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Is Ron Gardenhire the rare manager who won’t get fired after three straight 90-loss seasons?

Jul 10, 2013, 2:14 PM EDT

ron-gardenhire-twins AP

With the Twins free-falling their way to a third straight 90-loss season the speculation about longtime manager Ron Gardenhire’s job security is starting to simmer a little bit here in Minnesota.

I asked on Twitter how many managers in baseball history have avoided being fired after three consecutive 90-loss seasons and SABR’s own Jacob Pomrenke came through with the information.

It has happened eight times since 1945:

Larry Rothschild     Rays       1998-2000
Felipe Alou          Expos      1998-2000
Tom Kelly            Twins      1997-2000
Joe Torre            Mets       1978-1980
Darrell Johnson      Mariners   1977-1979
Preston Gomez        Padres     1969-1971
Casey Stengel        Mets       1962-1964
Zack Taylor          Browns     1948-1951

Some other interesting tidbits from Pomrenke (who you should follow on Twitter, where he goes by @BuckWeaver): Four of the eight managers who kept their jobs after three straight 90-loss seasons were from expansion teams, so obviously tons of losing was expected/accepted. And five of the eight managers who stuck around after three straight 90-loss seasons were fired by the middle of the next year.

And of course as a Twins fan Tom Kelly’s tenure is most familiar to me, as well as being most relevant to Gardenhire. Kelly managed the Twins to four consecutive 90-loss seasons from 1997-2000 and then went 85-77 in 2001, at which point he stepped down from the job and retired at age 50. Gardenhire replaced him.

All of which is a long way of saying that if the Twins lose 90 games again this season and Gardenhire keeps his job for 2014 he’ll be one of just a few managers since 1945 to avoid getting the boot in a comparable situation. Right now the Twins are 37-50, which is a 93-loss pace, and Gardenhire’s contract is up in 75 games.

  1. Kevin Gillman - Jul 10, 2013 at 2:24 PM

    3 managers though in the last 30 years speaks of volumes in today’s sports world, where one losing season warrants a firing.

  2. dondada10 - Jul 10, 2013 at 2:31 PM

    Terry Collins’ contract is up at season’s end. I would love to bring Garednhire home to Queens where he played the entirety of his career.

    • neoshweaty - Jul 10, 2013 at 2:37 PM

      I think Terry Collins has done a good enough job given the pieces the team has in place. There just isn’t enough talent on the team to warrant doing anything but getting someone cheap (since Gardenhire is surely going to be expensive) or letting Terry continue to manage.

      • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Jul 10, 2013 at 3:05 PM

        A rotation of Harvey, Niese, Wheeler, Gee, Heffner could win quite a few games. Parnell has been solid as a closer. Wright is locked up, Murphy has been pretty good, so if Duda and Davis get their stuff together, this team could have a decent core already. I believe they have a ton of money coming off the books at the end of this season (and they are in the world’s biggest media market with their own TV network and brand new stadium), so they could be big players in free agency in the off-season.

        All of which is to say, I think the Mets had better start making some noise next season and plan for it accordingly. I don’t know if Gardenhire or Collins or someone entirely different would be best for that, but I hope they don’t hide behind some “we’re not in it anyway” garbage.

      • neoshweaty - Jul 10, 2013 at 3:28 PM

        Wheeler still isn’t a sure bet. I want to see what he does the rest of this season. There are some interesting pieces in the minors as well to fill in the roster. Puello (depending on if he is legit and how this Biogenesis stuff plays out. D’Arnaud, Snydergarden (however you spell his name), Wilmer Flores, and Rafael Montero are others that are/have shown some promise.

        I agree with your overall point. I’ve been a fan of the team the majority of my relatively short life and it’s just frustrating having so many seasons of mediocrity and losing when the other team across the river is constantly in the playoffs contending for championships. This coupled with the questionable state of the Wilpons’ finances (as well as their overall incompetence) makes me very interested to see what the hell happens this offseason. If we assume that Wright, Murphy, Davis, and Duda return (not sure of the state of their contracts other than Wright). That leaves holes at CF, C, LF, and SS among other positions depending on call ups and who the team keeps. The FA market is very very slim from what I see and I don’t really want the team trading too many of the prospects we have.

        Basically, we’ll see. I want to see a team that fucking contends. Tired of 5 consecutive losing seasons (including this one). I just want to see the team in the playoffs for the fucking 4th team in 16 or so years.

    • fissels - Jul 10, 2013 at 3:12 PM

      I doubt Gardenhire would want to manage in the NY environment. Fans are too rude and the media is in your face 24/7.

