Gardy out as Twins Manager. Who’s Next?

It didn’t take long for the shoe to drop after the Twins’ season ended with another 90+ loss season on Sunday. That shoe landed on the heads of manager Ron Gardenhire and his entire big league coaching staff.

Gardenhire has been dismissed with one year remaining on his contract. The coaches’ contracts all expired at the end of this season and reportedly all were notified their contracts were not being renewed. The Twins front office apparently wants to give their new manager an opportunity to have input concerning his coaching staff, which certainly makes sense.

A press conference has been scheduled by the Twins for 3:00 pm. Both Gardenhire and General Manager Terry Ryan are scheduled to attend.

Ron Gardenhire and Tom Brunansky  (photo: Knuckleballs)

Ron Gardenhire and Tom Brunansky (photo: Knuckleballs)

Gardenhire likely received more credit than he deserved for the Division Championship seasons during the first several years of his time in the manager’s office and more blame than he deserved for the past four years of futility at Target Field. That’s hardly uncommon for a Major League manager. It would not be surprising to see him managing another team in 2015, nor would it be surprising to see him be successful with that team.

Even so, it’s hard to argue that the time for a change in the Twins clubhouse had not come. Sometimes, a team that is transitioning to a new generation of players can benefit from a new figure at the top.

Now the question turns to, “who will that figure be?”

The Twins are not real experienced at the process of identifying and hiring a new manager for their Big League team as Tom Kelly and Ron Gardenhire held down the position for most of the past three decades.

Twins bench coach Terry Steinbach gets mic'd up before 2013 Twins Caravan stop in CR

Twins bench coach Terry Steinbach gets mic’d up before 2013 Twins Caravan stop in CR

It would seem un-Twinslike for Ryan to look outside the Twins organization for a new manager, but the dismissal of the entire Major League coaching staff could signal that the GM will broaden the search.

If Ryan stays inside, there is no shortage of candidates.

Terry Steinbach’s name has been mentioned as a possible candidate to join the new Arizona Diamondbacks organization and could equally be considered a candidate to lead the Twins.

Tom Kelly and Paul Molitor on the Minor League spring training fields

Tom Kelly and Paul Molitor on the Minor League spring training fields

Paul Molitor’s name is often brought up as a potential manager in Minnesota. Molitor spent several years working with the organization’s minor leaguers as a roving instructor before joining the Major League coaching staff this season. Molitor is roughly Gardy’s age, however, so he would not exactly be viewed as a young coach for a young new group of players.

Tom Brunansky spent time as a hitting coach in the minors before taking that role with the Twins. He worked with many of the organization’s up and coming young hitters, but he has not managed at the professional level.

Several current minor league managers could also be considered.

Gene Glynn has had a lot of success in Rochester with the oranization’s AAA club, however, like Molitor, age could be an issue if the desire is to bring in someone younger.

Jeff Smith, at AA, has had detractors inside and outside the organization. However, many of the issues have dealt with Smith supposedly putting winning games ahead of player development. That would not seemingly be an issue if he’s elevated to the big club. Smith was named by the Twins to manage a team in the Arizona Fall League last year, which would seem to indicate that he’s held in high esteem by the front office. If the Twins feel it’s time to move away from the “players manager” model, Smith might be an option.

Doug Mientkiewicz finished his second year as manager at high-A Fort Myers this season with a Florida State League championship. He’s seen as an up-and-comer by many and would certainly bring a fire to the role. Mientkiewicz was disciplined during his first year for his involvement in an on-field brawl during a Miracle game. Mientkiewicz originally asked to be assigned to a Florida team for personal reasons related to the health of a family member. Whether that situation has since been resolved or whether it would preclude a big league position is unknown.

 Jake Mauer works with Travis Harrison in 2013

Jake Mauer works with Travis Harrison in 2013

Jake Mauer, older brother of Joe, has led teams at the Gulf Coast League rookie level, high-A Fort Myers and, for the past two years, at low-A Cedar Rapids. As with the others, he’s worked with most of the young players moving up through the system. He is not as intense, perhaps, as Mientkiewicz, but he’s also not as laid back as his younger brother is reputed to be. Still, unfortunately, fans’ perceptions may be that any hiring of Jake as manager would be a case of nepotism. After watching Jake work in Cedar Rapids for two years, I would love to see him get a shot with the Twiins, but with Joe’s own popularity waning with much of the fan base, that could put Jake in a no-win situation before ever managing a game with the Twins.

