As is no doubt well-known, Ryan is the complainer, and I’m the naïve cheerleader of this site.
Yesterday, Ryan wrote about the Manager of the Year Award
, which was, again, not won by Twins Manager Ron Gardenhire, and wrote his reasons that Gardy shouldn’t have won it. I will state right here that I’m not entirely sure he should’ve won it. I think he’s a fine manager, and definitely has deserved his second-place finish so many times, but each year, it seems one manager out-shines him. He should get a lifetime achievement award or something. (Just like people were complaining a couple of years ago about a player not getting the MVP. It’s not that he deserved it that year—if I recall, there was no outstanding player that year—but rather that he had been good for so long. I completely disagree with turning an award like the MVP—something meant for a single year—into a lifetime achievement award. That’s what the Hall of Fame is for.)
Anyway, I thought I’d make some counterpoints to Ryan’s article, in the name of journalism giving equal press to both sides. Or in the name of being a contradictory brat. Whatever…
Gardenhire is incapable of putting together a batting order. The Twins were consistently weak at the number 2 spot in the lineup…
I’m not sure who Ryan thought Gardy should put there. Did he want Delmon Young? Or Carlos Gomez? Joe Crede? I’m just not sure. It’s not like there weren’t better options some of the time, it’s simple that batting order positions 1, and 3-9 were the right people. Gardy just happened to have an extra 8 or 9 batter he needed to do something with. Granted, he could’ve moved everyone up a slot, so the traditional clean-up hitter was batting third, because often the number 5 hitter is pretty similar to the number 4.
Which is not to say Gardy was without his faults. In fact, I often complained about his batting order—even beyond not having Alexi Casilla follow Joe Crede who would follow Brendan Harris who followed Delmon Young who followed Carlos Gomez who followed Matt Tolbert, but only because they’d be in numerical order. No, my problem was all the times that the 3-4-5 hitters were Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, and Jason Kubel. I know they were pretty much the three best hitters, but that’s just asking for the intelligent opposing manager to bring in a lefty to face the left-handed* middle of the order late in a close game. By sticking Cuddyer between Morneau and Kubel, it gives the manager pause. Cuddyer, a right-handed batter who generally does well against left-handed pitchers, would make the opposing manager have to decide whether to bring in a righty to face Cuddyer, knowing Kubel, a lefty who hit well off of right-handed pitchers, was coming up behind him. The fact that usually there was no good option as a pinch-hitter on the bench meant all three had to face the left-handed pitcher most of the time. That was my problem with Gardy’s line-ups.* I think all three guys are right-handed, but they bat left, and that’s the key here.
Gardenhire devastated the bullpen. If individual relievers were allowed to go full innings, rather than one or two outs at a time, the bullpen would have been saved. Instead, Bill Smith had to go out and restock, adding Jon Rauch and Ron Mahay.
Conversely, I think using pitchers for shorter periods can be useful. If Jose Mijares only faces one batter, he can likely pitch nearly every other day. As a strong lefty reliever, this could be important.
Yet, I agree Gardy did totally amuse some pitchers with too many appearances, but how often did you want to see Bobby Keppel come onto the mound? Or any of the other guys who spent more times on planes between Rochester and Minnesota than they did on the mound whose names are slipping my mind?
Here, I give some blame to Bill Smith. I’m still very bitter about losing Craig Breslow. While Breslow is not a strong left-handed pitcher blowing pitches by the opponent, he’s a smart* pitcher, and generally was able to get through innings without too much trouble. I know he started 2009 poorly, but based on his past performance, I was surprised to see he was given so short of a leash. In general, Gardy didn’t have a lot of solid pitchers to work with in close situations until Jon Rauch, and to some extent Ron Mahay, came around.
Gardenhire is terrible with young players, especially if they aren't his favorites. Terry Ryan and Bill Smith have always had to contend with this. Kyle Lohse had to be jettisoned, after which he flourished in Cincinnati. Matt Garza and Jason Bartlett didn't get along with Gardenhire and were packaged up and sent to Tampa, where they became key members of a World Series team.
To some extent, this is true, but he’s certainly not the only manager to suffer from this. I would also like to point out that Smith mentioned that he did not want to trade Bartlett, but the Rays demanded that as part of the deal (to which the Twins countered with a demand for Harris...I’m not sure how smart of a move that was on Smith’s part. Note: I LOVE Brendan Harris. But he’s not really an equal of Bartlett). How much of Bartlett’s ability to do so well was a direct result of being forced to work so hard in Minnesota? No one will ever know… Also, a fact I don’t think most people realize: Brendan Harris is almost a year younger than Bartlett. I think because Bartlett was so much older when he was called up (probably why Gardy had bigger demands of leadership from him), many people perceived him as being younger than he was. If Bartlett were two years younger (that is, being 28 this year, rather than 30), there would be a much stronger argument.
Gardenhire is terrible with young players Part II Players that have come up with the Twins have always done well, because the minor league system is so well constructed. …it will be Smith who will be blamed and not Gardenhire. Fortunately, fundamentally sound players whose development wasn't monitored by Gadenhire, like Jose Morales contributed in the end to the team's success.
Who was the manger when Mauer and Morneau got called up? I know Gardy can play favorites, but you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone on Earth who doesn’t. Gardy, from all appearances, loved Torii Hunter. Torii Hunter didn’t love a young Justin Morneau. Gardy seemed fine with a young Justin Morneau (when Justin needed a good talking-to early in his career, Gardy spoke to Justin, not the press). Gardy does play favorites. However, Bill Smith is in charge of who gets sent up and sent down. There is no reason that Carlos Gomez (much of the basis of Ryan’s argument) Bill Smith couldn’t send Gomez to Rochester when it became apparent Gardy was not going to use Gomez in Minnesota.
Gardy did have his hands tied. Span is needed to be a leadoff hitter. Young, from what I can tell, was a slightly more refined player than Gomez. Thus, Young got playing time over Gomez much of the time. Gardy did work to get Gomez into the field in his strongest ability: offense. The thing is, in the minors, that’s when managers work on developing players. Managers in the majors have to worry about winning games. Gardy couldn’t pull the better hitter out of the line-up to give Gomez more experience hitting. At least, not if he didn’t want his head on a chopping block! Fans want teams to win. Many teams going through re-building struggle trying to convince fans “We’re developing players here! Just hang on a couple of years!” Fans want wins.
Again, I reiterate, I don’t think Gardy definitely deserved Manager of the Year. But Joe Giardi getting votes is preposterous, when you consider that it would’ve taken real talent to not take that team to the playoffs/World Series. Although I probably could’ve managed it... Timberwolves update: They’re now at 1-11, or a 8.3% winning percentage.
Wild Update: The Wild haven't done much better with a 7-12-2 record, for a 33.3% winning percentage.
Labels: G-g-g-girl, Manager of the Year, Minnesota Twins