Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Ron Gardenhire And Dried Up Chances

Following a fourth straight 90 loss campaign, and 13 seasons as the skipper for the Minnesota Twins, Ron Gardenhire was given his walking papers at the end of the 2014 season. With a 1,068-1,039 record under his belt, the German born Gardenhire was sent searching for what was next.

In 2015, what was next was a well deserved (and probably needed) vacation. He made an appearance at Twins Spring Training (Gardenhire owns a home in Fort Myers), but outside of that, the former Twins manager remained out of the baseball picture. As the season drew on, and teams began to settle into positioning, his name surfaced in managerial discussions. First with the familiar AL Central Tigers, and then others, but nothing would happen.

Now as the offseason has gotten under full swing, Gardenhire's activity has picked up significantly. He was interviewed twice by both the San Diego Padres and the Washington Nationals. What transpired though, was that he was past up in both situations. After being considered the front-runner in San Diego, the Padres went with 38 year-old Andy Green. In Washington, after a contract debacle with Bud Black, the Nationals settled on Dusty Baker.

That again leaves Ron Gardenhire wondering what's next?

It's pretty apparent that the former Twins manager would like to regain that title somewhere in baseball. The problem is that the opportunities don't seem to be there for him. Passed over in the two situations that seemed most logical, there's simply nothing left. Gardenhire has not been given thought by the Los Angeles Dodgers, despite the club still having a vacancy. Right now, Gardy's best chance might take a bit of humbling.

Per multiple reports, Ron Gardenhire has been offered the bench coach position with the Padres. After being turned for the head of the clubhouse role, San Diego has asked the 58 year-old to play second fiddle to Green, 20 years his junior. In doing so, it may spell out exactly what has transpired for the once beloved Twins manager.

While Gardenhire no doubt stepped away from baseball for good reason following his Twins dismissal, I'm sure he didn't plan on this as his welcome back to the game. Having over 1,000 wins to his credit, taking the role of bench coach is quite a big step backwards. Regardless of the way his Twins tenure ended, he probably deserves better. At this point though, if he wants it, this may be a necessary evil.

Having been dealt the tough task of competing with a Twins team up a creek without a paddle, Gardenhire watched as his teams lost 90 plus games all too routinely. He seemed overmatched at times, and his management came under question at others. In the blink of an eye (or four years out of a 13 year career), it was those 90 loss seasons that wiped away the remembrance of six division titles.

As time goes on, things aren't going to get any easier for Gardenhire. While Dusty Baker was hired by the Nationals this season having been out of the game since 2013, that is more the outlier than the norm. Gardenhire needs to revive his value, and doing so with a young and innovative manager at the helm may be his best bet.

Right now, it's hard to see Ron Gardenhire getting another shot at managing in the big leagues. The youth movement and desire for analytics are working against him. His biggest asset is himself in this situation, but is he willing to take a step backwards in hopes of making the leap forward? Only time will tell.