The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Ed Thoma

September 9, 2012

Thoma: Tom Kelly: retired but still significant

— The history of the Twins in Minnesota can be divided into two parts: the Griffith years and the Pohlad years.

And the central figure of the Pohlad years — still going on — was and is Tom Kelly.

Kelly stepped down from the dugout job more than a decade ago, but his philosophies about the game, his priorities, remain.

I long ago dubbed them the Kelly Virtues: The Twins put a higher value on control than on velocity, on hitting for average than for power. It is not enough in their scheme for a player to hit; he has to help on defense as well.

The degree to which the Twins cling to the Kelly Virtues shifts from time to time — Kelly managed the Twins for more than 15 years, and you can’t find any team with a regular along the lines of Josh Willingham — but the basic principles remain.

To be sure, Kelly is and was not alone in pursuing and enforcing this ideal. Terry Ryan, in a variety of roles — scouting director, assistant general manager, special advisor, two terms as general manager — might be just as crucial. But TK, who unlike Ryan bridges the Griffith and Pohlad eras, was there first.

The Twins on Saturday retired Kelly’s No. 10, and the game they played fit the style the old manager preferred: The starter threw six shutout innings with just two strikeouts; the offense scored three runs without an extra base hit.

That may not be the sabermetric ideal, but a win is a win, and Kelly on Saturday night had a World Series win on each hand. It worked for him.

Whether it will work going forward is another matter.

Kelly and Cooperstown

I wrote years ago on Kelly’s Hall of Fame possibilities, and nothing’s changed:

He has two World Series titles and not a lot else on his resume other than longevity. Kelly has a sub-.500 career record and no other pennants or divisional titles, not even a lot of contending years.

Three titles pretty much ensures induction, but there are others with two who’ve been left out (off the top of my head, Ralph Houk, Danny Murtaugh and Cito Gaston), and there are managers with one who are in (for example, Earl Weaver and Whitey Herzog).

Kelly’s had opportunities to get back in the managerial game, but he genuinely seems content with what he’s done and what he’s doing.

He’s not going to the Hall of Fame, and that’s OK.

Edward Thoma (344-6377; ethoma@mankatofreepress.com) maintains his Baseball Outsider blog. Follow him on Twitter @bboutsider.

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