RandBall: Perception vs. reality with Twins manager Ron Gardenhire

• The strike against him not up for debate: The Twins are 6-18 in playoff games under Ron Gardenhire, including 2-16 in their past 18 games. That's five consecutive series lost, the past two by sweeps. You can say what you want about why they lost these games, but any way you slice it the Twins were good enough to be in the playoffs.

• Gardenhire's indisputable magic bullet: He's been manager since 2002, and he is well on his way to leading the Twins to their sixth division title during that span. Again, say what you want about the strength of the AL Central during that time, but there's no denying Gardenhire has coaxed plenty out of his players long-term.

• Conclusion: Gardenhire probably has taken more flak this season than in past years simply because the Twins are more visible. While he's not perfect, he's an upper-tier manager whose strengths are on display over the long haul (regular season) and weaknesses get put on display in a short series (the postseason). If the Twins make it to the playoffs this year, however, there will be intense pressure to at least reach the ALCS. If they lose in the ALDS or fall short in the regular season with this roster, the flames will appropriately leap higher.

RandBall: www.startribune.com/randball