Results tagged ‘ Ron Gardenhire ’
I know I’m a little late on this, as the New Years parties are all but forgotten already, but I wanted to take a few moments to recount some of my favorite Minnesota Twins memories of the decade past:
2000: When a team features such players as Jay Canizaro, Butch Huskey, Jason Maxwell, Sean Bergman, and Mike Lincoln, it was a bit difficult to really get excited about the teams’ chances. However, having just been introduced to the sport and completely enthralled by it, I can remember going to the basically-empty Metrodome (been to a T-Wolves game lately?) with my Dad, buying an outfield seat, and then moving right up close to home plate because not even the ushers cared what you did back then!
2001: The team finally comes together and starts winning thanks to players like Doug Mientkiewicz, Corey Koskie, Jacque Jones, Torii Hunter, Brad Radke, and Eric Milton. The Twins didn’t win the division, but after nearly a decade of losing baseball, they finally brought some excitement back to the Dome.
2002: The year I learned to hate Bud Selig. In an effort to make MLB more profitable, Selig hatches a scheme to contract two franchise to bolster the others. The obvious choice were the Montreal Expos (later to become the Washington Nationals), but the Twins? Obviously some back-room buyout deals between Buddy-Boy and Twins owner Carl Pohlad were occuring. Luckily, MLB realized that contraction was ill-advised and allowed the Twins to easily capture their first division title since 1991.
2003: After a dominating 2002 campaign, the Twins were nearly out of the division race at midseason of ’03. However, after acquiring outfielder Shannon Stewart from the Blue Jays to bat lead-off, the Twins took off and won the division nearly going-away.
2004: Of the back-to-back-to-back division title winning teams, this squad was the best. In the ALDS, the Twins took the first game at Yankee Stadium and were on the brink of going up 2-0 heading home. However, Joe Nathan (who had taken over for the departed Eddie Guardado and been completely dominant the entire season) led an extra-inning lead slip away and give the Yankees momentum to win that game and then sweep both at the Dome. Of course, maybe it was just fate, as those Yanks proceeded to go up 3-0 on the Red Sox and well, Dave Roberts can tell you the rest…
2005: Not a fun year for Twins Territory. We didn’t outright suck, but we never really competed for the crown, either. Even the usually stoic Brad Radke was overheard griping about the lack of run support from a horrendous offensive unit. Also, this was the year that tensions erupted between Torii Hunter and Justin Morneau and a few blows were thrown, one that somehow connected with little Lew Ford!
2006: The Twins spent one day in first place, but since it was the final day they made it count! They played well pretty much the entire season, but so did the Tigers. A late-season hot streak pushed the Twins over the top on the season’s final day.
2007: How quickly a team can go from “contending” to “rebuilding”. In the first losing season under Ron Gardenhire, a lack of fundamentals and downright sloppy baseball made the final month of the season almost unwatchable.
2008: After underachieving all season, the Twins basically needed to win out the final week of the season, starting with a sweep of the White Sox, whom they were chasing for the division title. I was at all three of those games at the Dome, and they are (easily) the most exciting games I have ever been to. The Twins would later lose to the Tighty Whities in a one-game playoff, but not before some of the most exciting baseball I have ever witnessed.
2009: (Read: 2008). This time the Twins make the one-game playoff count in the most exciting single baseball game I have ever watched!
It was a great decade of Twins baseball memories…why not try for another one?!
As a Minnesota Twins fan, one of the moments I will never forget is Opening Day of the 2008 season, when young Carlos Gomez got the start in centerfield directly opposing his predecessor Torii Hunter. Gomez completely dominated that game both in the field, at the plate, and on the basepaths, and it looked as if he would be one of the most exciting young players to put on a Twins uniform in quite a while.
Unfortunately, it was all downhill from that point (at least so far in his career), and a few weeks ago he was traded to the Brewers for SS J.J. Hardy.
My first reaction to the trade was that we were giving up the cornerstone of the Johan Santana deal, but (looking back) we were really just desperate to unload Johan once he refused our offer in search of a bigger payday, so it’s not like Gomez was the most coveted prospect in the world.
At times, Gomez could be the most exciting player on the field…
He had incredible range out in centerfield, he was lightning-fast rounding the bases, and (come September) he was always good for a few huge hits against the White Sox down the stretch. At times he showed good power, and if he dropped down a good bunt it was nearly impossible to throw him out.