For my money, the most likely internal choices would be Steinbach and Mientkiewicz. Either could do a good job, but I’d hope that the Twins would also consider candidates from outside the organization.

Perhaps even more interesting than the choice of the new manager, to me, will be to see what the make up of the big league coaching staff is after the new manager is named.

In any event, it will be an interesting spring training next year, as the Twins get to know just their third manager since 1987.

– JC

 

 

If I Owned the Twins

I’ve been a bit out of touch with Twinsville for a couple of weeks as I’ve had some business travel and other non-Twins-related matters to occupy most of my time.

I did catch up a bit on my Twins reading in the past day or so, however, and – well – let’s just say I’ve been much more interested in the writing about the Twins than I have been with what’s transpired on the field with the Twins.

I read the columns by the Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s baseball writers and columnists recently, in which they were asked to share their ideas concerning what the Twins need to do to “fix” the sorry state of affairs at Target Field.

Jim Souhan believes manager Ron Gardenhire has to go.

Patrick Reusse believes the Twins need coaches who relate better to the increasing (and increasingly important) Latino segment of their roster.

LaVelle E. Neal wants the Twins to do whatever it takes to add an “ace” at the top of their rotation.

Phil Miller says, as hard as it may be to do so, the answer is patience, as we await the imminent arrival of some outstanding young prospects.

Their respective articles reflect opinions I think we’ve all heard voiced many times as this fourth consecutive 90-loss season has been completing its death spiral.

The only near unanimous opinion is, as TwinsDaily’s Nick Nelson penned this week, “The Twins Have a Problem.”

After doing all that reading, I paused and contemplated what it must be like right now to be Jim Pohlad.

I honestly believe he’s embarrassed by what his team has become – an irrelevant organization. The Twins are irrelevant among their MLB brethren. They are irrelevant within the Minnesota professional sports scene.

Owner Jim Pohlad, GM Terry Ryan and President Dave St. Peter

Owner Jim Pohlad, GM Terry Ryan and President Dave St. Peter (photo: SD Buhr)

Say what you will about the Pohlad family, they did not get to where they are in life by being irrelevant.

I began to wonder what was going through the Twins’ owner’s mind these days as he prepares for, perhaps, the most difficult offseason since the passing of his father, Carl. Maybe Jim is asking himself, “WWCD?” What Would Carl Do?

Naturally, that led me to ponder what I would do if I were in Pohlad’s shoes. What steps would I take to make sure I never, ever, felt like this going in to an offseason again.

One awful season was an unpleasant aberration. Two was uncomfortable. Three was painful. Four is… I don’t even know, but you wouldn’t want to be around me much if I owned a team with the record of abject failure that the Twins have had so far this decade.

I thought all four of the Strib’s writers had good thoughts. I also believe there isn’t a single one of those ideas that would satisfy me if I owned the Twins.

If the four Strib guys worked for me and came to my office with those ideas, here’s what I’d say:

I think you’ve all made valid points. But here’s my problem.

Patience, Phil? I’ve been patient for three years. Don’t talk to me about prospects. Until they prove themselves at Target Field, those guys are nothing but business assets. They represent fluxuating inventory with short shelf lives. You’re not asking me to be patient, you’re asking me to be comatose.

You want me to buy (in money or prospects) an ‘ace,’ LaVelle. Great idea. I’ve been telling my General Manager to feel free to spend more money on whatever he thinks will improve this team. But we can’t force players to sign with us and pretty much every long term, big money, contract for an ‘ace’ that has been signed has turned out to be a bad contract for the team. And I may not be in love with prospects, but I’m not going to give them away in return for an aging pitcher who my stat buddies tell me has seen his best days behind him. If my GM can find an ‘ace’ available on the market who is willing to come to our town or one with enough tread on the tire left to be counted on for a few years of ace-hood that’s available for any trade even close to reasonable, we’ll go get him.

