Gardenhire gets two-year deal to stay with Twins
Despite recent struggles, Minnesota has finished first in half of skipper's 12 seasons
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins have long prided themselves as an organization that values loyalty and stability.
That was proved again on Monday, when it was announced that Ron Gardenhire will remain manager of the Twins, having agreed on a two-year contract extension. The Twins also said that the entire coaching staff has been invited to return, as well.
Gardenhire, who has managed the team since 2002, is the second-longest tenured manager in the Majors behind only Mike Scioscia, who has been the Angels' skipper since 2000. The Twins have had just two managers dating back to 1986, when Tom Kelly took over for Ray Miller during that season.
The Twins made the decision official with a press conference at Target Field with general manager Terry Ryan, owner Jim Pohlad, president Dave St. Peter and Gardenhire.
"This is a good day for this organization," Ryan said. "Jim, Dave and I got together and made a decision over the weekend. We offered Ron the extension, and he accepted. We're happy for that. He's a very good manager. We've had a lot of success in this organization. We've fallen on some hard times, there's no doubt about that. Nobody's pretending that everything has gone well the last three years, frankly. We need to clean it up, and we think we have the right man in-house to do that, and I'm very happy he's decided to come back."
Gardenhire, 55, led Minnesota to six division titles in his first nine seasons before the Twins fell into hard times over the past three years. The Twins have lost 96 or more games in each of the past three seasons, which cast doubt on Gardenhire's future as his contract expired at the end of this season.
But given Gardenhire's overall success in his 12 years at the helm and his reputation as a top manager, the Twins decided to stick with him, and Gardenhire said it was an easy decision to come back.
"This was a no-brainer for me, a pretty easy thing," Gardenhire said. "I love it here. I wouldn't want to be anywhere else. I know there was a lot of talk about other ballclubs. This is where I'm comfortable."
St. Peter said the Twins offered Gardenhire a two-year deal as a show of support, as they didn't want his contract status to be an issue again next year. The coaching staff has been invited back on one-year deals, but Gardenhire said he could see some of the coaches changing roles. The Twins are also likely to add a seventh member to the coaching staff, which could be an assistant hitting coach to join Tom Brunansky.
St. Peter also acknowledged the Twins are aware of the backlash that comes with keeping Gardenhire after the club's struggles the last three seasons.
"We're not going to lie and say public relations is not a factor, but we also knew that no matter what decision we made, there were going to be people who supported it or were against it," St. Peter said. "Ron Gardenhire didn't get stupid overnight. He was the Manager of the Year in 2010. I don't think there's been a manager or coach in this town who has ever connected with mainstream Minnesota more than Ron Gardenhire. I think people relate to him. People are angry and want a scapegoat, but at the end of the day, I think most people would agree, Ron Gardenhire isn't the problem. He needs better players."
As St. Peter pointed out, Gardenhire was named the 2010 American League Manager of the Year, and also finished second in the balloting for that award in '03, '04, '06, '08 and '09, with a third-place finish in '02.
He has a career 998-947 record, falling just two victories short of win No. 1,000 this season. The Twins went 8-20 in September en route to a 66-96 record, which was identical to their record in 2012. Gardenhire has also had trouble in the postseason, with a 6-21 record.
Much of their recent struggles have been due to lackluster rotations, as their starting pitchers finished fifth-to-last, second-to-last and last in the Majors in ERA in the last three seasons, respectively.
With a payroll that's roughly at $60 million -- which is a sizable drop from their record $113 million payroll in '11 -- the Twins have plenty of flexibility to add talent this offseason, which Pohlad has signed off on.
"We have to acknowledge that we probably have to go out to the market to supplement the roster for 2014," Pohlad said.
Ryan has long been hesitant to build a team via free agency, as the largest free-agent contract the franchise has ever handed out was Josh Willingham's three-year, $21 million deal before the '12 season. But he knows adding talent via free agency or trades will be critical to their short-term success, as they have a loaded farm system, but many of their top prospects aren't ready to contribute just yet.
Gardenhire said he didn't have to be reassured that he'll have more talent to work with in the coming years, as he said has trust in Ryan's ability to build a winning team.
"The important thing here is there is going to be an effort made," Gardenhire said. "There always has been, but there's going to be an even stronger effort made to get the performance on the field back to where it should be and I want to be a part of that, a big part of that.
"I've been through winning. I know how to win and Terry knows how to win. I think both of us getting together on this thing and putting together a ball club out there, teaching some young kids and mixing in some veterans with it, we believe we can do those things."