The Minnesota Twins’ front office is going to be faced with making some difficult decisions this offseason – decisions they are woefully ill-prepared to make.
Ron Gardenhire and Tom Brunansky (photo: Knuckleballs)
Many professional sports organizations change their on-field management at least as often as they change accounting firms. It’s just part of the way they do business. When you lose more games than you win for a couple years in a row, you change managers/head coaches and even front office leadership.
It just becomes second nature. Much the way swimming becomes second nature to anyone who has spent much time in the water.
But the very idea of changing field management/coaching staff must, for the Twins ownership and front office, seem as incomprehensible as diving off a cliff in to a river would be to someone who doesn’t know how to swim.
For those of you who don’t know how that scene of Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid turned out, both outlaws survived their jump and their trip down river just fine and lived happily ever after (at least until they decided to move to Bolivia).
The most famous quote from that movie scene is, “the fall will probably kill you.” But, for the Twins’ purposes, I’d focus on Butch’s earlier point. “We’ve got to, otherwise we’re dead.”
I think the same is true of the Twins if they foolishly decide to keep the status quo regarding their field management.
I know that changing managers and coaching staff just is not something the people who run the Twins are comfortable with.
They know the guys they have. They may not be winning much, but they HAVE won in the past, so they MIGHT win again, no matter how hopelessly unlikely that may seem to be at the moment.
If the people who run the Twins decide to (shudder) make changes, there is no guarantee that the new guys will be any better. After all, how many people in the Twins front office have actually gone swimming in the deep waters that go along with the process of interviewing candidates for a Major League manager?
Figuratively, they don’t know how to swim!
At some point, though, they’re going to have to realize that NOT taking that leap means the organization is almost certain to continuing their current death spiral. Once you consider that the worst thing that can happen when you take that big jump off a cliff is the same thing that’s going to happen if you don’t, it’s really not that hard to just holler, “Ohhhhh Shiiiiit,” and make the leap.
Once you’ve taken the leap and decided you will not simply go on doing business the same way you have for the past three decades, you can get down to the business of figuring out who is best suited to turn the next group of raw-but-talented young ballplayers in to a contending Major League team.
Maybe it’s someone on the Twins’ current big league bench, such as Paul Molitor or Tom Brunansky. Maybe it’s one of the organization’s excellent full-season minor league managers (all four of which guided their respective team to a winning record in 2014, by the way). Maybe it’s someone from outside the Twins organization altogether.
But first things first.
If they haven’t already, the Twins’ decision makers need to conclude that there is literally nothing that can happen that would be any worse than continuing to fight it out with the status quo.
To do so would send a terrible message to a fan base who simply will not tolerate another do-nothing offseason and continue to buy tickets for a 2015 season that does not come with the benefit of All-Star Game tickets.
There is a lot of talent set to arrive at Target Field in the next couple years. Names, both familiar and unfamiliar to Twins fans, like Buxton, Sano, Meyer, Berrios, Polanco, Gordon, Burdi, Kepler, Harrison, Kanzler, Stewart, Thorpe, Gonsalves, Turner, Garver, Walker and many more, could well become cornerstones of the next great Minnesota Twins team.
The class of Mauer, Morneau, Cuddyer, Baker, et al, has been wasted. We could discuss “why” this class failed to bring a championship to Minnesota, but that’s pointless.
What matters now is making sure that the upcoming class is not similarly wasted and that process begins with asking ourselves who would be the best choices as manager and field coaches to get the most of their talent.
I’m not sure who that person is, though I certainly have some favorites among the likely possibilities.
What I think has become abundantly clear, however, is that manager Ron Gardenhire and pitching coach Rick Anderson are not the right choices.
The decision to dismiss them is not easy for a front office like that of the Twins.
I respect that, actually. Letting go of loyal and, at times, effective employees should not be easy – certainly not as easy as it seems to be for many owners and General Managers in professional sports.
But sometimes, it’s absolutely necessary.
Even the most devoted fans of Gardy and Andy in the front office must, by now, be having a hard time envisioning that duo effectively leading the upcoming group of 20-year-olds to championships.
With fresh talent, fresh eyes and fresh approaches are necessary. It’s possible (and perhaps even quite likely) that Gardenhire and Anderson could provide that fresh approach to another organization. I hope they can (as long as it’s not in the AL Central), because I think they’re good men who know something about baseball.
But just as a young Tom Kelly was the perfect fit for a young group of Twins in the mid-late 1980s, it’s time to find new management to work with the next wave of young Twins.
There’s no reason to wait another year, prolonging the inevitable.
It’s time for the Twins’ front office and ownership to take the leap off that cliff and live to fight another day.
(Just don’t move the team to Bolivia. That would not end well.)