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The question, posed to me by a former co-worker in a chance encounter, struck me as preposterous.

When are the Twins going to fire Gardy?

“Around the 12th of Never,” I quickly responded.

Fire Ron Gardenhire? The Twins don’t operate that way.

Carl Pohlad brought in Andy MacPhail in 1986 to remake the organization, and since then — more than 25 years — the Twins have had two managers, three general managers (counting Terry Ryan as one), two pitching coaches, one farm director ...

The Twins have been, through good times and bad, a model of stability. Pohlad stuck with Ryan and Tom Kelly through the dreary years of the late 1990s, and the team’s success in the following decade is testimony to the proposition that stability breeds winning.

But ... Carl Pohlad is dead. His sons are in control now, and sons have been known to see things differently than their fathers.

And certainly managers have been fired for better records than the 2011-12 Twins have racked up.

So dismissing Gardenhire is not that far-fetched a notion. I’m not advocating it (yet), merely acknowledging the possibility.

So I ask myself: What would the Twins gain from such a departure from their norm? What is wrong with this team than changing the manager will fix?

At  least one blogger looks at the attendance this spring and suggests that firing Gardenhire will spur the fans into coming back. I doubt it; there are many reasons people go to a ball game, but watching the manager is seldom one of them.

A better argument: The Twins Way of the past quarter-century leaned heavily on good defense behind strike-throwing pitchers. The Twins defense has declined steadily during the Gardenhire era, putting increased stress on a pitching staff that doesn’t miss many bats.

The lineup this season typically has had a converted catcher in left field, a mishmash of out-of-position players in right, a 38-year-old at shortstop ... the decisions made coming into the season universally favored offense over defense. That wasn’t the case 10 years ago.

How much of that change is Gardenhire, and how much the front office? There is no clear answer. It appeared this spring that the manager wanted the younger Brian Dozier at shortstop and was overruled by the general manager; it also appeared that the decision in the final weeks of spring training to de-emphasize Ben Revere came from the manager.

Ryan some years ago, in announcing a contract extension for Gardenhire, praised the manager for “protecting the pitchers.” That does not appear to be the case now. Significant injuries to significant pitchers are mounting; an organization that once never had a pitcher need Tommy John surgery now has multiple cases every year.

My sense is that the Twins have lost touch with their defining principles. What I can’t accurately access is how much responsibility for that Gardenhire bears.

And beyond it all: I find it difficult to believe that Ryan returned to the GM job to fire Gardenhire. I suspect that if ownership suggest Ryan fire Gardy, Ryan will resist, and if Ryan resists, ownership will relent.

That said: I expect the record to get better. If it doesn’t, there will be blood on the floor at some point.

Edward Thoma is a Free Press staff writer. He is at 344-6377 or at ethoma@mankatofreepress.com. He also has a baseball blog at www.mankatofreepress.com.

 

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