Reusse: Twins should show mercy, let Gardenhire go soon

  • Article by: PATRICK REUSSE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 11, 2013 - 12:47 AM

Ron Gardenhire should not have to endure another horrible Twins season.

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Minnesota Twins manager Ron Gardenhire

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Goodbye, Gardy.

That was quite a run you gave us during the nine seasons from 2002 through 2010. There were six division titles, and another race that ended in a 1-0 loss in Game 163.

You have put Ron Gardenhire’s name second only to Tom Kelly’s on the list of Twins managers, both in longevity and in effectiveness.

It hasn’t been a decline in managerial skills that has caused the Twins to fall into the abyss for what will be three consecutive seasons.

In 2011, it was the combination of some horrid personnel decisions and injuries that doomed the Twins to a 19-50 finish and a total of 99 losses. In 2012, it was a ridiculous excuse for starting pitching that led to a 30-47 post-All-Star record and a total of 96 losses.

If the Twins have any respect for long and meritorious service, they will not make you endure another death march to the finish. There will be 70 games to go after the All-Star Game and this could be the year that the Twins make it to 100 losses for the second time (1982 being the first).

The Twins haven’t fired a manager since Ray Miller was axed on Sept. 12, 1986. The willingness to end that streak was made clear this winter, when the Twins allowed you to go into the season on the last year of a contract.

General Manager Terry Ryan said at the winter meetings that he would be looking for “improvement, hope, direction and leadership” to determine the future of the manager. The team remains inept, any actual hope resides at Class AA or lower, the direction is toward the miserable Chicago White Sox in the standings, and leadership …

Well, you can lead starting pitchers with 88-miles-per-hour fastballs to the mound, but you can’t make ’em throw 94.

It’s time to go, Gardy, for no real reason, other than it’s time to go.

This is remindful of Flip Saunders’ long run as coach of the Timberwolves, except he was luckier than you. Flip was fired on Feb. 12, 2005, late in his 10th season, when a team with substantial expectations had quit playing for him.

Flip got to leave rather than stick around to coach through several more years of misery.

Think how great it would’ve been, Gardy, if the Twins had decided to have you take the fall for lost expectations in, say, August 2011, and you didn’t have to stick around to be suffocated in the ensuing misery.

A sizable portion of the local sporting public likes to bring up early postseason exits to further criticize the Gardenhire legacy. From here, it’s identical to Saunders’ coaching legacy with the Wolves.

Saunders went 0-7 in playoff series against superior teams from 1997 through 2003, then went 2-0 against inferior teams in 2004 before losing to the superior Lakers.

The Twins from 2002 through 2010 won one series against a superior team (Oakland in 2002), lost one to an inferior team (Oakland in 2006), and lost five other series to superior teams.

Six division titles, seven runs to the finish, in nine years was outstanding stuff and improbable consistency from a manager.

But this isn’t the same standard as when operating in the Metrodome was dirt cheap, and the Twins became an afterthought for owner Carl Pohlad, and Tom Kelly was basically bulletproof through his long stretch of having no chance.

You have no chance for a third straight year, but Jim and Bob Pohlad aren’t their dad, and there’s a huge nut to crack in Target Field. If you figure in the difference in going from receiver to payer of revenue sharing, it’s roughly $60 million more expensive than operating in the Dome.

This generation of the family proved after the 2011 season, in firing Bill Smith as general manager, that it no longer can be loyalty above all else with the Twins.

That’s why you were sent into this season without an extension, and that’s why Ryan would be a pal if he would get together with you on return from New York on Sunday and say, “It doesn’t look good for 2014, Gardy. What do you want to do?”

As an admirer, I think you deserve that opening from the Twins, rather than being made to suffer another death march.

Patrick Reusse can be heard 3-6 p.m. weekdays on AM-1500.
preusse@startribune.com
 

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