Gardy’s done a good job

Published 8:14 am Thursday, September 25, 2008

 In the turmoil of the past weeks it was difficult to take the long view regarding our Minnesota Twins. Fans grew discouraged and sought an outlet for their frustrations as our boys have repeatedly refused to seize the Central Division despite being given many opportunities to do so. If the team had just played .500 ball, broke even, they would be preparing for the postseason and be concerned about which 25 players to take into the playoffs and who was going to start the first game.

Here we are at the end of the season and the Twins have stayed, to use an overworked phrase “in contention.” While watching the Twins fail these past few weeks leading up to the end of the season, they need to blame someone or something. The natural target was Ron Gardenhire. It’s easy to do. Second guessing baseball managers is almost an art form. A manager can make the right decision, according to all available facts, 90 percent of the time and turn out to be wrong 90 percent of the time through the fortunes of fate. A rock in front of a grounder to the shortstop, or a home run bouncing off a foul pole, or any such instance beyond Gardy’s or anyone’s control.

OK, well, how did Gardy do this year? I don’t agree with some of his decisions; His use of Joe Nathan and his apparent love affair with Nick Punto. Punto must come over and mow Gardy’s lawn every Saturday. Trading Jason Bartlett was a big mistake, but I don’t think Gardy had much say in that. Bartlett is a major league shortstop, Punto is not.

Email newsletter signup

However, when you take a look at the team in its entirety, I think Gardy has done an excellent job and if not for the Tampa Bay manager, would be given strong consideration for the Manager of the Year award.

The anticipated team at the beginning of the year was Mike Lamb at third, Adam Everett at short, with Brendan Harris at second. A newcomer, Delmon Young in left, and a near-rookie Carlos Gomez in center. The core of the team was Mauer, Morneau and Cuddyer. Cuddyer was not able to contribute much this summer leaving Mauer and Morneau as the only mainstays.

The pitching staff was in similar disarray with new acquisition Livan Hernandez the only veteran. The rest of the staff was untested youngsters with the exception of Boof Bonser who disappointed his manager among others and left for the bullpen where he continued his pitching problems. Hernandez soon left, as the league became used to his smoke and mirrors approach.

Gardy was fortunate that after injuries to Punto and Tolbert, Alexi Casilla was called up and showed a vast improvement over 2007, giving the Twins one solid middle infielder. Cuddyer and Everett were also injured. Span joined the team and gave it a needed boost. Handling center fielder Carlos Gomez called for the wisdom of the ages. It would have been very easy to play the blame game with Gomez. Gardy gave the young outfielder confidence as he struggled and Gomez is again contributing.

Gardy has put together an acceptable infield composed of utility players, rookies, near-rookies and Justin Morneau. The outfield has played well, particularly Span in right field. But where Gardy should be lauded is his, and pitching coach Rick Anderson’s handling of their young pitchers. After biting the bullet and letting Hernandez go, he made it into a major league staff even though absent an effective relief corps. To give you an idea of the lengths Gardy has gone. He relieved his starting pitcher in a must-game at Tampa Bay with a September call-up.

Gardenhire may not be the best tactician in the Bigs, but he creates opportunities for his players to do well. You can’t ask for much more than that.