A while back, the balloting for the American League Manager of the Year Award was announced, and (once again) Twins’ skipper Ron Gardenhire was the bridesmaid, this time to Mike Scoscia of the Angels. I was not too steamed at this, to be honest, and here is why: I’ll start with the positive:
I think that Gardy is a very good fit for this Minnesota Twins ballclub. He preaches fundamentals (a must for a young team, which the Twins will always be under the current economic structure of baseball), keeps a cool head (another “lead by example trait for the youngsters), and is just a good guy, plain and simple. He isn’t a complete nutcase like Ozzie Guillen, and he isn’t too full of himself like, say, a Lou Pineilla. Since Gardy succeeded a burnt-out Tom Kelly as manager, five division titles (and one near-miss) speak for themselves.
That being said, I didn’t necessarily cry myself to sleep at Gardy not getting Manager of the Year for two particular reasons:
First, is his loyalty to certain players (well, one player in particular):
Back when T.K. was at the helm, he always said that as long as he was a major league manager, Dick Such would be his pitching coach. The same can now be said for Gardenhire and Nick Punto. While other players (like Alexi Casilla, for instance) can make one mistake and instantly be demoted to Gardy’s “doghouse”, a place that is easy to languish in for extended periods of time, Punto pretty much gets a free pass. Though this kind of loyalty is nice in a personable sort of way, I think it gets Gardy in trouble a little bit in terms of on-field potential. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that the skipper himself was that same type of utility player back in his playing days with the Mets:
2. The other issue is his playoff-managing style. Instead of “going for the throat”, Gardy tends to manage a playoff game like any other regular season game. This was evidenced in the ALDS against the Yankees when Francisco Liriano was the first arm out of the pen in a close Game One against the mighty Yanks. Was he just playing the matchups, or hedging his bet that Frankie could somehow get out of the jam and save the good relievers for later? I have my suspicions it was the latter. Of course, later never happened (and often does not in a playoff series). This was not the first instance of that problem, either.
To re-iterate, though, I think that Ron Gardenhire is the man that the Twins need at the helm right now. He’s great at teaching the fundamentals of the game to young players, as well as trying to keep them on an even keel and just play the game in front of them. There’s just a few things that could be improved upon…like not already penciling in Punto as a starting infielder and batting ninth.