Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Gardy stays; now what?

Ron Gardenhire has 998 wins as
manager of the Minnesota Twins.
He'll get the chance to add to that total.
The news leaked out Monday morning and was made official in the afternoon: Ron Gardenhire gets a two-year extension, and the entire coaching staff is "invited" to return.

Although I suggested in the Monday print column that the Twins would benefit from a different set of managerial priorities, I can live with this decision.

The column specifically cited Gardenhire's reluctance to platoon and my sense that Brian Dozier's skill set as a hitter is being misread.

But I can also make this argument: A platoon-oriented manager could be an ill fit for an organization anticipating a wave of truly young and truly talented hitters. Oswaldo Arcia, Josmil Pinto this year, guys like Miguel Sano, Byron Buxton, Eddie Rosario in the next year or two, even Aaron Hicks despite his struggles this year -- these are guys with star talent, and there's no upside to platooning them. This year's team might have benefited from a manager looking to platoon, but that's now past, and this extension is about the future.

As for Dozier: There was only one player on the 2013 roster who truly deserved to be in the upper half of major league lineup, and that was Joe Mauer. Gardenhire can only put Mauer in one lineup slot a game, and couldn't put him in any in September. I can't complain about Dozier hitting 1-2-3 this year; I will if that happens when the five or six hitters listed in the previous paragraph are up.

This was the first major decision of the offseason, and one of the few that was essentially entirely in the Twins hands. Another that deserves early attention, preferably next on the agenda, is what position Joe Mauer will play henceforth.

In terms of preparing the position player roster for 2014, a lot hinges on whether Mauer's a catcher or a first baseman. I'm inclined toward the Mauer-to-first proposition, and that may be the way Ryan's thinking, but Mauer himself is going to have some say on the matter.

It didn't come up in the Monday press conference, and even if it had, the answers probably wouldn't further illuminate matters. A Mauer position switch figures to be diplomatically arranged. Whichever way it goes, catch or first base, a decision probably ought to be made before the World Series ends and the free-agency/trading season begins.

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