Welcome to the Friday edition of The Cooler, where the good old days weren’t that long ago. Let’s get to it:
*For the first nine seasons of Ron Gardenhire’s managerial career, he could do very little wrong in the regular season.
The Twins had winning records in eight of those nine years from 2002-2010. They won six division titles in that span and lost out on another in 2008 after a Game 163 loss to the White Sox.
The 2011 season was supposed to be more of the same … but then everything fell apart. Injuries robbed Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau of both time and production. The starting pitching regressed. Hope started to wane, and the end result was a 63-99 mess.
If 2012 started with the hopes that that was a blip on the radar and not the start of a new trend, a 6-16 April squashed that idea. The Twins would lose at least 90 games every year from 2011-14, the last of which was Gardenhire’s final year as manager.
Gardy got another chance with the Tigers in 2018 in what looked from the outset like a major rebuilding project. Detroit made the postseason every year from 2011-14 as the Twins faltered, but by 2017 they lost 98 games and were starting over.
Gardenhire’s Tigers lost 98 games last season. And this year? Poor Gardy and Detroit bring MLB’s worst record into Target Field on Friday: 38-87. Gardenhire will lose 90 games for the sixth straight year. He is almost certainly going to lose 100 for the first time, and right now Detroit is on pace to lose 113.
And get this: The Tigers actually started 7-3 this year. They are 31-84 since then. These three weekend games are the last of a 10-game road trip that is 2-5 thus far, though we should say this: Those games were against playoff contenders Tampa Bay and Houston, and they were highly competitive — three one-run losses, two by walk-off, and a near-miss at an unlikely rally Thursday night in Houston.
The Twins can’t afford to take this series lightly; they won’t always be able to lose two of three to a lesser AL Central team (as they did against the White Sox) and still gain ground in the division race (as they did in growing the lead to 3.5 games when Cleveland was swept by the Mets).
As for Gardenhire, he has already a tied a career-high with eight ejections this season — giving him 83 all-time as a manager. Short of pulling an upset or two at Target Field this weekend, maybe he’ll break that record for the Target Field crowd.
*Speaking of this weekend’s MLB action, it’s time for Players Weekend again — and the odd uniforms and nicknames that go with it.
*The Vikings still haven’t settled on three important special teams jobs — who will punt, hold and placekick — but if all else fails maybe they can turn to the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team? Star player Carli Lloyd recently drilled a 55-yard field goal at an Eagles practice — with plenty of accuracy and some distance to spare.
*And speaking of the Vikings’ kicking carousel, the headline from the Packers’ 22-21 loss to the Raiders in Winnipeg was the end zone field concern that led the teams to play on an 80-yard field. But don’t forget the game-winning field goal for Oakland was drilled by Daniel Carlson, the former Vikings rookie kicker last season who was cut after missing three kicks, including a game-winner, against Green Bay.