May 31, 2006

Creating The Gardenhire File

Whenever I criticize Ron Gardenhire here, people inevitably ask why I'm so harsh with him. That's understandable, because I can't take the time to recap all of Gardenhire's faults each time I bring one of them up. For instance, Gardenhire barely playing Jason Kubel for a week isn't a big deal by itself, and for someone who visits this site sporadically my being critical of that may seem like picking on him for something relatively minor.

However, when a pattern of similar behavior emerges it becomes noteworthy and when combined with a litany of questionable tactics and decision-making everything begins to pile up. Many things aren't necessarily relevant to each individual criticism I lob Gardenhire's way, but they're certainly relevant to the overall level of distrust I have in the Twins' manager.

That's a difficult point to make on a regular basis, although I've come up with a workable solution. With your help, I'd like to create a "Gardenhire File." We'll put together a list of everything Gardenhire does poorly, from the illogical to the counter-productive. Offer up as many criticisms as you want in the comments section or via e-mail, and I'll filter through them and pick out the ones that work.

To get the ball rolling and to show what sort of submissions I'm looking for, I'll offer up this:

GARDENHIRE FAULT NO. 1: Refusing to use Joe Nathan in non-save situations.

This is especially true on the road, where Nathan typically goes unused unless the Twins have a slim lead with three outs left to get. Gardenhire will go through the entire bullpen--from Juan Rincon to Willie Eyre--before he'll put the team's best reliever in with the game on the line.

The most recent example came in Monday's loss to the Angels, when Gardenhire brought Jesse Crain out for a third sudden-death inning rather than put Nathan in for the 11th inning of a tie game. Then in Wednesday's blowout win over the Angels Gardenhire put Nathan in to pitch the ninth inning with a six-run lead because he hadn't been used for several games.

The close-mindedness and strict reliance on an ultimately meaningless statistic like the "save" is why Nathan has just 18 innings through 52 games, while Crain (22.1 innings), Rincon (27.0), and Matt Guerrier (30.0) have each worked significantly more, and even a mop-up man like Eyre has thrown 18.2 innings.

Pretty simple, right? Identify and explain the fault, give an example of it in action, and then discuss why it's a negative thing. There are no strict guidelines for what type of fault I'm looking for, so anything from in-game strategy and lineup construction to newspaper quotes and run-ins with umpires are fair game. In other words, throw whatever you can think of against the wall and I'll determine what sticks.

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