins postseason record, especially against the Yankees, is due to Gardy getting way too tense when we face them, and the team feeding off of him. I hope he proves me wrong this season.

  38. SoCalTwinsfan says:

    If Gardy so bad at bullpen management, then why do the Twins almost always have a great bullpen? About the only season it wasn’t good was 2008. Jon Rauch, Ron Mahay, Dennys Reyes, Matt Guerrier, Tony Fiore. These gusy were all picked up for a song or off waiver wires or scrap heaps and all had big years or key roles for division-winning teams. I can’t find it, but I read an article a while back that chronicled how Gardy is the best bullpen manager in baseball.

  39. deanomite07 says:

    I am glad I found this article. If all the critics were to watch any other team in the league everyday…they would find that every manager has “headscratching” moves or lineups. Simple fact remains, rich players do not respond to poor managing.

    Ask Jim Thome what it is like to play for Gardenhire, he absolutely loves it here. Players WANT to come here, we just couldn’t afford them in the past. They want to play here, because it is done the right way. The manager decides who his coaches are, not the front office…a lot of credit goes to Gardy for those moves…which I have heard no one speak of.

    Look at Delomon Young, the brat of baseball…won’t listen to coaching-right? Not only did he report to camp in the best shape of his career, he is having the best season of his career. He has completely bought into the Twins system…lead by Gardy. Sometimes Gardy gets wrapped up in coaching to stats, but at least he has the numbers to prove why a decision was made. Hands down…no one has done more with less than he has on a consistent basis.

    To a point I read from BREAKER on favorites….What is the value of Lohse now, Bartlett fell off the face of the earth, Garza has done well. Valencia was brought up on June 3rd, when they sent Harris to long bus rides, not a Punto injury. Valencia had already replaced Punto before Nicky baseball got hurt.

    Don’t forget that it is the manager who decides who gets called up from the minors when it is needed. I think Gardy’s track record for picking the right guy for the right situation speaks for itself there too.

    Very few players that leave this coaching staff go on to have as productive seasons as they had here…is it because they suddenly lost their talent? No, it is because the coaching is different and they are asked to do things that they are not capable of…which doesn’t happen here

  40. lisa gray says:

    …”minimizing the damage he can cause and keeping his own deficiencies from ruining the story…”


    how beautifully put. and it applies to all kinds of other “leaders” in all kinds of situations, even parents and teachers.

    i’m not sure exactly who this manager is who is the great manager twins fans point to. these days, a manager’s job is

    1 – to talk to the media the way that media have to be talked to to not cause a problem

    2 – to get 25 males with big egos to work well together as a team especially when one of them is a STAR

    3 – to use the roster that the GM gives him whether he likes it or not because the manager these days has little or nothing to say about who the owner/GM tells him to play.

    also twins fans,
    IF you don’t like the fact that the manager plays player john doe, you have to ask – and WHO is better/what are that player’s goods and bads; AND if the management has ordered the manager to play that player…

  41. Algonad says:

    I don’t think Gardy is the worst manager in baseball but your arguments for him being the best are very weak. It’s really surprising since most of your opinions are backed up with facts.

    It seems your sole argument for Gardy being a good manager is that he wins. Isn’t it possible that he’s an average manager and he wins because he has an outstanding front office or underrated players or some other factor. What, exactly, does Gardy do that causes the team to win that other managers don’t do? And before you anoint him “the greatest manager ever,” watch the playoffs. Watch his decision-making and then come to your conclusion.

    Again, I’m not saying he’s a bad manager. I’m just saying that there is very little in your arguments that would make me conclude that he’s a great one.

  42. Chris Fiorentino says:

    There are many in Philly who would have said some of the same things about “Uncle Charlie” Manuel. He makes some pretty off-beat decisions and sounds like a country bumpkin. However, the players LOVE him and he has brought a World Series championship to a town starving for one, so he’ll never pay for another meal again in Center City. I think the problem with “Gardy” is that he ABSOLUTELY has to do something in the post season to win the hearts of Twins fans who don’t like him. Yes, winning the division or making the playoffs every year is nice. But imagine how much love Braves fans would have for Bobby Cox if they didn’t win the World Series the one time they did? He would probably be equally reviled by many.

    “Gardy” is a great manager, but would be an all-timer with a World Series championship…just like “Uncle Charlie” is right now.

  43. Anonymous says:

    Mike in MN…..I’ve never understood how they win with Gardy at the helm. His bullpen usage and insistence that 2B hit 2nd (even if they are horrible OB machines) are headscratchers. His belief that Butear somehow should catch every Pavano start (up until that last one) is odd to say the least. But, as I’ve posted several times, you have to assume he’s doing something right. All they do is win. He must be contributing to that, even if we can’t see how all the time.

    As for the playoff record, if you are going to give him credit for the regular season always going well, you have to give him demerits for the post season always going badly. You can’t blame the players for the postseason, and credit the manager with the regular season. It is a full team effort.

  44. Anonymous says:

    You know whats sad… Gardy loves Punto so much, that if he hadnt gotten hurt Valencia would not be a part of the Twins right now.

  45. Josh says:

    Gardy isn’t the worst, but calling him the best is a hard pill for Twins fans who watch the team day in and day out, year after year.

