Startribune.com digital sports editor Howard Sinker used to cover the Twins and now shares season tickets with friends in Section 219 of Target Field. He blogs about baseball from the perspective of a long-time fan who loves the game, doesn’t always believe the hype and likes hearing what others think. Howard sometimes talks about sports with Cathy Wurzer on MPR's Morning Edition.
First of all, the Twins didn't intend for the news to come out this way, for the coaching staff casualties to dribble over over the course of Thursday in ones and twos.
That was the excellent work of writer La Velle E. Neal III, who was hard-wired into the organization and went all Brian Urlacher, totally disrupting whatever plans existed and reporting on the firings in as close to real time as they could be confirmed. La Velle was also in transit from Toronto to the Twin Cities, getting the information and getting it to startribune.com as quickly as he could confirm things.
Let me suggest that the Twins should get on with their overhaul with the same intensity that La Velle showed on behalf of Twins fans.
General Manager Terry Ryan decimated Ron Gardenhire's band of brothers Thursday -- firing three coaches, reassigning two and sparing the manager's best baseball buddy, pitching coach Rick Anderson. If we assume that the Rochester pitching coach, Bobby Cuellar, will take over as bullpen coach and Gene Glynn, the Rochester manager, will get a Twins coaching job, you can consider Gardy and Andy to be on a very short leash in 2013.
Talk all you want about the weak starting pitching -- or obfuscate even more and blame it on the injuries to several of the failed starters -- and you ignore the fact that the "Twins way" has become one of mental mistakes in all aspects of the game: Mental errors, giveaway at-bats, flawed pitching. All of those traits manifest themselves in a second season of frightful baseball unworthy of their new ballpark.
However hard the coaches and Gardy were working, things were lost when the messages were delivered from the staff to the players. Ten years ago, the Twins were in need of Gardy's folksy approach as a replacement for the taciturn Tom Kelly.
Now, Gardy is being told by Ryan that what his staff was doing had stopped working and that he'll be given one more chance to fix things without a staff of his own choosing. Faced with what Ryan decided, there are managers who would have walked away with their guys.
I'm going to take it as a good sign that Gardy decided to take on the challenge. Whether he can lead the change is an interesting and debatable question.
Over the last few weeks, when people have asked what I thought would happen, I suggested that things were too quiet for big changes not to be made. I am also certain that nobody in the Twins organization thinks a new coaching staff alone can be sold as big change.
Players will come and go during the off-season. I would bet on minimal drama before things happen and a couple of dramatic moves intended to make 2013 more than a season of meandering toward .500. Many of the empty seats that you could see at Target Field as the season wore on were generating revenue because they were held by absentee season-ticket holders. In my circle, many people are bailing out on their season-ticket investments -- cutting back or getting out entirely.
Baltimore and Oakland this season have shown what's possible. Keep in mind that, with better geography, either of those teams would have handily won the AL Central based on the bigger chunks of Twins, Royals and Cleveland on their schedules.
The Twins not only finished last in their division, but they finished last in the only division in baseball that had three teams lose 90 or more games. The AL Central finished 28 games under .500 against the West and 24 under .500 against the East. (The Twins were 22-50 outside of their division, a .305 winning percentage.)
What happened on Thursday was a message to Gardy. He will have a boatload of work to do during the winter, preparing a new coaching staff -- one that won't of his choosing, however the replacements get spun -- to function the way he needs when the Twins gather in Florida next February.
In return for keeping his job, Gardy has basically forfeited the right to make personnel decisions about his staff that, in a better situation, a GM wants to be able to mostly leave to his field manager. On Twitter, Patrick Reusse described Gardy and Andy as being on "double secret probation."
That's the price of stink.
What needs to happen next are more moves by Ryan and ownership to further show that the painful performances we've witnessed for two years will be replaced by ones we can watch without holding our noses and looking away.
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