BY JEREMY HOECK
News Monday of the Minnesota Twins firing long-time manager Ron Gardenhire may have been met by surprise — and outrage — by some.
But not by me.
It’s a decision that should have been made last year, at least.
Well, it’s rather simple: His teams weren’t getting better. They weren’t progressing. There was no clear sign that the Twins were on the verge of contending for a division title.
You may think Gardenhire is a ‘nice guy’ or that he has been successful with the ‘Twins way,’ but the fact remains: He never got it done in the playoffs.
At the same time he was winning six American League Central titles, Gardenhire’s teams were 6-21 in the post-season. And you know how many of those wins have come since 2004?
You don’t win in the playoffs, you can’t expect to keep your job.
And when your teams lose at least 92 games in four consecutive seasons, there’s no way you can expect to stay employed.
It’s a business.
And then you have those people who argue ‘Well, you wouldn’t win either if you had the players Gardenhire had the last few years.’
You want to know why that argument makes no sense? Take a look at what a handful of former Twins players have done once leaving Minnesota:
• Colorado’s Justin Morneau won the NL batting title, a year after another former Twin Michael Cuddyer won the league crown.
• Philadelphia’s Ben Revere finished fifth in the NL batting race and added 49 stolen bases. Just behind Revere in the batting race was Washington’s Denard Span, who also stole 31 bases for the playoff-bound Nationals.
• Also in the NL, Matt Garza and Kyle Lohse of Milwaukee combined to win 21 games, and both had an ERA under 3.70. Garza, you might remember, was the ALCS Most Valuable Player in 2008 while with Tampa Bay, and two years later pitched a no-hitter. And Lohse won a World Series title with St. Louis in 2012, a year when he went 16-3.
• And then you have R.A. Dickey, now with Toronto. Remember when he was winning the NL Cy Young with the Mets two years ago?
So really, it’s not entirely accurate to say the Twins had ‘nothing to work with.’ The truth is, they had plenty to work with.
To be fair, Gardenhire really hasn’t had a top-flight starting pitcher since Johan Santana, but Minnesota went out and spent money last off-season on Phil Hughes and Ricky Nolasco.
Hughes won 16 games this season, but Nolasco was a disappointment (6-12, 5.38 ERA).
It was time for a change.
Even those avid Twins fans (of which I’m not) have to admit it.
If your team is going to take the next step forward, it was going to have to be with someone else leading the way.