      • dluxxx - Jul 10, 2013 at 3:31 PM

        And we all know how he crumbles when he sees a Yankees hat.

  3. specialkindofstupid - Jul 10, 2013 at 2:38 PM

    Tom Kelly‚Äôs tenure is (…) most relevant to Gardenhire. Kelly managed the Twins to four consecutive 90-loss seasons from 1997-2000.

    Relevant, true, but probably also not a true apples-to-apples comparison. Kelly won two World Series trophies for the Twins. That kind of success buys you leeway. Gardenhire just doesn’t have the same level of (past) success to lean on.

    • Cris E - Jul 11, 2013 at 10:03 AM

      When Gardy had decent talent he went to the playoffs. What’s relevant about Kelly is that he’s still in the front office and he’s one of the people deciding Gardenhire’s fate. Everyone is painfully aware of the situation in MN: it’s not going to get fun again for another year or two, and until then the real work is happening in the minors so the major league manager’s role isn’t that important. As the kids start moving to the bigs (Hicks and Arcia and Gibson this year) Gardy will need to be judged on how they develop more than his record. Kelly sat in this very spot 15 years ago and with Terry Ryan watching, and they know.

  4. albertmn - Jul 10, 2013 at 2:39 PM

    Are there other things Gardenhire and his staff could do for this team? Maybe, and I would REALLY like to see a change in pitching coach. But, to a large degree, they just don’t seem to have enough talent to compete. With that said, it may be that the team needs a change, to hear a different voice, and someone that is maybe better at developing the young guys. I think Gardenhire is a fine manager, but it is possible that it would be better for both Gardy and the team to move on to fresh starts.

    • Cris E - Jul 11, 2013 at 10:13 AM

      I don’t think they’ll move him until they think he’s actually a problem. Guys in the clubhouse got a little too complacent last year, so they did throw out Gardy’s old drinking buddies over the winter and I think it was a good change. Brunansky has been a marked improvement as hitting coach, and getting someone like Bobby Cuellar on the staff so they can communicate with the Spanish speakers was decades overdue. I think Anderson got the reprieve because of the success he’s had with relievers and the bus crash nature of the injuries to the 2012 rotation, but he could easily get the ax this winter. This year things are just not that different and Cuellar is literally in the bullpen if they want to make a move.

  5. northstarsmitty - Jul 10, 2013 at 2:50 PM

    This is one of the less talked about, more interesting topics in baseball. Argue away, Gardy is a Top 5 manager in all baseball. Don’t forget he won 6 out of 9 division titles during a stretch in which the Twins had healthy, talented players. UNFORTUNATELY, media, writers, poersonnel, seem to forget that BRUCE SMITH is the reason for this teams absolute failure over the years. I could write a novel about his horrid front office moves and decision making after Ryan left. He was so awful, the Twins begged Ryan right out of ‘retirement’ to run the team again. We have already made huge strides in securing a promising future for this team with young prospects. Our impatience under Smith has yielded 5+ All Stars with other teams that we let go or traded too early (Nathan, Crain, Gomez, Cuddyer, Hardy) Do you think Gardy is mad about seeing the team he coaches go to hell from someone above him? You bet! This is a game of patience at this point. The Twins have no way to measure the outcome of this decision, so keeping him and letting him take less pay for another chance here is solid option. If we get that fresh start, sure we can be positive and wait to see if the replacement works, but I can see the flip side and see Gardy representing the All Star team of the AL or NL with his new team next year… that would be the icing on the cake with talent forced out thanks to Smith

    • rmcd13 - Jul 10, 2013 at 2:57 PM

      Gardenhire seems to be a good coach and clubhouse manager, but his tactical decisions are terrible. For a team not in contention, he is probably a good fit. When the Twins begin nearing contention again, it might be prudent to find a replacement.

      • Cris E - Jul 11, 2013 at 10:24 AM

        What’s funny about that is that he initially got the job when Kelly stepped aside as his kids came into their own twelve years ago. He was the guy to move them from development to contention mode.

      • kenbuddha - Jul 14, 2013 at 1:52 PM

        To Cris E’s response. And someone like Brunansky will move the new kids from development to contention mode. Kelly stopped developing as a manager, just like Gardenhire has stopped. It’s time to move on.

    • dluxxx - Jul 10, 2013 at 3:12 PM

      Wait a minute! Bruce Smith? Like the punishing defensive end of Buffalo Bills fame?

      Or was that Bill Smith?