At the same time, though, Go-Go could also be the dumbest player on the field…
I don’t think I’ve ever seen a player crash into the wall, take a bad route to a ball, strike out badly on three pitches, or completely lose himself on the bases like Gomez. Ultimately, that proved to be his undoing here in Minny, land of Ron Gardenhire Fundamental Baseball. Plus, he didn’t seem to be making any strides after too full seasons in the major leagues. He was making the same dumb mistakes in the ’09 playoffs that he made at the beginning of 2008.
But let’s take a moment to look at his “ransom”…
J.J. Hardy had been a fan-favorite in Milwaukee (kind of like Joe Crede in Chicago) for his hustle and bat, but suffered through a horrendous 2009 campaign, at one point even being sent down to the minor leagues. The Twins are hoping that he can regain the form of his ’08 year (.283, 24 HR) and anchor the SS position, as Orlanda Cabrera priced himself out of our range.
I guess I would have to say that this is a good trade for the Twins, although there is risk involved in both sides. Hardy could be the next Bret Boone (a sickening thought) while Gomez could star in Brewtown, or Hardy could bat .300 and Gomez could continue to overrun balls and crash into walls. We’ll see what happens.
On a more humorous note, I will perhaps miss this combination most of all:
Greatest interview ever!!
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.
Now that a bit of time has passed and my initial reaction to the ALDS sweep has lessened a bit, I wanted to take a look back and see why the Twins got the broom. Here is one theory, with another to follow in a later post:
We beat ourselves. Plain and simple. No B.S., no excuses. Each and every game the Twins gave their all against a very tough Yankee ballclub, yet there was one key collapse and enough mistakes to go around that the only entity to blame for the sweep is staring us in the mirror.
Game 1: As expected, young starter Brian Duensing had trouble containing the big bats of the Yankees, and C.C. Sabathia was mowing us down like a shiny new Briggs & Stratton. However, in the middle innings, the Twins were just down by a pair of runs and manager Ron Gardenhire decided to go to the bullpen in a key situation to retire Hideki Matsui. Twins fans expected Ron Mahay, but instead Francisco Liriano trotted into the game. My reaction: OMFG. Matsui poked one into the seats and the Yanks never looked back. Poor managing, plain and simple.
Game 2: Too many mistakes to count, really. First was the now-infamous rounding of the base from Carlos Gomez (him being in the lineup in the first place could also be viewed as another Gardy Gaffe), where he allowed himself to be tagged out before Delmon Young could cross home plate and thus erasing a potential early lead and key run for the Twins.
Next, was the complete and utter implosion of closer Joe Nathan. Way too many times down the stretch of the regular season (and in this game, obviously), Joe would come into games with no life on his fastball, the pitch that sets up his nasty breaking stuff. Thus, he would be forced to throw the breaking stuff (which rarely gets over the plate) early and, when the patient Yankee hitters would lay off, he would then have to groove a fastball, exactly what happened to A-Rod.
The thing that sticks in my (and Gardy’s, I bet) craw the most, though, was the debacle when the Twins loaded the bases with no outs in the top of the eleventh inning. Both Gomez and Delmon Young proceeded to swing at the first pitch of each at-bat (proving that they still just don’t “get it”, yet) and record outs en route to no runs coming in at all. I bet that Gardy could have wrung their necks at that point. Thus, the walk-off from Mark Teixera was all but imminent (if we can’t score with the bases loaded and no outs, when would we ever?).
Game Three: The Nick Punto baserunning blunder was the deflation-point of this game, as Punto got a little too excited when he heard the roar of the crowd and decided to round third with his head down at full speed, completely ignoring (well, not even seeing, actually) the “stop” sign that was clearly given from Scotty Ullger. Jeter snagged Span’s bouncing up the middle and easily doubled Little Nicky off. The Yankees then went on to dominate us (especially our bullpen once again) in the later innings.
Not only were those blunders quite apparent, but also present was the fact that the Twins left about a week’s worth of runners on base throughout the entire series. Basically, we rarely got the big hit, and when we finally did we found some way to screw it up. Kubel, Cuddyer, and Young (the hot hitters who propelled us to the AL Central crown) were downright atrocious in nearly every at-bat.
So, grouse all you want about a botched fair-foul call that went the Yanks’ way or the fact that their payroll triples ours, but the sad truth may be that we lost this one all by ourselves.
For about the last 2-3 weeks, the sentiment around the Twins organization has been to just continue to play meaningful baseball for as long as possible. Well, that plan was in serious jeopardy earlier this afternoon, as a loss against the Tigers would have eliminated the Twins from playoff contention.
Thankfully, the Twins were able to win a sloppy game (Baker only went five innings, and the defense committed four errors) thanks to the offense’s ability to pick away at Nate Robertson in the early innings and the bullpen shutting the door (besides two unearned runs) for the rest of the way for the 8-3 victory.