Jim, I really don’t think any manager in history could have won half his games the past four years with the collection of has-beens, wanna-bes and never-weres wearing a Twins uniform, so if you really believe firing Ron Gardenhire is going to fix things, you know a lot less about baseball than most baseball fans. And that’s a tough bar to get under.

Pat, same for you. I think it makes a lot of sense to have more of a Latin-American presence in the clubhouse. But do you think having a dozen Latino coaches would make this team a winner? I don’t. By the way, between the four of you guys, there must be about a zillion years of covering baseball between you, right? How’s your Spanish? I think every coach in our organization should learn Spanish, but I also think every media member who covers baseball should, too, and until you do, you’ve got very little room to criticize.

The problem is that none of your ideas will fix things. Not if that’s all we do.

Our fans aren’t stupid enough to believe that any one player, no matter how good he is, will turn this team in to a contender. Not if he’s a current Tigers ace, LaVelle, and not if he’s a near-certain future Hall of Fame center fielder who hasn’t completed a full game (much less a season) above high-A ball, Phil.

Many of them want Gardy gone. I understand that. But even the Gardy haters don’t really believe replacing him will turn a 90-loss team in to a 90-win team. Replacing even an unpopular manager won’t put butts back in the seats and replacing his staff with five guys from Venezuela won’t, either.

So, no, we’re not going to do a single one of these things.

We’re going to do all of them.

And more.

That’s when I would thank the Strib guys for their time, give them some drink tickets and send them to Hrbeks for a couple of refreshments while I talk to my President and General Manager.

With Dave St. Peter and Terry Ryan in my office, here’s what I lay out for them.

“Gentlemen, the good news for you is that neither of you are fired. Yet.

But I’m tired of losing. I’m tired of losing games and I’m tired of losing fans. And you two may think I don’t know crap about baseball, but I suspect that just maybe losing games and losing fans might be related.

Terry, I tried to tell you a year ago that I was tired of people telling me I’m cheap and won’t spend money for top talent. Some bozo on the internet even made up a parable about it. I want you to go read it and then, Terry, use the damn ladder!

I’ve got a list of the top 20 starting pitchers in baseball, ranked by some goofy thing called WAR. By the date season tickets have to be renewed, one of those guys is going to be working for me, Terry – or you won’t be. Do we understand one another?

Speaking of people working for me, you’re going to go tell Ron Gardenhire that he doesn’t. At least not as my manager.

Gardy’s a helluva guy and he’s had some good days as our manager. We’ll give him a nice watch, but I don’t believe he’s the guy to lead this team for the next 10 years and neither do our fans. Who you hire is your business. I’m just telling you who you’re going to fire.

I take that back, I am going to tell you a little bit about who you’re going to hire.

When spring training opens, I want at least two Latino members on the bench staff.

I mean it, Terry. And I’m not talking about a couple guys who took Spanish class in junior high. I’m going to send Tony Oliva to talk to whoever you hire and they’d better be able to keep up with him in a conversation.

Every company in every industry in this country has been getting on the diversity bandwagon for years. Everyone figured out long ago that having management that can communicate in Spanish is critical to attracting and retaining top Spanish speaking employees. I don’t know why you haven’t figured this out on your own yet, but now I’m telling you.

One more thing, Terry.

If they’re healthy, Alex Meyer, Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton will open 2015 with the Twins. How do I know? I heard all about it in the giant advertising campaign that St. Peter and the marketing folks are putting together the moment he walks out of this meeting. Right Dave?

That ad is going to run on the local affiliate carrying the Super Bowl. I want everyone in town talking about the Twins the next day and I want them buying tickets. Lots of tickets.

Dave, I keep reading about how attendance is going to drop next year. I’m telling you that it won’t. If it does, the attendance in your office will drop by one.

Our season ticket holders have been paying Major League prices for minor league performance for four years. I don’t care how far you have to slash prices, you put butts in the seats.

