Flashback to October of 2010, and you’d find the Minnesota Twins finishing up a 94 win regular season worthy of claiming the team’s second straight American League Central Division Championship. Ron Gardenhire, the 2010 AL manager of the year, was celebrating his sixth AL Central title in only nine seasons at the helm, becoming the first manager in MLB history to achieve such a feat. Joe Mauer was one year removed from winning the AL MVP, and all things seemed to point decidedly upward in Minnesota’s baseball world. Flash forward to today and you’ll find that Gardenhire, the team’s now 12-year manager, has yet to compile more than 66 wins in each of the last three seasons following the 2010 campaign, and the state of his position is extremely questionable.
The 2014 Twins are set to begin Spring Training with plenty of new faces in the clubhouse. Free agent signings Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes will be added to the starting rotation, and they will give a definite boost to the pitching staff. Jason Kubel and Jason Bartlett will likely be added to the lineup at some point in the season, and Joe Mauer will now stand next to first base every day rather than squat behind home plate every once in a while. With these changes, a wave of optimism has swept over Minnesota and has fans everywhere eager for the 2014 season to start. Perhaps they’re too eager.
Dating back to the 1940s, only eight MLB managers have kept their jobs following three consecutive seasons consisting of fewer than 70 wins each. Ron Gardenhire will join that list in 2014. In these past eight scenarios, the most wins to come out of a manager’s “mercy season” was 69 by Tom Kelly and the Twins in 2000. Five of the eight managers were fired during the season, and the only skipper to continue filling out lineup cards for his team beyond that season was Gardenhire’s predecessor, Tom Kelly.
The 2014 Twins have made considerable and necessary changes to their lineup, but the odds against them might be too much to take. Ron Gardenhire certainly has his work cut out for him.