Gardenhire out as Twins manager
Ron Gardenhire wasn't fired. Nor did he resign. There was no pressure on him to throw any of his coaches overboard after a fourth straight 90-loss season. Instead, the Minnesota Twins are looking for just their third manager in nearly three decad...
Ron Gardenhire wasn’t fired. Nor did he resign.
There was no pressure on him to throw any of his coaches overboard after a fourth straight 90-loss season.
Instead, the Minnesota Twins are looking for just their third manager in nearly three decades after a “mutually agreed upon” decision that it was time for a new voice after 13 years with Gardenhire at the helm.
That was the phrase Twins general manager Terry Ryan used Monday afternoon as Gardenhire, his longtime friend, sat a few feet away at Target Field.
“I feel like he’s my brother, not my manager,” Ryan said. “He’s just a good baseball man. He does a lot of things right. Our next manager will have a lot of the same attributes Ron has.”
Gardenhire, 56, had one year left on the contract extension he received after last season. He has been offered another unspecified position in the organization but said he wasn’t sure if he would accept it.
“I’m gone; I’m out of here because we didn’t win,” Gardenhire said. “That’s what it gets down to. That’s what it should get down to. Sometimes people need to hear a different voice. I’ve been here a long time. I have no problem with this. I agree with this.”
Twins owner Jim Pohlad and team president Dave St. Peter were part of the decision-making process that led to Gardenhire’s removal. They weren’t at Monday’s news conference because of scheduling conflicts, the Twins said, but both men were expected to answer questions from the media at a later point.
“This isn’t just one person’s opinion,” Ryan said. “We decided to make this change.”
Gardenhire has been in the Twins organization since his final year as a player with the Class AAA Portland Beavers in 1987. He has managed in their minor-league system, coached on the big-league staff under Tom Kelly and taken the Twins to the postseason six times in nine years as American League Central champions from 2002-10.
The Twins hadn’t dismissed a manager since Kelly replaced Ray Miller with 23 games left in the 1986 season. Kelly held the post through the 2001 season before retiring and turning the reins over to Gardenhire amid the threat of contraction.
Ryan said Kelly suffered a “minor stroke” last week but was released from the hospital Monday and will be healthy enough to participate in the manager search.
Both internal and external candidates will be considered. Big-league managerial experience will not be a prerequisite, Ryan said.
Bench coach Terry Steinbach and infield coach Paul Molitor are considered the strongest candidates on the current staff.
Other candidates could include former Twins first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz, who led Class A Fort Myers to its first Florida State League championship in 22 years as a Twins affiliate this season; Class AAA Rochester manager Gene Glynn, who has extensive experience as a big-league coach; and minor-league infield/baserunning instructor Sam Perlozzo, who managed the Baltimore Orioles for parts of three seasons (2005-07).
In addition, Jake Mauer, older brother of franchise first baseman Joe Mauer, has drawn praise for his work as a manager the past seven years in the Twins system. Jake Mauer, 35, has managed Class A Cedar Rapids the past two years.
Since the start of 2011, only the Astros (416 losses) have lost more games than the Twins, who have gone 265-383 for a .409 winning percentage. The Twins went 70-92 this season, the fifth-worst record in baseball.
With a career mark of 1,068-1,039, Gardenhire ranked fifth among active big-league managers in both wins and losses. Gardenhire joined the 1,000-win club on April 5 in Cleveland and later in the year suffered his 1,000th loss as a big-league manager.
His career winning percentage of .507 ranked 11th among his active peers.
Only Los Angeles Angels manager Mike Scioscia has been on the job longer than Gardenhire. Kelly remains the only other manager since World War II to be retained after four straight seasons of 90 or more losses.
Kelly, after his teams averaged 94 losses from 1997-2000, guided the 2001 Twins to 85 wins and a second-place finish in the division. With Monday’s decision, Gardenhire will not get that opportunity.
Home attendance at Target Field dropped to 2.25 million in 2014. The per-game average of 27,785 was 19th in the majors and the Twins’ lowest since 2005 at the Metrodome.
Even with the All-Star Game coming to the Twin Cities for the first time since 1985, the Twins saw their home attendance decline by 9.2 percent.
This season marked the fourth straight year home attendance has declined for the Twins since they opened Target Field to rave reviews in 2010. Since the losing started in 2011, Twins home attendance has declined by 29 percent.
On-field payroll, meanwhile, has dropped from an average of $103 million in the first three seasons at Target Field to between $80 million and $85 million to open the past two seasons.
Seven times in his tenure, Gardenhire has finished in the top three of voting for American League Manager of the Year. He won the award in 2010.