I love baseball and I know a lot about it. I know a lot of facts. I know Kirby Puckett batted .356 in 1988. I know Chuck Knoblauch and Paul Molitor batted .341 for the 1996 Twins. I know Cristian Guzman led the American League in triples in 2000 and 2001. I know these things off the top of my head.
What I don’t know is if the Twins would do better with J.J. Hardy in the No. 2 spot or the No. 9 spot. I don’t know the best way to motivate an English-as-a-second-language player like Luis Rivas. I don’t know when to pull Francisco Liriano in terms of his arm’s health and how he’s pitching.
No one knows these things. They’re matters of opinion. Some people have better opinions than others, but this is also a matter of opinion. I am pretty sure I – a baseball fan who has never worked in the game aside from playing it as a kid – don’t have the best opinion on how to manage a game. I am also sure Twins manager Ron Gardenhire knows a lot more than I do and is doing a fantastic job.
I didn’t think this opinion needed to be said, until I read Joe Posnanski’s latest column: http://joeposnanski.si.com/2010/09/17/my-annual-gardy-rant/ .
If you don’t feel like reading the entire thing, here’s the main point:
In 2008, I wrote a series of columns stating what I believe — that Ron Gardenhire is the best manager in baseball. This led more than a few people to believe that I was completely off my rocker and many of those people were Minnesota Twins fans who watched the man manage every single day and, as such, could recite hundreds and hundreds of reasons why Gardenhire was, in fact, a dreadful manager.
That’s a wide gap — best in the game (me) to dreadful (most of the people writing in). The 2008 Twins, despite hitting the fewest home runs in the league (and having the 10th best slugging percentage) and having a mediocre pitching staff somehow won 88 games and forced a one-game playoff with Chicago, which they lost 1-0. I thought it was another pretty impressive managerial run for a guy who had led his Twins to the playoffs in four of his first six years as manager. Others thought it was another lousy managing job.
Who are these Minnesota Twins fans? What games are they watching? More importantly, what standings are they looking at? I think Gardenhire has done a fantastic job since taking over for the 2002 season. He’s won every year with the exception of 2007. But my opinion is not the main point here. My question is how do these critical fans make themselves experts on the subject? Managing is so much more than filling in the lineup card and calling for hit-and-runs. A manager has to keep everyone motivated and happy, deal with the media, communicate with upper management, work with the fans, scout the opposition and his own team and farm clubs and then he has to manage big league baseball games.
Gardenhire has taken a small-market team and made it into a perennial playoff team. The Twins have been in the playoffs six (I’ll count this year) of the last nine years, or seven if you count the one-game playoff against the White Sox in 2008. With the exception of the last few years, the Twins have played a totally different kind of baseball than the rest of the American League. While the other teams were winning with three-run home runs, the Twins were playing small-ball like it was 1982. Take a look at the lineups of the 2002-2005 Twins: there’s really nothing to be scared of if you’re an opposing pitcher.
If you’re a Gardenhire hater and this doesn’t convince you, that’s fine. I’m just a non-professional baseball writer who has never worked in the game. I don’t have much credibility … but neither do you.