COMMENTARY | Ron Gardenhire remains stuck on 997 victories as manager of the Minnesota Twins after his team was swept away in four games by the Oakland A's over the weekend.
With seven games remaining this season, will Gardenhire ever get to the 1,000-win milestone with the Twins?
On Sept. 3, the Twins won for the fourth time in five games of a Texas road trip to get Gardenhire to 993 victories, and it appeared to be almost a foregone conclusion that he would get to 1,000 with almost a month left in the season. Especially since the Twins were 24-23 in their last 47 games over six weeks.
However, Joe Mauer's concussion symptoms have continued to linger, and the Twins have been understandably cautious with their star player at the end of a lost season. With Mauer out, the offense has disappeared for long stretches. The Twins also have been missing Samuel Deduno, the best of the majors' worst starting pitching staff, after he had shoulder surgery, and first baseman Justin Morneau, who was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates in August.
That has left the Twins with a daily lineup that is very short on experience and a rotation that is very short on quality, which is a bad combination. On Sunday, Sept. 22, in the finale against the A's, Trevor Plouffe was the only player in the Twins' lineup that had previously played a full season in the major leagues. Brian Dozier and Pedro Florimon were the only other players in the current lineup that had not spent some time this season in the minor leagues.
So, Gardenhire is still stuck on 997, and he needs three victories in the final seven games to get to 1,000 this season. Those seven games will be played at home, but it will be against the Detroit Tigers and Cleveland Indians, two teams that will be fighting for a playoff spot or a better position in the postseason.
The real question remains that if Gardenhire doesn't get to 1,000 victories this season, will he ever get to 1,000 with the Twins? This is a valid question because there are no guarantees he will be back in 2014.
The Twins' loss on Sunday was their 90th of the season, which gave them three consecutive 90-loss seasons. Prior to this streak, the Twins had not loss 90 games in a season since 2000, which was a fourth straight 90-loss season. If Gardenhire doesn't get 1,000 victories, it means the Twins will have lost at least 95 games for three consecutive seasons and have showed little or no progress.
For just about any other franchise, this would mean Gardenhire would almost certainly be gone at the end of the season, especially since he's in the final year of his contract. However, the Twins rarely make changes to their management team and haven't fired a manager since 1986, when the Twins fired Ray Miller and promoted third base coach Tom Kelly to manager. When Kelly retired following the 2001 season, Gardenhire was promoted from third base coach to manager.
Of course, Gardenhire could decide he's had enough and step aside following the season. However, he will only be 56 in October, so retirement doesn't seem likely. Even less likely is the thought of Gardenhire seeking a position with another franchise after being a major league coach or manager for the Twins every year since 1991.
This will be a pivotal offseason for the Twins. They will be coming off the worst three-year run of Twins baseball despite attendance remaining strong thanks to beautiful Target Field. The Twins also will be hosting the 2014 All-Star game and will somewhere around $40 million to spend this offseason thanks to several contracts coming to an end, including Morneau's.
The Twins also will most likely be getting several top prospects to the major leagues at some point in 2014, including Miguel Sano, Byron Buxton and Alex Meyer. The Twins will have to decide if they believe Gardenhire is the manager they want to lead the next wave of Twins.
That decision could be affected by how well the Twins finish the season. So, if Gardenhire can't get to 1,000 victories this season, he might not ever with the Twins.
Darin McGilvra has been a professional sportswriter since 1997 and has been a Twins follower since Kirby Puckett's breakout season of 1986. He has been published in The Californian, a newspaper covering Riverside County, and numerous other websites.
Follow Darin on Twitter at @SoCalTwinsfan.
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