Of course, were not this essentially an elimination game for the Twins, the big story would have been the bad blood that permeated the atmosphere all day long between both clubs.
It all started when Scott Baker skidded a pitch right by the face of Marcus Thames…
Thames glared out towards Baker, but then quietly took his base after being hit. It didn’t look as if Baker had an intention of plunking him, especially in such an important game, and there really isn’t any history between the two.
The next batter then grounded a ball that looked like a double-play all the way, but Thames slid hard into Orlando Cabrera and wasn’t called out for interference…
Was it a close play? Certainly, as the tip of Thames’ toes did touch the base. Yet, it was clear that his intentions were to get in O-Cab’s grill. Borderline dirty, especially if Cabrera would have been injured on the play, but understandable if you are Thames and still feeling the wind of that fastball by your chin.
Things heated right back up again in the next inning, when Thames stepped back into the box. A high hard one forced Thames to move out of the box a bit, and he took a long glare out at Baker before reconsidering a charge. Again, I really couldn’t determine intention from the pitch, as it wasn’t thrown at his body and I don’t think Baker would ever purposely throw at a guy’s head.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t the end of things either. Who knows who (manager, player himself, etc.) instigates these things, but when Jose Mijares came into the game to relieve Matt Guerrier in the eighth, his first pitch sailed right behind Adam Everett. This time, it was clear that retaliation was the name of the game, and both benches were warned, leading to the tossing of one manager (although not the one Twins fans would expect)…
Described as the “Ron Gardenhire Memorial Ejection” by the TV announcers, Jim Leyland was booted by home plate ump Angel Hernandez. It was clear that the Tigers were now miffed, and it didn’t take too long for the final straw to break.
In the top of the ninth, leadoff batter Delmon Young was quickly plunked in the calf by Jeremy Bonderman, who was promptly give the old heave-ho by Hernandez. But then, one of the strangest sights I had ever seen transpired behind home plate…
Young, in obvious pain after getting hit in what looked to be square on the calf muscle, hopped around for a bit until the pain had subsided, then starting having words with a member of his one team! No Tiger player was within ten feet of him, and Young was mouthing obscenities and pointing towards his home dugout. Both benches emptied at that point, but by the time the bullpens got into things nothing really had developed (no punches or kicks thrown).
Dick and Bert were at a bit of a loss in deciphering what had set Delmon Young off, but the only thing they could think of is that Young was angry at Mijares for instigating the beanball war the previous inning. You know, were this not happening in a crucial point of the season, I think that Young would be a big story in the papers and media. To have words with your own teammate who’s just trying to have your back is upsetting, especially coming from a guy who might still be best known in professional baseball for this unsavory incident…
Like I said, little will be made of this incident in the coming days due to the pennant chase, but if Go-Go is playing the outfield at the Dome tomorrow you’ll know why.
Preview (83-76, 2nd, 2.0 GB DET): Lenny DiNardo (0-2, 7.52) vs. Jeff Manship (0-1, 5.81). The Tigers draw Peavy tomorrow, while the pitchers in this game leave little to be desired or hoped for. Could be a crazy one!
(Okay Family Guy fans, have your laugh now…out of your system?!)
You know, I almost started this post by talking about how my expectations for the Twins have changed and how we should start watching them purely “for love of the game” and not expect them to be in any sort of pennant race. But then, I got to thinking about those poor fans in Pittsburgh, Kansas City, and a few other cities around the MLB circuit that haven’t had anything break right over the past decade (or more) and would love to be competing in any race of any kind right now. Do I think the Twins will win the AL Central? No. Especially not after those two horrible series’ against KC and Cleveland, teams that supposedly give us the advantage over Chicago the Detroit down the stretch. But do we still have a chance? However slim, yes we do, and that is the way I look at it (or at least am trying to, anyway).
I think that the past three seasons (’07-’09) have proven that only so many things can break right for a small-market organization. In the early part of this decade, the Twins were reborn as a competitive team thanks to a lot of young talent peaking at the same time. A few years later (’05-’06) the team was still able to contend because of our ability to make steals of trades and keep calling up effective players from the minor leagues. The last three years, though, has seen a complete reversal. The farm system is beginning to get tapped out (they may still be decent, but not like the talent of years ago), and the trades (Bartlett/Garza for Young) haven’t been going our way. Plus, the terrible economics of a no-salary cap sporting structure forced the Twins to lose guys like Torii Hunter and Johan Santana, keystones of the franchise.
