Jim Souhan: Knee-jerk firing can't fix Twins' poor product

  • Article by: JIM SOUHAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 6, 2012 - 12:12 AM

Sacrificing coaches and managers temporarily satisfies the public’s lust for accountability and change, but Minnesota sports fans should know better.

hide

Ron Gardenhire

Photo: Marlin Levison, Star Tribune

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

A little more than two years ago, the Twins played their first game in Target Field. They were enjoying their status as one of baseball's model franchises. They looked forward to playing at least the next 30 years in a beautiful downtown ballpark crammed onto an improbably small footprint.

Target Field mirrored the Twins' ethos: doing more with less.

Over the past 13 months, the Twins have done less with more.

The Twins entered the weekend with baseball's worst record. Since reaching a "peak" of five games below .500 last June, they have won about 27 percent of their games in a sport in which winning 40 percent of your games represents abject failure, while being funded by the two largest payrolls in franchise history.

Managers and coaches rarely survive such extended stretches of failure, so it is logical to think that Ron Gardenhire and his staff will be fired if the Twins fail to right themselves.

Sacrificing coaches and managers temporarily satisfies the public's lust for accountability and change, but anyone who thinks that Gardenhire is the source of the Twins' problems is focusing on the dented rim instead of the smoking engine.

Minnesota sports fans should know better.

Everyone wanted Brad Childress fired; the Vikings are 6-16 since he left.

Many Wild fans blamed Jacques Lemaire for a lack of playoff success and excitement; the Wild has not made the playoffs since he left.

The firing of Glen Mason was widely celebrated; the Gophers haven't won a bowl game since he left.

Flip Saunders was derided for failing to win more playoff games, and Dwane Casey was fired with a record of 20-20. The Wolves haven't come close to posting a winning record since Casey departed.

Baseball managers are far less pivotal than fans would like to believe. For proof, you need look no further than Gardenhire's predecessor.

Tom Kelly won World Series titles in 1987 and 1991, and posted a winning record in 1992. He was considered one of the two or three best managers in baseball. When the Twins organization stopped providing him with quality starting pitching, the team went on an eight-year losing streak.

When the front office again provided him with decent pitching, in 2001, the infant Twins contended until late in the season and set themselves up to be the American League Central's best franchise in the 2000s.

Pitching always has been the key to the Twins' fortunes. The franchise has produced dozens of star positions players and few outstanding starting pitchers. Firing Gardenhire would fail to fix what is wrong with the organization.

Terry Ryan made his bones as a general manager by amassing arms. What should worry Twins fans the most is not whether Gardenhire needles Danny Valencia too often, but that what Ryan did in his first tenure as GM might be impossible to replicate in his second.

Ryan didn't just draft and develop pitching; he stole it. He traded for prospects and young big leaguers who turned out to be Johan Santana, Joe Mays, Eric Milton, Joe Nathan, Kyle Lohse, Carlos Silva and Francisco Liriano. He added valued veterans such as Rick Reed and Matt Guerrier.

The Twins' current rotation lacks quality, depth and home-grown talent. The fivesome -- Carl Pavano, Jason Marquis, Nick Blackburn, Liriano and Liam Hendricks -- includes two Twins farmhands, no aces, and nobody who would be a second or third starter on a contender.

There are no pitchers at Class AAA Rochester who promise to develop into top-of-the-rotation starters, and two recent first-round draft picks, Kyle Gibson and Alex Wimmers, are injured.

Calling for Gardenhire and his coaches to be fired probably is comforting for fans, because doing so presumes that the Twins' problems are easy to fix.

Gardenhire's successor would find the truth to be otherwise. If he gets fired, Twins fans will get a chance to watch a baseball version of Leslie Frazier, Todd Richards, Tim Brewster and Randy Wittman make all those visits to the mound in the third inning.