    Don’t get me wrong, the man has strengths. He handles the clubhouse well. Guys play hard for him. He works the media and the market well. He uses his whole roster and sticks up for his players. Undeniably, his teams win games and there aren’t too many players that leave the franchise and do better elsewhere (though that may have something to do with the GM making smart calls).

    But there are also weaknesses. He’s been really rough on rookies, consistently preferring washed up veteran players with little upside over young players who could contribute. The tactical decisions are based on his “gut” over real evidence, it seems, and often put the team in a disadvantageous position. Bullpen management isn’t great (while I’d love for him to be progressive about the use of his closer, I can’t rip him for doing what the rest of the league does); he has shown a tendency to overwork the guys he trusts. There’s a the consistent use of weak-hitting middle infielders over other players who have greater ability at the plate. The questionable batting orders: Cuddy hits into approximately 85 double plays in a month and is struggling, but sticks in the 4-5 hole; Delmon tears the cover off the ball, but gets stuck in the 7 hole at the same time? Then when Delmon finally moves up, the first sign of a slump and he’s buried again for a month…hmmm; or how the 2B is always the #2 hitter, or whomever subs for Mauer used to get subbed in the 3 hole.

    This doesn’t make Gardy a bad manager. But when the team wins consistently, but can’t take it to the next level, you start to question whether the tactical weaknesses hurt the team too much. When the team can’t take the next step, you wonder more if the things that drive you nuts about the manager are holding the team back. Is it the roster hasn’t been good enough, or has Gardy taken the team as far as it can go?

    When you don’t watch the team consistently for 10-20 games in a row, and all you see are the wins, you can’t see it. You can’t believe that he isn’t a great manager. You buy into the intangibles. But you forget that the off-field stuff is at best half the equation, and you assume that he’s the guy responsible for it.

    I don’t hate Gardy. But I don’t think he’s that great, either, mostly because I don’t think he helps the team much on the field…and there are other managers that DO.

  46. David in NYC says:

    I don’t really know enough about the Twins or follow them closely enough on a daily basis to make an intelligent comment about Gardy’s game management skills (or lack thereof).

    However, I do know from over 50 years of baseball watching is that this is NOT the most important part of managing a baseball team. The most important part is “managing the team”.

    Or, as Casey Stengel put it, “On any given team, you’ve got 15 guys who love you, 5 guys who hate you, and 5 guys who aren’t sure. My most important job is to keep the 5 guys who hate my guts away from the 5 guys who aren’t sure.”

    My current favorite manager is Bobby Cox, and no, I am not all that thrilled with his game management (way too many sacrifices on offense, way too many IBBs on defense, among other things). But it is quite obvious that he is successful at “managing” the Braves. As more than one player has observed, if you can’t play for Bobby Cox, you can’t play for anyone.

    I was not at all surprised to see that Cox got the most votes for “WHICH MANAGER WOULD YOU MOST LIKE TO PLAY FOR?” in SI last summer, nor that he got more votes than the next two combined (despite the fact that players could not vote for their own current manager).

    So, Gardy’s teams win, for whatever reason. Could they win more? Maybe, but there is no higher position in the division than FIRST.

  47. Alan says:

    Clearly, no one here has watched a lot of A’s games. Bob Geren has to be worse than Gardy. Our best hitter, Cust (I know, not saying much) sits against lefties no matter what. Our currently O-fered young power hitter Carter keeps getting benched inexplicably after 2 PAs. Earlier in the year, and three days after saying Bailey was a one-inning only guy, he brings him in for a six-out save. Brad Ziegler can’t get out lefties to save his life and it took him until about a month ago to realize that.

    The kicker was against the Twins in Oakland earlier in the year, intentionally walking a flu-ridden Morneau with no one on that turned out to be the winning run. I still scratch my head over that.

  48. RJL says:

    I kind of really hate the attitude of “I can’t explain why this team is succeeding, so it must be their manager!”

    It seems intellectually lazy.

  49. Anonymous says:

    The geniuses here who rant about Gardy’s bullpen usage are especially hilarious. Under Gardy, the Twins have bested the league average in ERA in EVERY SINGLE YEAR HE’S MANAGED. Their bullpen has never been worse than 6th in the league.

    Bullpen management is one of Gardy’s strengths, not a weakness. Holy cow, some of you are so blinded by hate it’s like you intentionally ignore facts.

  50. SrMeowMeow says:

    I’m sorry, and I know I’m talking to a legend, but this is an awful article. You make no effort to link anything Gardenhire actually does to on-field results. Why give the manager credit for succeeding with a small payroll, and not the GM? You’ve done no legwork. Have any Twins performed better under Gardenhire than under other managers on other teams? Do you know of any games where decisions he made had a real impact? Have you assembled any evidence? What effect a manager has on a team’s production is one of the most intriguing questions left to sabermetrics and the arguments you make in this article lower the level of discourse.

    Ron Gardenhire might be the best manager in the game, but this article adds nothing to the discussion.

  51. Daniel says:

    They have a great minor league system. I don’t know if that’s Gardenhire or not. It seems like they’ve had a great minor league system since I was a kid and I saw Harmon Killebrew in his prime.

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