Next summer, people may call us crazy for what we’ve done. They may say we’ve lost our minds. But if they’re still saying the Twins are irrelevant, you two will not be calling me your boss.

Give my love to your families.

And then I think I’d take a very long cruise around the world on a very large boat and look forward to seeing what my team looked like when I got back.

– JC

Episode 76: Roster Construction, Predictions and “Your Mom”

On this week’s show there is a lot of discussion about recent subtractions (and an addition) to the Twins roster as they continue to trim down to their 25-man roster. Jason Kubel will make the team and both Scott Diamond and Vance Worley will be pitching elsewhere in 2014.

This week’s show is brought to you by Hangout and Talk Twins with Seth Stohs and Jeremy Nygaard. Make sure to check out their show!

We discuss who is the last man in/out as the Twins trim the roster to 25 and then we take a look ahead at who will be the division winners and playoff contenders for 2014. You can download the new Talk to Contact (@TalkToContact) episode via iTunes or by clicking here.

Mike Pelfrey is all smiles after Gardy and Glen Perkins prank him in the clubshouse. Photo Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Mike Pelfrey is all smiles after Gardy and Glen Perkins prank him in the clubshouse. Photo Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

We take a closer look at Twins pitching prospect and Eden Prairie native, Madison Boer before wondering aloud how Max Scherzer could possibly turn down $144 million.

Thanks for listening!

 

You can follow Cody on Twitter (@NoDakTwinsFan) or read his writing at NoDakTwinsFan, and you can find Paul on Twitter (@BaseballPirate) and read his writing at PuckettsPond.com!

If you enjoy our podcast, please take a couple extra minutes and rate and review us on iTunes. Ratings and reviews help us in our quest to create a land grant university in Minnesota to help budding young podcasters create radio gold.

Episode 71: Reviewing the Royals

The highlight of this week’s episode is an interview with Josh Duggan (@oldmanduggan) of Royals Review to talk about what’s been happening with our division rival’s over in Kansas City. We review their off-season and make predictions about the future of the division in 2014 and beyond. You can download the new Talk to Contact (@TalkToContact) episode via iTunes or by clicking here.

gladden

At one point during the podcast Paul professes the strangest fantasy a man has ever had involving another man’s forearms, Jay Corn predicts the Twins to somehow win 83 games and Eric talks smack about his mother to his twin brother. Twins topics were also covered. Spring has sprung and the Twins are all down in Ft Myers for spring training and everyone is in the best shape of their lives. We discuss some notable signings from around the league take a look at Twins minor leaguer and 2013 draft pick Ryan Walker and course discuss what we’re drinking and recommend traveling to Alaska.

The boys have their potty mouths on this week, so if you’re listening near small children you may want to turn the volume down.

 

You can follow Cody on Twitter (@NoDakTwinsFan) or read his writing at NoDakTwinsFan, and you can find Paul on Twitter (@BaseballPirate) and read his writing at PuckettsPond.com!

If you enjoy our podcast, please take a couple extra minutes and rate and review us on iTunes. Ratings and reviews will help Jason Bartlett make the 25-man roster.

MN Swarm Lacrosse Home Opener!

swarm logoOk, so it’s not my usual comic break today.. I’m a little focused! Believe it or not, while the rest of the world is watching hockey and football and going nuts (ok, yes, I’m probably doing that too), I’m looking forward to the first live MN Swarm game!!!!!

If you haven’t ever seen box lacrosse in person, you really need to find an opportunity to do so. The hubby and I are season ticket holders (a much cheaper option than the bigger pro-sports teams) and every single person we bring to a game ends up coming again on their own – and/or becoming ticket holders as well! While baseball is all the strategy, intrigue, planning and set up of well-played chess, box lacrosse is playing slap jack with your nephews while high on sodas and cookies. It’s SO much fun and so high energy … it’s genuine all ages family fun.

TCSwarm

You truly never know who you’re going to run into during a Swarm game!

