Gardy And The Gripers

Sometimes Ron Gardenhire drives me nuts with some of the decisions he makes during the course of a game. Then again, I’m sure managers of every MLB team drive some of their fans nuts with that kind of thing.

But what ‘s nuttier are the people loudly clamoring for Ron Gardenhire’s hide because he hasn’t successfully vanquished the Yankees to get to a World Series. That’s just crap.

Ron Gardenhire

Why can’t Gardy get his teams past the Yankees? Hmmmm… gosh… I wonder. It couldn’t possibly have anything to do with the fact that in exactly NONE of the seasons the Twins lost to the Yankees in the LDS (2004, 05, 09, 10) has the Twins payroll been within even $100 million friggin dollars of the Yankees, could it?

It’s impossible for me to take any Gardy critic seriously if all he/she does is go on about how the Twins need to fire Gardy without telling us who they think would do the job better. Who  WOULD lead this team past those pesky Yankees? The closest most of them ever come to presenting alternatives is when they drone on about how great Tom Kelly was because he won two titles or argue that Ozzie Friggin Guillen would have delivered titles if he had been managing the Twins instead of the White Sox. Are you kidding me?

Tom Kelly

Tom Kelly won two division titles in 16 years! Yes, he won World Series those two seasons, but (a) he never faced a team in the playoffs with a significant talent/payroll advantage, and (b) all he had to do to get to the World Series those two years was win one best-of-five series each year. I like Tom Kelly but comparing his “success” with Gardenhire’s is absurd. And Guillen? Seriously? He’s won exactly two division titles in seven years. Yes, he won one World Series. How did he do against the Yankees, though? Oh… that’s right… he’s never faced the Yankees in the post-season.

But there must be SOMEONE the Twins could replace Gardy with who’s had some success against the Yankees, right? After all, they don’t win the World Series every year!

Maybe we could hire Mike Scioscia away from the Angels! He’s managed to beat the Yankees twice this decade in the post-season (2002, 2005). Sure, he lost to the Yankees a year ago and his post-season record against the Red Sox (1-3) isn’t much to brag about, but if you can get him, go for it. Then again, he’s already working for an organization that’s been spending $100 million on payroll since about 2004, so he might be tough to convince to make the jump to Minnesota.

Likewise, Terry Francona managed to beat the Yankees in the post-season… once. But I think he still has a job with a team that’s been pumping over $100 million in to payroll the entire decade, so I’m not sure your chances of pulling him to Minnesota are even as good as getting Scioscia.

Hmm… managers with the kind of success Twins fans want to have against the Yankees seem to be already managing teams who have been far out-spending the Twins for players this decade. I wonder if that has anything to do with how “smart” those managers are?

But someone else in the AL must have beaten the Yankees in the post-season, right?

Hey, Eric Wedge beat the Yankees with the Indians in 2007 (with an assist from a swarm of bugs) and he’s looking for a gig. Then again, the reason he’s available is that Cleveland dumped his ass two years after he conquered those Yanks. It seems that was the only year Wedge led his team to the playoffs. In fact, his teams won more than half their games exactly twice in his seven years leading the Tribe. Is that the kind of ‘success’ you want? Maybe Gardy should get in touch with the head of the Minnesota Mosquito Union to get some help.

Jim Leyland beat the Yankees in the post-season. Once. But then again, Leyland has won exactly one division title in 19 years of managing. Tiger fans can’t seem to figure out how come Leyland’s teams fall on their collective faces during the second half of what seems like every season. Maybe he could take over in Minnesota and show fans here how that’s done! But hey, at least we wouldn’t be complaining about not being able to beat the Yankees in the post-season any more.

Bobby Valentine is making the rounds, interviewing with pretty much every team looking for a manager. Never mind that in 15 years as a Major League manager, Valentine won exactly… wait for it… ZERO division championships! But hey, he did lead ONE Met team to a World Series as a wild card. Maybe that’s the kind of leadership we need in the Twins clubhouse!

