Now that Ron Gardenhire's tenure as Twins manager is over, here are the team's Wins Above Replacement leaders during the 13-season Gardenhire era of 2002-2014:
Joe Mauer 46.3
Johan Santana 35.1
Justin Morneau 23.5
Torii Hunter 21.7
Joe Nathan 18.4
Denard Span 17.2
Scott Baker 16.0
Brad Radke 13.4
Michael Cuddyer 12.4
Corey Koskie 10.7
Gardenhire definitely had plenty of star-level talent to work with, including a pair of MVP winners and a multi-time Cy Young winner all in the middle of their primes. For long stretches Joe Mauer was the best catcher in baseball, Johan Santana was the best pitcher in baseball, Joe Nathan was the second-best reliever in baseball, Justin Morneau was an elite power hitter, and Torii Hunter was an elite center fielder.
Within those numbers, here are the Twins' highest single-season WAR totals from 2002-2014:
Johan Santana 2004 8.6
Joe Mauer 2009 7.8
Johan Santana 2006 7.4
Johan Santana 2005 7.2
Joe Mauer 2010 5.9
Joe Mauer 2006 5.8
Brad Radke 2004 5.8
Joe Mauer 2008 5.6
Jacque Jones 2002 5.4
Joe Mauer 2013 5.3
I'm still angry that Santana was robbed of three straight Cy Young awards because voters weren't yet over their obsession with win-loss records in 2005.
Oh, and here are the Twins' lowest overall WAR totals from 2002-2014:
Tsuyoshi Nishioka -2.4
Liam Hendriks -2.2
Rondell White -1.5
Joe Mays -1.4
Chris Herrmann -1.3
Drew Butera -1.2
Vance Worley -1.2
P.J. Walters -1.2
Trevor May -1.2
Jason Marquis -1.1
Joe Mays and Luis Rivas have the lowest WAR totals among Twins who logged at least 1,000 plate appearances or 1,000 batters faced under Gardenhire.
Following the news that the Twins firedRon Gardenhire after 13 seasons as their manager we recorded an emergency second "Gleeman and The Geek" episode for this week, getting together for late-night breakfast and drinks at Mason's downtown.
Ron Gardenhire will not join Connie Mack and Tom Kelly as just the third manager in baseball history to keep his job following four consecutive 90-loss seasons, as the Twins fired him Monday after 13 seasons on the job and nearly three decades in the organization. In a rarity for a fired manager Gardenhire attended the press conference announcing his dismissal and was in relatively good spirits while answering questions, even cracking a few smiles.
Gardenhire and general manager Terry Ryan seemed to be in agreement that it was time for a change, although last month Ryan said publicly that Gardenhire would return. Yesterday the GM hinted that ownership pushed him to make the move, which apparently may or may not include firing Gardenhire's entire coaching staff depending on whether the new manager wants to keep anyone around.
Gardenhire took over for Kelly in 2002 and had immediate success, winning 94 games and taking the Twins to the playoffs for the first time in more than a decade. They went on to win six division titles in his first nine seasons at the helm, but the competition in the AL Central was more often than not underwhelming during that time and the Twins went just 6-21 in the playoffs with five straight first-round exits.
His early teams were good but not great in a window of time when that was enough to capture a weak division, but then that window closed and later the team fell apart. They have a grand total of one 90-win season since 2007 and combined over the seven-year span of 2007-2014 the Twins went 613-685 for a .472 winning percentage that ranks 23rd in baseball. Only the Astros have a worse record than the Twins since 2011.
I started writing about the Twins in August of Gardenhire's rookie season as manager in 2002 and to say I've never been a fan would be an understatement, so I certainly don't think he's performed well in recent years. However, for better or worse his impact was hardly enough to be responsible for four straight 90-loss seasons just as it wasn't enough to be responsible for six division titles in nine years.
Because they're the day-to-day face of the team managers receive too much praise when things go well and too much criticism when things go poorly. Collective front office decision-making is far more important to the overall well-being of an organization. Ultimately talent trumps all and while a good manager can certainly help develop that talent and utilize that talent properly, squeezing a few more wins out of a team pales in comparison to building the team in the first place.
To believe differently is to think managers have more value to a team than the very best players even while they're consistently paid less than mediocre middle relievers. Gardenhire's firing was justified, but it has little to do with whether another manager could have avoided four consecutive 90-loss seasons with sub par talent and a lot to do with whether Gardenhire is the manager the Twins want leading them for the next 5-10 years when the talent improves.
And it will improve. This team will be better in 2015 than it was in 2014 and better in 2016 than it was in 2015. They have too much high-end talent in the minor leagues--and some high-end talent already faring well in the major leagues--for that not to happen, so even though the next manager may have to deal with low payrolls and shaky front office decision-making the combination of an impending influx of young talent and minimal expectations should make it an appealing gig.
Basically, there's nowhere to go but up. And after 13 seasons of a .507 winning percentage with almost zero postseason success and historic ineptitude for the past four years it would be hard for even his biggest supporters to argue Gardenhire is the best manager to maximize that ascent. He wasn't the biggest problem, but he was too often part of the problem and is not the best possible option for the solution. Of course, the Twins' ability to identify that best option is another issue.
Ryan has been the Twins' general manager for two stints and 17 total seasons, during which time their combined record is 1,278-1,406 for a .476 winning percentage and one playoff series win. With a GM originally hired in 1994 and numerous long-tenured assistants still at his side--including Bill Smith filling a different role after flopping as GM--the front office responsible for getting the Twins into this mess remains largely intact.
Like the difference between a fresh coat of paint on a car versus overhauling the engine, the front office's performance always outweighs anything a manager does. Now their duties include finding a better manager in addition to putting all the roster pieces together well enough to re-emerge as contenders. Gardenhire's firing was about the future, but there's every bit as much reason to be skeptical that Ryan and his assistants are the best option to lead the Twins there.
Topics for this week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode included the end of another Twins season, the fates of Ron Gardenhire, Terry Ryan, and Rick Anderson, Phil Hughes and his $500,000 bonus, which players to purge from the 40-man roster, Glen Perkins pitching hurt, pitchers and MVP awards, Ricky Nolasco being not terrible, and getting shoutouts during Derek Jeter's last game.
• Wednesday's rain delay meant Phil Hughes finished one out short of reaching 210 innings for the season to receive a $500,000 bonus. After initially saying they wouldn't the Twins later offered him a chance to pitch in relief during Sunday's season finale ... and Hughes turned it down. Still, considering he set the all-time strikeout-to-walk ratio record in a season worth several times his salary and the rain delay is the only reason he didn't reach the bonus perhaps the Twins should donate the money to charity in his name or something?
• Chicago deep-dish pizza chain restaurant Giordano's is coming to Uptown, just a few doors down from Green Mill.
• Restaurant recommendation: The Bad Waitress has become one of my go-to spots. It's great for my fellow breakfast-for-dinner lovers and it's on Bite Squad.
• I still need two more owners for my "Hardball Dynasty" league on WhatIfSports. Details here.
• Some of this week's weird and random search engine queries that brought people here:
- "Happy dirty thirty"
- "Ron Gardenhire contract"
- "How much does Joe Nathan make per game?"
- "Who did the Nationals trade for Wilson Ramos?"
- "Marney Gellner rain delay dance"
- "Bill Smith on Seinfeld"
- "Is Justin Morneau French?"
• Finally, in honor of Jeter's retirement this week's AG.com-approved music video is "The Captain" by Kasey Chambers: