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On Being Married to Ron Gardenhire

Posted in baseball,Minnesota Twins by bourdaghs on the September 18th, 2010

It’s been nine years now since we Minnesota Twins’ fans pledged devotion to our manager, Ron Gardenhire: nine years of happiness and bliss, including five divisional championships, with one more in the oven. He certainly brings home the bacon, and on top of that he’s good with the children–not too strict, not too lenient.

In other words, we shouldn’t complain. We love him dearly. And yet, and yet…. He has these annoying little habits that drive us crazy. There’s the thing about batting Delmon Young seventh, for example. Even though Delmon is currently the second best hitter on the team (with Justin Morneau sidelined indefinitely), Gardy won’t move him up in the line up. God only knows why. It just drives us crazy.

Then there’s the thing about not reshuffling the batting order when he rests a regular player. Orlando Hudson, our second baseman, bats second. When Hudson sits for a game and Gardy puts in one of our hitless-wonder bench players, any sane man would rearrange the order and move someone other than the second basemen into that crucial number two slot. Not Gardy, though….

Don’t get us started about the way Gardy uses Nick Punto: we love Gardy dearly, but his friends sometimes drive us nuts.

I’ve been to two Twins’ games the past month. I was at Target Field in Minneapolis on Sunday, August 15, and saw Kevin Slowey throw a no-hitter through seven innings. Whereupon Gardy benches him. Now, I know this was the rational thing to do: Slowey has had arm trouble this year and had already thrown over 100 pitches: there was no way he was going to complete the game and the no-hitter. But I admit it: I booed Gardy when he pulled Slower, and I booed some more when Jon Rauch came in as a reliever and promptly gave up two hits. And then when they showed video of Gardy making a public service announcement on the scoreboard after the eighth inning, I booed some more.

I know my reaction wasn’t very rational or even very smart. But all the little things add up. The pressure builds and builds and suddenly one day you find yourself booing your own manager in the middle of a game the Twins are winning.

I was at U.S. Cellular Field this past Wednesday night to watch our boys clobber the White Sox, 9-3. It was the middle game of a three-game series that the Twins swept, basically sealing their sixth divisional championship under Gardy. It was a lovely game, with a Joe Mauer home run and Brian Duensing once again pitching well. I was happy.

But there were the little things Gardy did that got under my skin. Like, why didn’t he put in a pinch runner when Jim Thome singled in the top of the sixth? Two batters later, Danny Valencia doubled and a younger man would have scurried home, but Big Jim trotted into third and stayed put. And why didn’t Gardy put in a defensive replacement for Delmon Young in the late innings, when the game was already in hand? Young booted a fly ball by Alexei Ramirez in the bottom of the seventh that the official scorekeeper charitably called a triple. If Ben Revere had been out there instead of Young, it might have been an out, and it certainly would not have been anything more than a single.

2010 very much looks to be the Twins’ year, and I expect great things in the playoffs. Which is to say, I think we might even be able to get past the Yankees this year. I’ll be so happy for Gardy when that happens. He’s done an extraordinary job this year, guiding the team to a lopsided division lead without its relief ace (Joe Nathan) all year, and without its top power hitter (Morneau) for the second half. I love the man dearly. But all those annoying little habits of his! Sometimes, it just drives you crazy.

[Postscript 9/19/2010: The great baseball writer Joe Posnanski gives his take on Gardy.)

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