      Regardless, Terry Ryan has made plenty of blunders as well, but I agree that much of the fault in the current state of the Twins can be placed on mismanagement by the front office. Terry Ryan not retired, however. He was just working in a different capacity within the organization and surely had some input into some of those personell decisions.

      I’m all for shaking things up with managers, front office personel, etc. However, it’s going to take some major house cleaning to change the “Twins Way.”

    • Cris E - Jul 11, 2013 at 10:22 AM

      Let’s try to be fair here: Bruce Smith really didn’t get to devote much of his attention to baseball until after he retired from the NFL. If it turned out managing his rotisserie team was just not sufficient preparation for the job then team management should own that decision. Ahem.

      To address your real points, yes Gardy wins when he has guys. Yes some stupid things happened in the office, and sure he’ll win again when the kids show up. But that’s true just about everywhere with just about every manager. And your points about individual players are silly (ie they couldn’t had gotten the most excellent Hardy without parting with Gomez four years too early, Cuddyer’s move has opened the door for the young OFs like Arcia to play, and the only part of the team that hasn’t really sucked over the past few years is the bullpen that absorbed the losses of Nathan and Crain.) It’s been a frustrating couple of seasons to watch, but your screed had no coherence.

  6. historiophiliac - Jul 10, 2013 at 3:04 PM


    • historiophiliac - Jul 10, 2013 at 3:47 PM

      Thanks for the kisses!

  7. moogro - Jul 10, 2013 at 4:56 PM

    He gets a pass because he drinks a lot, gets fat and fishes a lot like Hrbek and Puckett, and Minnesotans like that. j/k

    For those out of the loop, the Mind Control is pretty strong in Minnesota. The Twins use the usual propaganda really well: scrappy, gritty, play the game the right way, small ball, we won a lot of years with Radke-ish pitchers, infielders that can’t hit or get on base, Tom Kelly won with very little, etc. You name it.

    These are established as the normative, ways to win long term, sustainable, slow growth, steady, survivable in wavy economic waters, etc. and things like OBP and Johan Santana are crazy dreams or outliers and not to be trusted long term. In short, they make the Twins an extension of the Minnesotan household checkbook, appealing to Minnesotan’s pride and insecurities about free spending and hard work. It is a form of pride that is a form of compensation vis-vis large markets: “They’ll eventually take our players, but WE know how to WIN.”

    Once the Twins have you adopt this, they put this awesome packaging over it by keeping Kelly and other former stars around in spring training and throughout the season to coach and do P.R. This is further reenforced by an insanely lazy and unthinking media, who clearly don’t want to go outside the Twins narrative in print and radio. Only in recent years have the relentless shaming of the Twins by analysts like Gleeman and others seemed to cut through. For example, Gleeman in the Geek used to be a 2013 Twins fan talking to a 2001 fan, now it’s more like 2013 talking to 2008.

    This year the Twins are not good. It’s hard to say if someone besides Rick Anderson would do better. But Gardenhire has changed a bit, and seeing things like Mauer batting second is nice. I think the job is his as long as he wants it, unless he insists on tethering himself to Anderson.

    • coachbrew - Jul 10, 2013 at 8:54 PM

      This is the most spot-on description of the baseball culture in Minnesota that I’ve read in a while. A lot of the time the Twins seem more concerned with spin and PR than actual baseball, and everybody lets them get away with it.

    • Cris E - Jul 11, 2013 at 10:36 AM

      That’s been very true, but there have been some changes over the past season or two. Ryan has changed the development model to include more ceiling guys than skills guys, and the minors are starting to accumulate real power pitching prospects. Gardenhire has been moved out of his comfort zone a little to accept changes to his coaching staff or to change Mauer’s usage to a part-time 1b and full-time #2 hitter. Between Ryan and Gardy they are actually putting guys on the DL when they’re hurt and waiting until they’re healthy to play them.

      Changing is a slow process because it’s been this way for a long time and it’s worked for so long. They have won pennants this way and they’ve made a lot of money and someone bought them a stadium and people still like them and they do get away with it. The fact that they’re changing at all is kind of surprising, when you think about it.

  8. drewsylvania - Jul 10, 2013 at 5:26 PM

    Yep. The Twins enjoy losing. It means they don’t have to spend any money, or something.

    What other explanation could there be?

  9. fmlizard - Jul 10, 2013 at 5:27 PM

    The Twins just flat out have inferior talent. Losing every transaction the team participated in for 3-5 years straight, along with a small market and a series of low draft choices will do that.

