September 17, 2014

Should the Twins fire Ron Gardenhire?

Ron Gardenhire Twins

I started writing about the Twins during Ron Gardenhire's rookie season as manager, 2002, and for that entire time some fans have called for him to be fired. Such is life as an MLB manager, but now that winning division titles on a regular basis has given way to losing 95 games per season on a regular basis the fringe of Twins fandom has become the people thinking Gardenhire should be allowed to stick around rather than the people calling for Gardenhire to be fired.

I've never called for Gardenhire to be fired and I probably never will. That's just not my style and it has nothing to do with Gardenhire. However, anyone who's read this blog for any length of time surely knows that I'm not a Gardenhire fan and even during the Twins' run of success his batting orders, lack of platooning, small-ball tactics, public call-outs of young players, and various other traits never fit my personal managing ideal.

Once upon a time my criticisms of Gardenhire were met with people taking me to task for having the gall to question the manager of a consistent winning team, but now those same criticisms of Gardenhire--and surprisingly little has changed in terms of what irks me about him--are met with people taking me to task for not being harsh enough toward the manager of a consistent losing team. Such is life as a baseball blogger, I suppose.

Here's the thing, though: Gardenhire has managed the Twins to four straight 90-loss seasons and possibly four straight 95-loss seasons. Only two managers in baseball history have kept their jobs after four straight 90-loss seasons. One was Connie Mack, who did so with the Philadelphia A's from 1940-1943 and also happened to own the team. The other was Tom Kelly, who did so with the Minnesota Twins from 1997-2000 and also happened to be the manager Gardenhire replaced.

In addition to owning the team that continued to employee him as manager Mack was, at the time of his four straight 90-loss seasons, an 80-year-old five-time World Series winner and nine-time pennant winner with more than 3,000 career victories. Kelly didn't have quite that same level of job security, but it was pretty close and for fairly good reason: He managed the Twins to a pair of World Series titles before all the sustained losing started.

Gardenhire is not the owner of the team, nor does he have multiple World Series titles. In fact, during his 13 seasons as manager the Twins have never gotten to the World Series and have advanced past the first round of the playoffs just once, in his first season on the job. His career record is barely above .500 in the regular season and 6-21 in the postseason. He's managed the Twins to 90 or more wins just once since 2007.

Even his 2002-2010 run of six division titles in nine seasons came at a time when the American League Central was extremely weak and often there for the taking with only 87-92 wins despite the unbalanced schedule keeping the more powerful divisions away. You can only play the teams on your schedule and certainly the Twins took advantage of their good fortunate, but "six division titles in nine seasons" was, at the very least, propped up by mediocre competition.

In the entire history of baseball there are a grand total of two instances of a manager keeping his job after four consecutive 90-loss seasons and both cases included circumstances which clearly do not apply to Gardenhire. He doesn't own the team, he doesn't have a Hall of Fame-caliber resume, and his pre-losing run of success is not World Series titles but rather division titles against weak competition followed by historic ineptitude in the postseason. Why should he be the third?

Forget for a moment how much responsibility for four consecutive 90-loss seasons should fall on Gardenhire's shoulders versus the front office. Forget for a moment whether you think a different manager could have coaxed these awful teams to slightly less awful records. Here is the far more important question: If and when the Twins re-emerge as contenders is Gardenhire the manager you want at the helm to get the most out of that new core of young talent?


For a lengthy Gardenhire discussion featuring a reporter who's covered him for years, check out this week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode with Phil Miller of the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

September 15, 2014

Gleeman and The Geek #162: Beers With A Reporter, Starring Phil Miller

On this week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode we were joined by Phil Miller of the Minneapolis Star Tribune and topics included Ron Gardenhire handling the losing, Trevor May's turnaround, Danny Santana's rookie season, whether the timetable for contention has been pushed back, Tommy Milone being damaged goods, the value of stealing bases beyond the numbers, Doug Mientkiewicz as a managerial candidate, the value of a pitching coach, and why it's hard for a baseball fan to be a beat reporter.

Gleeman and The Geek: Episode 162

In addition to the direct download link above you can also subscribe to the podcast via iTunes.


