Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Contemplating Ron Gardenhire

Ron Gardenhire is 866-775 as Twins manager.
In the history of the Senators/Twins franchise,
only Tom Kelly and Bucky Harris have
more wins or losses.
A recent commenter says: I'd like to hear your overall take on Gardy.

That's a deceptively simple question, with a big, complex answer. One of the running themes of this blog, I daresay, is an ongoing examination of Ron Gardenhire as a manager (always, I hope, in the context of the organization).

My immediate impulse when getting that question is to direct the reader here and here: "The Ron Gardenhire Project," my attempt after the 2009 season to answer a series of questions about managers compiled years ago by Bill James. It still stands pretty well despite the passage of two seasons. Some offseason in the future I'll revisit the form, but I think it too soon.

Here's the thing: There is seldom an absolutely right or wrong answer for a manager. Take, for example, Gardenhire's reluctance to platoon. I grew up with Gene Mauch managing the Twins; Mauch was a platooner. I started studying baseball seriously during Earl Weaver's time; Weaver was a platooner. I am inclined to favor platoons.

But I also recognize that platooning's advantages come at a price. It is difficult to develop stars when you run players in and out of the lineup. The Twins thrived when Gardenhire took over from Tom Kelly in no small part because Gardy stopping running Jacque Jones and Corey Koskie and A.J. Pierzynski in and out of the lineup. If Jones couldn't hit lefties (and he couldn't), he at least provided center field range in an outfield corner -- and keeping him in the lineup probably made him less likely to dwell on his failings.

This figures to be an interesting season for Gardy watchers. As noted in the "Project," the Twins' emphasis on defense has diminished fairly steadily under his reign. Last year that backfired. Last year the Twins pitching staff was far less successful at avoiding the walk, and still couldn't get strikeouts. That's a sour combination -- more walks, few strikeouts and a sloppy defense. Making Revere a regular is one step toward reversing that direction.


  1. Thanks for the follow-up to my comment. As I read it, many of the conclusions would be unfavorable from the saber POV vs. the traditional.

    You did not draw any conclusions per se, which would be nice. I tend to think there's room for improvement but he is who he is. That being said, I'm not familiar enough with what the alternatives would be that I think it's something they have to change to take a step forward.

    I do tend to think that Gardy's a bit uptight about competing against the likes of the Yankees and I think that shows up on the field. He tenses up and the team plays that way.

    Gardy's a funny guy and his teams play for him, which are the two most positive attributes you can say about him (which I think is very positive). I like Gardy as a person and his team does... but I think there's much to be desired when it comes to the other aspects of managing.

    In my line of work we'd call him a "people manager" and not a "good manager." The people who are "people managers" fumble the fundamentals but their teams perform for them but lacks the ability to coach their team to be better analysts. Values some of the "intangibles" over performance. The "good manager" would be one who makes everyone better for having had the opportunity to work for them because they teach and coach the fundamentals, understand the game better than their peers and people want to work for someone that they can learn from.

    The company has a long track-record of hiring people managers but of late, has started to value those who can develop a fundamentally great team.


  2. I hate platooning, putting your 9 best players on the field day in and day out is the way to go.

  3. I too remember Mauch as a manager. Some of the people that played for him said he was incredibly smart about baseball, maybe the best in that area of any of his comtempories. I don't know that he was the best Twins manager of all time though. I really liked Kelly as a manager because he generally seemed to get best out of his teams.

    As far as plattoning goes, I think it depends on your team. With a limited bench nowadays, I don't think you can do the type of wholesale platooning that Mauch and Weaver did. Using Jones as an example was a good point as well. Defense is a factor, so is the next best option. During at least part of Jones' time with the Twins, the right handed option to platoon with him was so weak you wouldn't of gained much advantage offensively, so keep the better defender out there.