Time certainly does fly, doesn’t it?
Ten years ago today, the Minnesota Twins replaced longtime manager Tom Kelly with a former third-base coach who had no previous big league managerial experience. That man was Ron Gardenhire, and 10 years later, he is still at the helm of the Twins.
For much of Gardenhire’s tenure, he has been a well-respected skipper. No doubt his stock has never been lower than it is right now, with the Twins coming off of a 99-loss season. Much of the criticism fired at last year’s team was due to the lack of fundamentals, which often is an indictment of the manager.
But there is no questioning that Gardenhire has enjoyed tremendous success in Minnesota, despite most of his years being spent in the revenue-depleting Metrodome.
The Twins have won six AL Central titles in his decade of work. His career record of 866-755 leads to a .534 winning percentage. He is seventh among active managers in career victories (I think), and no manager has a longer active tenure with their club than Gardenhire does with the Twins.
While it’s been a career marked by regular-season success, it’s also become just as known for playoff disappointment. In his first season, Gardenhire guided the Twins to a first-round series win over Oakland to put Minnesota in the 2002 ALCS against the Angels.
Since then, no Twins team has won a playoff series. And that is despite some pretty high hopes for the 2006 and 2010 Twins squads that entered the playoffs. In 2006, the Twins dropped an ALDS series to what looked like on paper to be an inferior A’s team, then in 2010 the Twins couldn’t end the postseason spell that the Yankees seem to have over them.
In some ways, Gardenhire couldn’t be more different than his predecessor Kelly, in both on-field success and in demeanor.
Kelly was known for being a behind-the-scenes manager. He was tough on young players. Doug Mientkiewicz once said playing for Kelly was like “walking on eggshells.” Kelly’s teams didn’t make the playoffs often over his 15-plus seasons, but the two times they did, the Twins won World Series titles.
Gardenhire, on the other hand, seems much more engaging. He is often called a “player’s manager.” And while Kelly rarely got into confrontations with umpires, Gardenhire doesn’t shy away from it.
They both enjoyed success as managers. But moving forward, Gardenhire may have to channel Kelly’s hard-lined approach to get the Twins back on track.