Over the last couple of months, I have heard many assaults on the Twins front office and management, whether it be from uncles and cousins or just anonymous malcontents on Twitter. It’s to the point that I feel the need to stick up for Terry Ryan and, yes, even Ron Gardenhire.
I will start with Terry Ryan. I had my issues with him during his first tenure, and that lay entirely on his reluctance to make big moves to get the team over the top. More often than not, the team stood pat at the trade deadline, and watching other contenders upgrade drove me insane. There were complaints about the complacency among the players as well, which I found even more bothersome.
This is no longer an issue, as he inherited a team in his return that was no threat to contend. It was also a team that had no hope of contending in the near future either, thanks to a barren farm system to go along with their bleak output at the major league level. Bill Smith had been more aggressive early in his tenure, but now was seized by indecision and unwilling to admit that the team needed to rebuild. IT was really no fault of his own, as the Twins were riddled with injury and rocked by attrition early in his tenure, but not beginning the process of reinventing the team was an error that fell entirely on Smith’s shoulders. Smith was replaced by Terry Ryan with the mission of rebuilding a team, bringing them back to contention.
In this regard, Terry Ryan has been much more aggressive, and by most accounts, he has quickly cobbled together the best farm system in the league, thanks to savvy draft picks, international signings, trades and patiece. Sure, he hasn’t been able to field a winning tea over the past two years, but it’s hard to blame him for that either. I’ve pointed out the fact that the primary issue with the Twins has been pitching, but it’s also been clear to me that free agent pitchers simply have not been interested in coming to Minnesota. He has instead been prudent with his expenditures, realizing that there were no quick fixes available. If you have a better solution, I would love to hear it.
Now for the manager. I’ve never been Ron Gardenhire’s biggest fan, but the primary reason for that was the credit he received that I didn’t feel he had earned, and all of his unwavering apologists. The Twins were able to win the AL Central because the division was mediocre and they simply had superior talent. Say what you want about managers, but more often than not, over the course of the regular season, talent usually wins out. The Twins at present do not have talent on their roster, not more than the Tigers or Indians, in any event, and may even be worse off than the Royals. As I won’t give Gardenhire the credit others have for winning the AL Central last decade, I won’t vilify him for the struggles the team has had lately.
In my mind, manager skill is most well represented in the post season, where you can see how relaxed his players are, in game strategy is more magnified and the state of his bullpen is critical. Ron Gardenhire is 0 for his last 12, and the team has been tense, used bad strategy and a shaky bullpen. I fault him for that, but not the last couple seasons.
Managers shouldn’t have to be teachers at the major league level, as players should come to the Majors as nearly complete projects that need a bit of guidance. Still, with a tea as young as the Twins, there is a learning curve. Gardenhire was a former infielder, and I have to believe that he is part of the reason that Brian Dozier and Trevor Plouffe are getting more comfortable in the field. The Twins aren’t going to make the postseason this year, so who cares if his in game strategy is crummy? (For the record, Buck Showalter is the only manager who is significantly impacting his team’s fortunes this year). At least there are players who will be part of the future, and are getting better
Instead of whining about the team, and their slow return to relevance, perhaps we all just need to look at the bigger picture and anticipate what is to come.