If you are free today and in the area, you should definitely check out the game today – starts at 2pm in Xcel Center. Get there a bit early if you want to really check out all the fun you can find! Heck, keep your eyes out for me because our seats are right on the glass and the size I am these days with Baby Smith on the way, I’m kind of hard to miss! If you can’t get to the game, you should check it out online as well – all the info you need can be found on the MN Swarm website.

Twins Caravan/Kernels Hot Stove

UPDATE: After publishing just the pictures last night and sending out a few quotes via Twitter, I’ve now updated this post with some additional observations and quotes from the Caravan participants. The updates are all in this cool blue color, so you can tell what’s been added. – JC

For the second straight year, the Cedar Rapids Kernels and Minnesota Twins joined forces Monday night, combining the Kernels’ annual Hot Stove Banquet with a stop on the Twins Caravan.

Pitchers Brian Duensing and Ryan Pressly joined new Twins coach Paul Molitor, Kernels manager Jake Mauer and, of course, TC Bear, in Cedar Rapids. The emcee for the evening was Twins broadcaster (and former Cedar Rapids sportscaster) Dick Bremer.

I had a chance to talk to Molitor, Duensing, Pressly and Mauer before the event got underway and, as is part of the Caravan routine, they all answered questions posed by Bremer as part of the program. They also answered a number of questions from members of the crowd.

Without a whole lot of thought, formatting or context, below are some of the comments from the Caravan participants during the evening.

Paul Molitor talked about his move from minor league roving instructor to full-time Major League coach with the Twins. Cedar Rapids Gazette reporter Jeff Johnson and I kind of double teamed Molitor during the media interview session before the night’s festivities. Rather than me typing a bunch of quotes out, you should just click here to go to Johnson’s story at the Gazette’s site and watch the video he recorded of Molitor talking about his new gig.

During the question and answer segment of the Caravan program, Molitor was asked from the crowd for his feelings concerning expanded use of instant replay in Major League Baseball. He’s clearly not a fan.

“I don’t like it. I had trouble with the home runs, originally. I understand why they want to do it, because of football leading the way and we have the technology. I’ve already gotten emails from Terry Ryan about this list of what you can contend against and what you can’t and you can throw the flag once before the sixth inning and twice after the seventh inning. I don’t know where it’s going to go, but I, I don’t like it.”

Molitor was also asked what other moves he thought the Twins might still make before the season starts to add more offense to the lineup.

“I know Terry is still out there looking at the free agent list. Some of the better hitters remaining, Morales and (Cruz), have a draft choice attached and really aren’t very good fits for our club. There’s some potential trades out there, but Terry’s very protective of the players in our minor league system. He’s not going to give up some of our top guys to improve our offense.”

“Last year was a rough year offensively. We struck out too much. We didn’t hit the ball over the fence enough. Baserunning wasn’t very good. There’s a lot of room for improvement. But that doesn’t mean the guys who are coming back won’t have a chance to improve in some of those areas, either, through experience, through whatever it takes for them to get better. We have to find a way to score more runs, that’s the bottom line.”

After you check out the Molitor video and while you’re clicking, go on over to MetroSportsReport.com and read through Jim Ecker’s story on Jake Mauer. Jake and his wife, Rachel, are due to have a baby on February 4 and Mauer said all’s going well on that front.

During the question and answer segment, Mauer was asked whether he thought the addition of starting pitching via free agents might potentially block some of the young pitchers moving up through the organization.

“I think having too much pitching is a pretty good problem to have. I think I speak for everybody (saying) we would definitely love to have that problem. The cream kind of always rises to the top and sometimes it’s not a guy that you expect. It’s always good to go in to spring training with competition. If pitching’s one of those competitions, that just makes the ballclub a lot better.”

Mauer’s best line of the night may have come during the question and answer segment when a member of the crowd asked if he thought his brother Joe might return to his MVP form with the move from catcher to first base.

“I hope so. He’s a lot easier to deal with when he’s on the field, I can tell you that. He’s an ornery guy when he’s not playing.” The crowd laughed, appreciating the candor.

“I think the move to first base will be a very good one for him. I know the concussion that he had last year, plain and simple, scared him.”

