Reusse: Managing this mess is worse than being fired

  • Article by: PATRICK REUSSE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 1, 2013 - 6:40 AM

Ron Gardenhire is back because Terry Ryan had to admit he didn't give his manager a team worth managing.

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Twins manger Ron Gardenhire and Oswaldo Arcia

There are 30 major league teams and four wound up with records as putrid or worse than the Twins’ 66-96 finish: Chicago Cubs (66-96), Chicago White Sox (63-99), Miami (62-100) and Houston (51-111).

No matter those numbers, none among the 30 teams accomplished as little as the Twins in a regular season lasting from the MLB opener on March 31 to Monday night’s Game 163 between the Rays and the Rangers in Arlington, Texas.

The Twins crawled through six months of muck and, when it was over, the triumph was Brian Dozier batting .244, hitting 18 home runs, driving in 66 runs and making it look as if he will be the second baseman for a few years to come.

That’s it: Dozier, at 26, appearing to be an everyday player in the middle of the infield (even though he did join the parade with 120 strikeouts).

Nothing else through the 49,043 pitches thrown and faced by the 2013 Twins made you feel better than was the case on April 1, when Vance Worley opened the season by allowing a single to Detroit’s Austin Jackson in Target Field.

There were a couple of fulfilled expectations — Glen Perkins being able to close, and Pedro Florimon being able to catch a ground ball at shortstop — and everyone else fit among three categories:

A maybe, a downward trend or a raging negative.

The maybes were Oswaldo Arcia, as a flailing 22-year-old with power potential, and Josmil Pinto, a 24-year-old catcher who looked as if he could hit in 76 at-bats.

The downward trends included Joe Mauer, in the areas of durability and his future as a catcher, and Josh Willingham and Ryan Doumit as big bats in decline, and Samuel Deduno with a bad arm.

The raging negatives came nonstop, with Trevor Plouffe, Chris Parmelee, Aaron Hicks and Kyle Gibson all looking as if they could join the list of failed first-rounders, and with Worley and Scott Diamond going from projected top-of-rotation starters to Rochester, and … why continue?

Everywhere you turned there was failure, players and pitchers who never belonged here or were going backward.

You want to get excited about a bullpen built on 30-year-olds who got a lot of outs when the scoreboard was against the Twins? Go ahead. You want to cheer Rule 5 draftee Ryan Pressly’s work as the mop-up man in that bullpen? Go ahead.

Anthony Swarzak. Yup. That’s going to get a lot of season-ticket holders off the fence when the salesperson reminds them, “Our long man had a very good year.”

What went on with the Twins involved in major league competition was as much a disaster as any in their 53 seasons, when it comes to creating something for the next season and beyond.

Another complete failure was the shakeup of the coaching staff that occurred after the 96 losses of 2012. Tom Brunansky was going to offer a new voice and approach with the hitters, Bobby Cuellar was going to finally bring a Spanish speaker to the staff and Terry Steinbach was going to share his thoughts with manager Ron Gardenhire in the dugout.

Bruno’s Breezers batted in 1,467 innings and managed a team-record shattering 1,430 strikeouts. Cuellar was out in the bullpen, as far from Arcia or Pinto or Deduno in low moments as a coach could get. Steinbach’s main task was to stay alert as Gardenhire flung aside his chewed gum in disgust after another hanger from a pitcher, or whiff from a hitter with a runner at third, or a bouncer a couple of feet to the left of his third baseman.

Management absorbed all of this, then waited 22 hours from the final pitch of another 96th loss to announce Gardenhire would return for his 13th season in 2014, with his coaching staff intact.

General Manager Terry Ryan insisted there were good reasons for Gardenhire’s return, and denied the most obvious one: The GM was so sheepish over the 2013 roster that Ryan wasn’t willing to make it look as if the manager was being made a scapegoat.

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