You can talk all you want about Gardy’s puzzling in-game strategy or how he’s too buddy-buddy with the players or how the Yankees are “in his head”. But if you want to know why his Twins teams haven’t been able to get past the Yankees in the playoffs, it’s not hard to figure out. Follow the money.

After starting the 2010 season with a payroll of about $98 million, the Twins added some pieces mid season and broke through that $100 million payroll barrier for the first time in franchise history. With Mauer’s raise to $23 million per season kicking in for 2011, Gardy’s going to be leading a team next season that will have a $100 million+ opening day payroll, including a $20 million player and at least three guys getting better than $10 million each for salaries. Wooooo boy, we’re big time now, right!?

Those Yankees that Gardy’s boys were supposed to beat in the LDS had a $213 million payroll this season. They had four players already bringing down better than $20 million a year. In fact the salaries for just those four players together virtually equaled the Twins entire opening day payroll. They had seven more players pulling down better than $10 million a season. Next year, Cano’s contract moves him in to that $10 million club. There’s also every reason to believe they’ll be adding Cliff Lee or Carl Crawford (or both) to their $20 million-per-year ranks in 2011.

Since 2000, the Yankees are 12-7 in post-season series (if you go back to 1995, it’s 21-9). Yes, four of those series wins this decade have been over the Twins. They’ve also beaten Oakland and Seattle twice each, and the Red Sox, Angels, Mets and Phillies once each. The Angels are the only club who’s managed to win two post-season series from the Yankees in this decade.

Maybe one reason the Yankees have beaten the Twins more than they’ve beaten anyone else in the post-season is because they’ve played the Twins more than they have anyone else. Only the Angels, who’ve had three post-season series with the Yankees, have faced off with the Yankees more than twice since 2000. Only the A’s, Mariners and Red Sox have met them even twice (the Yankees are 5-1 in those match ups).

In the 11 post-seasons since 2000, the Twins have made six post-season appearances, all as division champion and all under Ron Gardenhire. Who can match that?

  • The Red Sox have also been to the post-season six times, the last five under Terry Francona.
  • The Angels have also participated six times, all of them under Mike Scioscia.
  • The Braves have been to the playoffs seven times, all under Bobby Cox.
  • The Cardinals have also made seven post-season appearances, all under Tony LaRussa.
  • The Yankees have appeared in the post-season 10 times, eight under Joe Torre and the last two under Joe Girardi.

What do those teams have in common? Solid, consistent managers and front offices and the ability to afford to put competitive talent on the field almost every year.

Explain to me again why a team who’s gone to the playoffs at least as often as all but three teams in all of baseball in the past 11 years should fire their manager? You’re going to have to do better than pointing out that his teams haven’t managed to defeat a team that has used its inherent financial advantages to dominate virtually every other team in baseball, as well.

Bud Selig, the national media, and the Steinbrenners want you to believe that a system that allows one team to rake in so much more revenue than every other team that they can literally buy any player they want, making them the prohibitive favorite to represent the AL in the World Series every year, is good for baseball. Hell, maybe it is. I’m sure rigging things so that the Yankees are likely to get to the World Series almost every year means more money from FOX, TBS or whoever else might pay MLB for television rights to the playoffs. Anyway, I’m just a dumb Midwestern hick, what do I know about running a multi-billion-dollar cartel?

Just don’t try to tell me it’s fair and that the “right manager” evens the odds. It just makes you sound like an idiot.

I may not be as smart as Bud and his cronies, but I’m smart enough to know that the reason the Twins go in to every series with the Yankees as prohibitive underdogs has virtually nothing to do with their manager and everything to do with the talent levels of the players that those teams can afford to put on the field.