    Gardy or any other manager alive would lose a bunch with this group. The answer lies in Terry Ryan cleaning up the mess and waiting on the talent from the minors.

  10. presari - Jul 10, 2013 at 6:00 PM

    Every team has ‘inferior’ talent and still win games. The Yankees have about ten guys who are ‘inferior’ and they are beating other teams. Yes, I think they could upgrade in places and they need to be patient in places but the big problem is that they are paying two guys a total of $37 Million and those guys are not generating anything near that value. I love both Mauer and Morneau but no team is going to win when their two best players are producing like that. Think what they would bring in trade value. Would the Yankees like Morneau at first right now? Would they like Mauer behind the plate? Could we use $37 million to buy some A+ pitching? (I know, Mauer has to approve a trade. But at some point even the home town kid gets tired of losing all the time.)

    • kenbuddha - Jul 14, 2013 at 1:49 PM

      Sorry, paying Mauer and Morneau (for the rest of this season) are not the problem. What other Twins are making has NO bearing on the Twins decision to slash payroll by $30 million. Their payroll is about $85 million which is barely more than what they were paying before their brand new stadium. They’ve got plenty of income, they have to start spending some of it and spending it wisely. The blame does not lie with the salaries of Mauer and Morneau. Stupid argument.

  11. jsally430 - Jul 10, 2013 at 7:19 PM

    don’t forget ryan “retired” on this team as soon as tough decisions were needed torri hunter the face of the franchise was a free agent johan had a year left on his. before the decisions had to be made he left.

  12. vanindeed - Jul 10, 2013 at 11:18 PM


  13. northstarnic - Jul 10, 2013 at 11:24 PM

    What a joke of a ball team. And how ridiculous is it that so many folks continue to make excuses for gardenhire, moreover continuing the baseless claim that he is one of the best managers in MLB.
    How many playoff series have twins won since TK stepped aside?
    Nice stadium though. Glad I could help the local billionaires make some more money. Tax dollars well spent.

  14. Minoring In Baseball - Jul 11, 2013 at 12:34 AM

    Well, look what he has to work with. I think that he does a pretty good job with the players and talent level available to him. I’m a Tigers fan, but have nothing but respect for Gardenhire.

  15. dlambrecht - Jul 11, 2013 at 7:23 AM

    Aaron, this data would be more meaningful in comparison to the number of managers who have been fired after 3 successive 90 loss seasons (better yet in a table with those fired after 2 successive and even a single 90 loss season(s)). Any chance you want to bother with updating this post with more data?

  16. pwshrugged - Jul 11, 2013 at 9:05 AM

    As a Tigers fan living in Twins territory, I’ve seen enough of Gardenhire to be unimpressed. He seems like a perfectly adequate manager to me and nothing more; his teams will always be as good as the roster. He’s done well with good rosters, done poorly with bad rosters. He’s not managing sub-par teams to surprising seasons or having stellar rosters underachieve (that 2011 season was no surprise to anyone not drinking Twins kool-aid).

    Say what you want about his regular season success (6 division titles and all that), but none of them translated to playoff success. Quite frankly, if I own a ball team, if my team makes the playoffs three years in a row but gets bounced in the first round all three years, I’m taking a very good look at my coaching staff. I think the honest truth that no one wants to say is that Gardy’s reached his ceiling in Minnesota, but there’s no one better to take the job, and the Twins don’t want to make big changes that might result in even fewer seats filled at the shiny new ballpark.

  17. Cris E - Jul 11, 2013 at 10:56 AM

    Name some managers that are better than their rosters. I’m not even sure where you’re going with that. If MIN has to find a Billy Martin to make an improvement then Gardenhire must be pretty good. At the very least he’s fine and they’ll always get pretty close to what they deserve as long as they can assemble a decent team, and that’s better than many teams can say.

    As far as playoff success goes, you need solid starting pitching in the playoffs and that’s one area that this franchise has been bad at in the past twenty years. 2006 was the last solid #1-3 (Santana, Liriano, Radke) and they didn’t win, but you can’t judge the manager and his staff by those three games. Is it his fault they ran Duensing, Blackburn and Pavano out against the Yankees in 2009, or Liriano, Duensing and Pavano in 2010? Guys that average need a lot of run support to win, and you don’t run into enough average pitching in the post-season for an offense as non-outstanding as theirs was to succeed.

    • Cris E - Jul 11, 2013 at 10:57 AM

      (That was weird. This was supposed to be in response to pwshrugged at 9:05.)

  18. bkunza - Jul 11, 2013 at 12:49 PM

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