That being said, the Twins still have a pretty good nucleus of young talent (Mauer, Morneau, Kubel) that can win in the future, but the trick will be keeping them together. One would hope that Mauer (the biggest fish who needs to be landed and mounted behind home plate) can see that and will elect to stay with his hometown team, but nothing is guaranteed in this game.
Thus, the Twins’ goal for the last month and a half of this season is to be as competitive as possible to show our young talent that this is a team that can seriously compete again in the future. That starts tonight against Texas, who is currently leading the AL Wild Card standings and thus will be a tough team to beat on the road. However, if there is one thing I never underestimate about a Ron Gardenhire-coached team, it is their ability to come back in the face of severe adversity. Just when you think this is about to happen…
…the Twins will do something crazy like sweep the Rangers and get back in the thick of things.
Preview (56-61, 3rd, 3.5 GB CWS): Francisco Liriano (5-11, 5.39) vs. Tommy Hunter (5-2, 2.26).
Well, for the first time since Shannon Stewart was acquired from the Toronto Blue Jays back in 2003, the Minnesota Twins finally pulled the trigger on a mid-season addition, this time in the form of A’s shortstop Orlando Cabrera:
Personally, I think this is a GREAT move for the Twins to have made, as Cabrera plays great defense and hits, at .280, rougly 70-80 points better than Nick Punto on any given day. Plus, he is on a terror with the bat (.377 this month) right now, so maybe we’re getting him just when he is starting to peak this year.
Back in ’03, when Stewart came on board, the Twins miraculously went from a team almost out of contention, to one that won the division almost going away. It’s amazing what a little excitement (from a big trade) can do for the players on a team. Shannon brought the leadoff presence that year, while now Cabrera brings offense out of the #2 hole in the lineup (exactly what we need).
What will be interesting is how Harris, Casilla, and Punto will be used now that Orlando is in town. Harris was terrible at the second sack last year, but can (and will) play third when (not if, unfortunately) Crede needs to be out of the lineup. That leaves Punto and Casilla at second, and assuming Gardy doesn’t stroke out in the near future, we all know what that means (although batting ninth, one is probably just as good as the other).
By the way, I attended the first two Twins/Sox games at the Dome earlier this week, and really, is there any better feeling than sweeping the Sox?! Hey, maybe we can give the Angels a little payback this time around now that Cabrera is on our side!
Other deadline deals:
-Victor Martinez is on the verge of going to the Red Sox.
-Halladay is still a Jay (two minutes to go!)
-Tigers acquired starter Jarrod Washburn
Preview (52-50, 2nd, 2.0 GB DET): Ervin Santana (3-6, 7.29) vs. Nick Blackburn (8-5, 3.75). No Cabrera yet tonight, but Blackie might not need him.
Besides the pun, I could have just as easily titled this blog post “Out Of Our League”, as that is exactly what the Twins are when playing the Angels.
Yesterday, it was the pitching of John Lackey shutting us down. Today, it was one inning that led to our undoing.
In the bottom of the fourth, with the Twins actually leading 2-0 thanks to a Jason Kubel dinger, the Angels scored nine runs against Nick Blackburn and R.A. Dickey. At one point, after the Izturis home run, Gardy actually turned his back to the field in disgust (I thought he was going to stroke out.
This was probably the most action that happened all day (from a Twins fans’ perspective, of course):
A week ago, while the Twins were still in the thick of things in the AL Central (how quickly things can change, huh?), I purchased tickets to the Monday and Tuesday night games next week against the White Sox. Now, I’m just hoping that the division isn’t already cinched up by then.
Preview (48-50, 3rd, 2.0 GB CWS): Anthony Swarzak (2-3, 4.15) vs. Ervin Santana (3-5, 7.29). I fully expect a sweep, so a victory would just be icing at this point.
A recap of the events on the fateful night of 7-20-09 in Minnesota Twins fan history:
From 7:00 to 10:00 p.m., I was at the local theater performance of “The Sound of Music”
It was a great performance, especially considering the small-town venue. It ran a bit longer than I thought it would, so I hurried out to the car radio to get the Twins games on the sub-woofers. At that point, I found out that this was happening…
Basically, it was a good ‘ole fashion beat-down courtesy of guys like Justin Morneau, Jason Kubel, and, well, pretty much everyone else. The high point came at 12-2 in the third inning, I believe, when it looked as if the Twins might set a new single game scoring record.
The only damper on the evening is that the A’s kept trying to crawl their way back into the game due to the fact that Nick Blackburn was essentially throwing batting practice (his sinker wasn’t moving at all). He left after five innings having given up seven runs.