Jim Souhan can be heard Sundays from 10 a.m. to noon and weekdays at 2 p.m. on 1500-AM. His Twitter name is SouhanStrib. • jsouhan@startribune.com

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions
Final123456789RHE
Minnesota000000000040
Detroit «00100002X340
@Ballpark Replay
Preview | Matchup | Lineup | Log | Wrap | Box
W:D.Price(15-12) L:K.Gibson(13-12) S:J.Nathan (35)
HR: MIN- None DET- I.Kinsler (17)

ADVERTISEMENT

San Francisco - M. Bumgarner 7:07 PM
Pittsburgh - E. Volquez
Minnesota 10/2/14 7:25 PM
Green Bay
Buffalo 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Detroit
Chicago 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Cleveland 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Tennessee
St. Louis 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Philadelphia
Atlanta 10/5/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants
Tampa Bay 10/5/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Houston 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Dallas
Baltimore 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Indianapolis
Pittsburgh 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Arizona 10/5/14 3:05 PM
Denver
Kansas City 10/5/14 3:25 PM
San Francisco
NY Jets 10/5/14 3:25 PM
San Diego
Cincinnati 10/5/14 7:30 PM
New England
Seattle 10/6/14 7:30 PM
Washington
Washington 6:00 PM
Buffalo
Carolina 6:00 PM
Columbus
Pittsburgh 6:30 PM
Detroit
Montreal 7:30 PM
Chicago
Arizona 8:00 PM
Edmonton
Fla Atlantic 10/2/14 6:00 PM
FIU
UCF 10/2/14 6:00 PM
Houston
Arizona 10/2/14 9:30 PM
(2) Oregon
Louisville 10/3/14 6:00 PM
Syracuse
San Diego St 10/3/14 9:00 PM
Fresno State
Utah State 10/3/14 9:15 PM
(18) BYU
(6) Texas A&M 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(12) Miss State
Ball State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Army
Iowa State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(21) Oklahoma State
Marshall 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Old Dominion
Southern Miss 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Middle Tennessee
(20) Ohio State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Maryland
Purdue 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
Florida 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Tennessee
SMU 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(22) East Carolina
Virginia Tech 10/4/14 11:30 AM
North Carolina
Eastern Mich 10/4/14 1:00 PM
Akron
North Texas 10/4/14 1:30 PM
Indiana
Massachusetts 10/4/14 1:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
Tulsa 10/4/14 2:00 PM
Colorado State
New Mexico 10/4/14 2:30 PM
TX-San Antonio
(3) Alabama 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(11) Ole Miss
(14) Stanford 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(9) Notre Dame
(17) Wisconsin 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Northwestern
Navy 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Air Force
(7) Baylor 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Texas
(4) Oklahoma 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(25) TCU
Wake Forest 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(1) Florida State
NC State 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Clemson
Buffalo 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Bowling Green
Ohio U 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Central Mich
Oregon State 10/4/14 3:00 PM
Colorado
Vanderbilt 10/4/14 3:00 PM
(13) Georgia
Kansas 10/4/14 3:00 PM
West Virginia
Kent State 10/4/14 4:00 PM
Northern Ill
South Alabama 10/4/14 5:00 PM
Appalachian St
Texas-El Paso 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
(15) LSU 10/4/14 6:00 PM
(5) Auburn
UAB 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Western Ky
Texas Tech 10/4/14 6:00 PM
(23) Kansas State
Michigan 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Rutgers
Hawaii 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Rice
Toledo 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Western Mich
ULM 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Arkansas State
Georgia State 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Louisiana
Idaho 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Texas State
Memphis 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Arizona State 10/4/14 6:30 PM
(16) USC
So Carolina 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Kentucky
Pittsburgh 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Virginia
Miami-Florida 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Georgia Tech
(19) Nebraska 10/4/14 7:00 PM
(10) Michigan State
UNLV 10/4/14 7:00 PM
San Jose St
Ga Southern 10/4/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico St
California 10/4/14 9:30 PM
Washington St
Utah 10/4/14 9:30 PM
(8) UCLA
Boise State 10/4/14 9:30 PM
Nevada
Winnipeg 10/3/14 6:00 PM
Ottawa
Calgary 10/3/14 9:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Edmonton 10/4/14 3:00 PM
Toronto
Brt Columbia 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Hamilton
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Is Paul Molitor the best choice to manage Twins?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close