This week's blog content is sponsored by Uber, which is offering a free ride to first-time users who sign up with the promo code "UberGleeman."

September 12, 2014

Link-O-Rama

• Every night at the Arby's in Uptown at least one doofus tries to use the drive-through on foot and I've never once thought "I bet that's a fugitive."

• Can someone please tell Gwyneth Paltrow thanks but not thanks. We're all set.

Taylor Swift and Katy Perry are feuding over John Mayer, whose music I've consistently been mocked for liking since 2002.

• This is wonderful, but after seven decades together I'll bet they already have a gravy boat.

• On this week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode I talked/argued with David Brauer and John Bonnes about whether the Twins' management saying "we get it" means a damn thing.

• I was convinced Ben Revere would never hit an over-the-fence home run in the majors, but now he has two of them and the most recent one tied the game with two outs and two strikes in the ninth inning:

Revere has hit .307 in two seasons with the Phillies, but still has a sub-.700 OPS.

• I want this 26,000-hour DVR, just for "Chopped" episodes.

• McDonald's has applied to trademark the word "McBrunch." Their mimosas could be interesting.

• I thank god for this every day.

• If you watch this GIF of per-capita cigarette sales from 1972 to 2012 it's almost like people realized at some point they weren't good for you.

• How does Danny Santana compare to the other standout rookies in Twins history?

Vladimir Guerrero has a 15-year-old son, 6-foot-2, 220-pound Vladimir Jr., who's already working out for MLB teams in the Dominican Republic:

Guerrero played his first full season in the majors when I was 15 years old. I feel very old.

• As a kid I had plenty of logo-clad yarmulkes, but Chief Wahoo seems like a bad choice.

• A lawsuit claims the Mets fired a woman because she had a baby out of wedlock. Seriously.

• Having been to many of the bars in this "The Best Places To Watch Each Pro Football Team In Minnesota" article it sure seems like they assigned teams randomly.

• Cardinals linebacker John Abraham, the NFL's active leader in sacks, "is suffering from severe memory loss and has been for more than a year." He is 36 years old.

Parker Hageman and Dan Anderson are apparently shooting video to accompany their "No Juice Podcast" episodes, which I can assure you is not something being considered for "Gleeman and The Geek."

Hannibal Buress was a funny guest on "Late Night" with Seth Meyers:

Fedora basketball seriously sounds like a great idea.

• Old friend Francisco Liriano and his filthy slider are dominating again, for the Pirates.

• My colleague Craig Calcaterra wrote a billion or so words about the "baseball is dying" silliness.

• I still need two more owners for my "Hardball Dynasty" league on WhatIfSports. Details here.

• My latest television obsession is "Property Brothers" on HGTV. Highly recommended and oddly addictive, with Canadian accents to boot.

• Some of this week's weird and random search engine queries that brought people here:

- "Upped usages"
- "Hunan chicken Weight Watchers points"
- "Head-first slide"
- "How will Joe Mauer be remembered?"
- "Will Ron Gardenhire be fired?"
- "Hawk Harrelson net worth"
- "Kevin Slowey fan mail"
- "Weakness in baseball"

• Finally, this week's AG.com-approved music video is the Mayer-Perry duet "Who You Love":


This week's blog content is sponsored by Uber, which is offering a free ride to first-time users who sign up with the promo code "UberGleeman."

September 10, 2014

Twins Notes: Santana, Escobar, St. Peter, Thorpe, Mauer, and May

Danny Santana Twins

Danny Santana picked a bad season to be a .320-hitting rookie center fielder, because White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu is hitting .317/.378/.590 with 33 homers and will run away with the Rookie of the Year award. However, assuming that he doesn't go into a prolonged slump down the stretch Santana's performance would be enough to make him a deserving Rookie of the Year winner in quite a few previous seasons. Last season, for instance.

