Coaching Staff: The Great Motivator
In my mind, there are two areas in which a MLB manager should be judged: Ability to motivate players, and game strategists. I would like to evaluate Twins manager Ron Gardenhire on both those characteristics:
As far as motivating players, Gardy may just be the best in the business. With his down-to-earth (yet effectively intense) attitude, Gardy gains the respect of his players, which is nice to have over a six-month season. Plus, with the kind of turnaround that major league rosters currently endure, the ability to incorporate new faces into the clubhouse is an invaluable skill.
On the game strategy side, I think Gardy is a bit lacking in one key area: pitching management. In my mind, Gardy is much too careful with his pitchers, often overworking the bullpen as a result. Rarely does Gardy ever just let a starter (much to the chagrin of TV broadcaster Bert Blyleven) even come close to finish what he started. He also plays the lefty-righty percentages a little more than I would like (instead of going with the “hot hand”), but he has had success with that strategy in the past, so I’m not too frustrated about that.
All in all, Gardy is a great skipper to lead a team like the Twins that, just because of their small-market nature, will always have a high turnover rate in players, thus needing a strong leader in the corner spot of the dugout to keep the ship afloat.
So, that concludes my review of the 2008 Minnesota Twins. Despite not making the ’08 playoffs, the Twins took a huge step forward (in a year they were expected not to compete whatsoever) in player development and have just as good a chance as anyone else in the AL Central division to take the ’09 crown if they can shore up one key area: the bullpen. It was a great season with many great memories, and that is what I will take from the 2008 Minnesota Twins experience.
Coming up in later posts will be my thoughts on the AL Champion Tampa Bay Rays, as well as a World Series prediction.