You can’t advance in the playoffs unless you make the playoffs. In the American League, that means you manage in a way to give you the best chance to win your division, then you hope to catch lightning in a bottle to get past the team that MLB and its network partners want to see in the World Series. The deck is going to be stacked against you every year and calling for a manager to be fired because he hasn’t beaten those prohibitive odds in four tries is just silly. – JC

5 Replies to “Gardy And The Gripers”

  1. Seems to me that the manager probably has significantly less impact on whether the team wins or not than most people think.

    Though I would like to let go of the Utility Infielder obsession.

  2. I agree Gardy alone is not the problem. I don’t agree that it’s only (or even mostly) about payroll. What I see lacking in the Twins is discipline. That IS something Gardy could do something about, but so could anyone.

    I’m also really sick of Twins fans who blame everything on the Yankees. When the Twins get their own house in order and actually look like a group of players who want to win, then I’ll cry about payroll discrepancies and those nasty Yankees. Show me consistently sound fundamental baseball that still doesn’t beat the Yankees and then I’ll cry “conspiracy!”

    The Twins were pathetic at the end of the season. No one can claim that the better team lost that ALDS series. And it’s not just about money. (As years of Cubs losses can attest 🙂 Besides, according to the latest numbers posted on the Twins feed today, they are no longer a low-market team.

  3. Yep, as that article says, “the Twins now find themselves in the upper third of baseball’s spenders”, and since there are 30 teams in MLB, that means the Twins are in the top 10 in payroll… and they finished in the top 8 of all teams by making the playoffs. So how is that underperforming?

    And you can dismiss the money aspect all you want, but when one team can afford to pay TWICE what other teams that are in the top 1/3 of the league are paying, it’s ridiculous to say that the main problem is the manager or “discipline.” But, by all means, buy in to what Selig and the networks are selling… they’re counting on people to be “sick of people blaming the Yankees.” That way they never have to change the system.

    But for the record, I don’t blame the Yankees… they have a system where they are allowed to milk the largest media market in the country and buy every player they want (and even players they don’t really want but want to keep competitors from getting). Why blame them for doing exactly that? I blame Bud Selig and the other owners that allow MLB to be the only professional sports league in the country to operate that way.

  4. Do the math jc. You’re the one so fond of numbers, but apparently you only use them when they support your own theory. Only 2 of the 8 playoff teams were in the top 8 in payroll. If it were all about payroll, then the 8 playoff teams should be the highest in payroll. The average ranking in terms of payroll of the 8 playoff teams was 13.5 (Tampa 21, Minnesota 11, Texas 27, New York 1, Phillies 4, Reds 19, SF 10, Atlanta 15), compared to an expected average ranking of 15 if you just picked 8 teams at random. (And do you really think that the amount the players make is directly related to the quality of their play? Now that’s really “ridiculous.”)

    I don’t pay attention to anything that Selig says. I’m just not willing to blame the Twins sloppy play on some grand conspiracy. I’ve seen what disciplined fundamental baseball looks like and I know when it is lacking. Are you suggesting that somehow Selig slipped them all some sort of mickey that wiped out their knowledge of how to play the game? Do you really think that all of their losses in the playoffs in the past several years were due to bad or conspiratorial umpiring?

    Reality check: Twins’ fans irrational reaction to the Yankees and their inability to look at anything other than the Yankees as the cause of the Twins’ problems is and will continue to be pathetic. Come up with something else if you want anyone to take your analysis seriously.

  5. a) Thank you, JC. That was far more eloquent, detailed, and researched than my little tantrums, or perhaps tempests in teapots. Nobody’s done better enough.

    b) The Twins never look like the team they are during the regular season in the postseason. It may be related to not looking like the team they are most of the time whenever they play the Yankees. The Spankees can’t have that much of a financial advantage over some of the other teams that the Twins can beat, right? When the Twins beat the Yankees proportionally to other teams with high, even intimidatingly high, payrolls, I’ll agree that there’s nothing to be done by Gardy or anyone but the negotiating teams of the union and the owners.