Of course, the bullpen would come in and cobble together the rest, right. Yeah…the lines for the next two Twins hurlers:
Brian Duensing: 1.1 IP, 3 ER
Bobby Keppel: 0.0 IP, 3 ER
As I thought the game was well in hand, I was kind of messing around on Facebook while all the horrendousness was going down, so I don’t remember exactly what transpired, but suffice it to say that Duensing loaded the bases in the seventh, then Keppel gave up a grand slam to Matt Holliday to tie the game at 13-13…
Then Gardy, looking like he could bite the head off a bat, pulled Keppel for Jose Mijares. On the first pitch. Jack Cust took HIM deep, and the A’s had remarkably taken the lead. This was my status quote on Facebook at that point:
But that wasn’t the last of it by far. With two outs and the Twins looking to go down meekly in the bottom of the ninth, Cuddyer doubled and Kubel was intentionally walked. Delmon Young then stepped to the plate and did his level best to prolong the game (by not swinging…his premier aspect). On the second pitch to Young, the ball bounce high of the plate and, to the horror of Oakland catcher Kurt Suzuki, could not be found. Cuddyer easily took third, then made the now-fateful decision to try and tie the game. He came barreling into the plate, slide across the dish right between Suzkuki’s legs and before the tag, and looked to home plate umpire Mike Muchlinski for the “safe” sign that would surely be forthcoming:
Unfortunately, to paraphrase poet Ernest Thayer:
Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright;
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light,
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout;
But there is no joy in Twinsville – mighty Cuddy was called out.
I have watched a lot of baseball over the years, and that “out” call may have been the worst umpiring decision I have ever seen. Cuddyer was halfway across home plate before Suzuki’s glove hit him, yet Muchlinski gave him the fist pump. I am usually not one to call for suspensions/fines lightly, but if Muchlinski doesn’t get some sort of reprimand from MLB I would be disappointed. A major league umpire should make that call in his sleep.
Preview (47-46, 3rd, 1.5 GB CWS): Anthony Swarzak (2-3, 4.50) vs. Dallas Braden (7-8, 3.45). How exactly does a team bounce back from a loss like last night? That is the question I posed to Bert Blyleven on the Carsoup.com “Email the Booth” website before tonight’s game.
Alright Gardy, please explain something to me…your team (and mine, ours, etc.) is playing in a game that, if won, will vault us into second place in the AL Central and only a game behind the leader. The bats (well, Punto, Young, and Casilla) did enough in the early innings to grab a lead, but the pitching (Liriano) faltered late. Thus, the game goes to extra innings and both bullpens are mowing guys down. In the bottom of the twelfth, though, Duensing (who had been mowing guys down the previous inning) gives up a relatively harmless single, then a sacrifice bunt. With Joe Nathan warmed up (or was, an inning or two previous) in the ‘pen, you amble out to the mound to presumably bring the best closer not nicknamed Mo into the game to shut the door, right? I mean, this is a crucial game. When chasing a team down the stretch, every single inning of every single game is critical (was that not a hard enough lesson learned last year?). Yet, this is (metaphorically speaking) what Nathan was doing during that fateful twelfth…
Instead, Gardy calls knuckler R.A. Dickey from the pen. There are so many things wrong with this decision that I would probably overload the server if I were forced to list them all. About the only thing he DID do right was not throw a wild pitch. Of course, the only reason that happened was because his knuckler was so ineffective as to be laughable. Starting with the very first pitch he threw to Ian Kinsler, the Texas second baseman’s eyes looked like beach balls (as did the sphere, I would imagine) and he started taking some monstrous hacks, off which he would just miss or foul the ball straight back (i.e. he was on the ball). In all honesty, I don’t think I’ve ever been so sure of something in my life that Kinsler (or the next batter) was going to win the game. Unfortunately, that is EXACTLY what transpired…
Unless Nathan was considered “off limits” for last night’s game (and I doubt that, as he was warming up in the bullpen on at least one occasion), I can’t think of a single reason why he wasn’t brought in for that situation. I know Gardy likes to take the conservative approach, but that doesn’t fly in the heat of a pennant race. So what if we may need Nathan to close out a game tonight in Oakland…I would have MUCH rather taken my chances with him last night.
Notes: -The Twins signed Mark Grudzielanek to a minor league contract yesterday. They say he won’t be in baseball-ready shape for a month at least. I’m usually good for some trade-deadline satire involving the Twins (“locking up” guys like Punto when other teams pull off blockbusters), but this is just ridiculous.
Preview (47-45, 3rd, 0.5 GB CWS): Nick Blackburn (8-4, 3.06) vs. Gio Gonzalez (1-2, 6.29). The A’s stink, but they have a ton of lefty pitching…meaning more Delmon Young than fans should probably ever see.