“I think he still feels he’s a catcher and he still feels he can be a very good catcher. But I think he understands what could happen if he gets dinged in the noggin again. That’s probably my fault from beating on him when he was a little kid.”

“I think it will be good for him. Not to say he doesn’t like first base, but I think he’s going to fall in love with it in August and September when his body feels pretty good and the bat speed is still there. I know he’s looking forward to getting back on the field with these guys and hopefully making something good happen.”

I talked to Brian Duensing and Ryan Pressly about their impressions of the moves Terry Ryan has been making in the offseason to add a number of pitchers to the roster (and the relative lack of moves to shore up the offense) and about the number of pitchers who will be in the Twins’ spring training camp when it opens.

Duensing: “It’s tough. I think the situation we’re going to be in, it’s got to be heavy one way or the other, in order for us to get back (where we want to be). We need to focus on more or less one spot and then try to fill the bats back in. I think Terry Ryan’s up to going with starting pitching. That’s our most important aspect we need to improve on and then we’ll find hitting as we get confidence going deep in to games. I think that’s maybe how we’re going about it. As relievers, I think we’re excited about it.”

“Unfortunately, our starters kind of struggled last year so we got worked pretty good. Maybe if we get a little deeper in to games, we can be even better.”

I brought up the fact that, although the new pitchers being added thus far are rotation help, there are a number of pitchers who started last year who are out of options going in to 2014 and they could find themselves competing with last season’s relief corps for spots in the bullpen.

Pressly: “You’ve got to love competition. I look forward to going to spring training and seeing what everyone’s been working on in the offseason. But yeah, not having a lot of options I guess can kind of hurt you in the long run.”

Duensing: “Unfortunately, it’s part of the business. A lot of these guys coming in to camp that don’t have options are our friends. We hang out with them a lot. Unfortunately, it’s the nature of the beast. But competition doesn’t hurt anybody.”

I asked Pressly for his thoughts on the Rule 5 draft experience last year:

Pressly: “It all kind of sparked in the Arizona Fall League. I went out and threw really well there and the Twins picked me up in the Rule 5. I came to spring training and it just kind of carried over to that. It was an awsome feeling having Gardy tell me, especially at the Red Sox facility, ‘hey you made our team.’ I didn’t even get one step in to the dugout and he told me, so it was pretty fun.”

Finally, pictures from the festivities:

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Ryan Pressly (standing) answers questions from Dick Bremer, as Brian Duensing (seated) waits his turn

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Jake Mauer talks about his expectations for 2014

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The full dias with TC Bear, Brian Duensing, Ryan Pressly, Dick Bremer (standing), Paul Molitor and Jake Mauer

The autograph line in Cedar Rapids (from top down): Mauer, Pressly, Duensing, Molitor and TC

The autograph line in Cedar Rapids (from top down): Mauer, Pressly, Duensing, Molitor and TC

Episode 66: The Hall of Fame and Other Nonsense

Episode 66 is out for your listening enjoyment. You can download the new Talk to Contact (@TalkToContact) episode via iTunes or by clicking here.

Tom Glavin is nonplussed receiving his Hall of Fame phone call.

Tom Glavin is nonplussed receiving his Hall of Fame phone call.

We snuck in some hall of fame talk towards the end of the podcast, but for the most part we stayed away from the hall (Just like Jack Morris – ZING!). This week we feature Stuart Turner, the Twins 2013 3rd round draft pick, we talk about what Eddie Rosario‘s 50 game suspension and Miguel Sano‘s possible Tommy John surgery could mean for their development and Twins debuts and argue over whether the Twins should sign a couple of the free agents who are still out on the market, most notably Johan Santana and Stephen Drew.

We are also joined this week by special guest Graham Womack of Baseball Past and Present (@grahamdude) to talk about the 50 best players not in the HOF.

Enjoy the podcast.

You can follow Cody on Twitter (@NoDakTwinsFan) or read his writing at NoDakTwinsFan, and you can find Paul on Twitter (@BaseballPirate) and read his writing at PuckettsPond.com!

If you enjoy our podcast, please take a couple extra minutes and rate and review us on iTunes. Ratings and reviews have magical iTunes powers, probably.