Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Bringing back Gardy

Ron Gardenhire
is back in the
Ron Gardenhire spent last season getting paid not to manage and hoping to land a dugout job for this year. The latter didn't happen, and the former ended. On Monday the Twins announced that Gardy will be a special assistant to the general manager, a role that will involve touring the minor league affiliates for instruction and evaluation, plus some major league scouting.

This is basically the role Tom Kelly has played for years, but Gardenhire's dugout predecessor apparently has decided to cut back on the travel, which is understandable.

I've no problem with the instruction role of Gardenhire's new job. The scouting and evaluation portion, I'm not so sure about. My sense of his lengthy managerial tenure is that evaluation was one of his weaker points.

To be sure, the evaluation process is collaborative, and an outsider such as me cannot be sure how much of a decision came from the manager and how much came from others in the organization. But a few (admittedly cherry picked) lowlights from Gardenhire's reign seem traceable to him:

2005-06: With shortstop Cristian Guzman departed, Gardenhire persisted in playing veteran Juan Castro and found (or invented) reasons to sit Jason Bartlett. This only ended when Terry Ryan released third baseman Tony Batista and sold  Castro, giving Gardy really no other option.

Early 2009: I remember a piece in one of the metros in which Gardenhire bragged that pitching coach Rick Anderson wanted Glen Perkins to be a relief pitcher, but Gardy knew that Perkins was a starter. Turned out Anderson had the better handle on Perkins.

Late 2009: Gardenhire buried Carlos Gomez, deciding that Delmon Young was the better player. Even in September, with Justin Morneau sidelined by his fractured vertebra, Gardy filled the lineup hole with a platoon of Brendan Harris and Jose Morales at DH (which moved Jason Kubel to right and Michael Cuddyer to first). Today, of course, Gomez is a two-time All-Star and lineup fixture, while Young is out of the game.

2014: The Twins opened the season with Kubel and Bartlett on the 25-man roster, even though both appeared practically useless in spring training.

There are other questionable evaluations that I don't think can be blamed on Gardenhire as directly as these.

All told, this is not a track record that makes me believe I want Gardy having a major voice in deciding, for example, which of Oswaldo Arcia, Max Kepler and Eddie Rosario should be the long-term left fielder.

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