Last season's winner, Wil Myers of the Rays, hit .293/.354/.478 in 88 games as a right fielder. Santana has hit .320/.358/.475 in 84 games as a center fielder/shortstop. They've been nearly identical as hitters and Santana has large edges in base-running, defense, and positional value. Looking at Twins history, Marty Cordova won the award in 1995 while hitting .277/.352/.486 in 137 games as a left fielder in a much higher era for offense.

Here's where Santana currently ranks among Twins rookies in Wins Above Replacement during the Ron Gardenhire era of 2002-2014:

                    YEAR     WAR
Francisco Liriano   2006     4.5
Lew Ford            2004     4.5
Denard Span         2008     4.3
Bobby Kielty        2002     2.7
DANNNY SANTANA      2014     2.7

Longtime readers of this blog will probably remember that I thought Bobby Kielty was destined for stardom. He was not.

• Santana was thrust into center field without ever playing there regularly before and has done reasonably well, but assistant general manager Rob Antony recently said: "I think he's going to be our shortstop of the future. Any opportunity we get to play him at shortstop is a good thing." Which is fine, except with Aaron Hicks back in the majors the Twins are still going out of their way not to play Santana at shortstop, even using Eduardo Nunez there instead of him.

• On a related note: Since a strong start Eduardo Escobar has hit just .247/.292/.365 in his last 85 games. He's now a career .253/.299/.363 hitter in 761 plate appearances as a big leaguer.

• For most of the past four years the Twins' bullpen has been a strength amid the team's overall struggles, but now the relievers are struggling too. In the first half the bullpen had a 3.21 ERA with a 13-10 record. In the second half they have a 4.92 ERA with a 6-10 record, including a 5.81 ERA during the past month. Their season totals now include ranking 22nd in ERA, 29th in xFIP, and dead last in strikeout rate. Of course, the rotation has still been worse.

• Twins president Dave St. Peter apparently didn't mind Keith Olbermann ripping the team to shreds on ESPN, but he predictably did mind me saying their brand survey was "tone deaf." On a related note, we spent a large portion of this week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode discussing the Twins' increasing assurances of "we get it" in the face of mounting evidence that they don't.

• Pitching prospect Lewis Thorpe, an 18-year-old left-hander from Australia with 144 strikeouts in 116 career innings and one of the highest-upside arms in the Twins' farm system, has been diagnosed with a sprained ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow. For now the Twins are insisting he'll be fine, but UCL injuries are what lead to Tommy John surgery.

Jose Berrios had one of the 10 best starts by any pitching prospect this season, according to Baseball America.

Joe Mauer has a .405 on-base percentage with more walks than strikeouts in 28 games since returning from the disabled list. During that time he's got an .848 OPS. His career OPS is .861.

Kurt Suzuki has hit .235/.279/.337 in 27 games since his two-year, $12 million extension. He hit .237/.294/.357 in 477 games from 2010-2013.

Tommy Milone allowed 21 runs in 21 innings for the Twins after coming over from the A's in exchange for Sam Fuld and now he's hurt. (Fuld has hit just .218/.269/.307 in 35 games since the trade.)

• Since his disastrous MLB debut Trevor May has a 24/12 K/BB ratio and three homers allowed in 27 innings. It'll take a while for his ERA to not be hideous, but he'll be just fine.

• After nine seasons as the Twins' minor-league hitting coordinator and 14 total seasons in the organization Bill Springman has been let go.

• At one point this season the Twins were 23-21. Since then they are 39-61.


This week's blog content is sponsored by Uber, which is offering a free ride to first-time users who sign up with the promo code "UberGleeman."

September 8, 2014

Gleeman and The Geek #161: Back to the Bars and Tone Deaf

Topics for this week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode included returning to podcast-only mode at Mason's Barre after another season on the radio, breaking down the September call-ups, whether the Twins "get it" or not, the bullpen implosion, brand surveys and Keith Olbermann, comparing the Twins to the United States Postal Service, how much to believe in Eduardo Escobar, and the life of a parent with special guest David Brauer.

Gleeman and The Geek: Episode 161

In addition to the direct download link above you can also subscribe to the podcast via iTunes.


This week's blog content is sponsored by Uber, which is offering a free ride to first-time users who sign up with the promo code "UberGleeman."

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