Twins' success? Point to Gardenhire

Mientkiewicz needed to give credit where credit was due

MINNEAPOLIS -- Last week, when the Minnesota Twins were in the midst of their worst roadtrip of the season, an East Coast scribe unearthed a bit of controversy in their clubhouse in Baltimore.

Well, it was hardly that. These are the Twins -- perhaps the least combustible organization in pro sports. From the general manager to the Gold Glove center fielder, everyone speaks warmly of their co-workers around the Metrodome.

The old manager, Tom Kelly, was a good one, but he allowed his personal grudges to get in the way of some of his decisions. Nobody criticizes him now, even as Jacque Jones is having his best major league season with the support of Ron Gardenhire. Kelly kept Jones on the bench too often after an embarrassing at-bat against a left-handed pitcher.

The old pitching coach, Dick Such, kept his staff healthy, but he clearly had trouble relating to some of his younger arms. Nobody criticizes him now, even as LaTroy Hawkins is dominating as a set-up relief man after imploding last season as the team's closer.


Even the owner doesn't have to worry about getting ripped from within.

There's Minnesota Nice and then there's Minnesota Twins nice.

But last week, there was Doug Mientkiewicz, talking about how well-behaved and self-sufficient his club is, how managers often get too much of the blame when teams lose and too much of the praise when teams win. Gardenhire, Mientkiewicz said, walked into a great situation.

Well, if those comments were read a certain way, it's easy to see why Gardenhire and his coaching staff took that as a slight. They spend their whole lives trying to teach their players to play the game right, and here's the hotshot first baseman spouting off about how the team doesn't need to be supervised.

The two talked recently to clear the air, so don't expect any more to come out of this. But an interesting point has been raised.

How much credit should Gardenhire get for the Twins' success?

A lot.

Gardenhire had to sit around and wonder if the Twins would even have a team all winter before he found out in early January he'd be the manager. That was barely a month before spring training started.


He's had to answer all the contraction questions, shield his team from those distractions and keep them from letting up once they built that big lead in the division race. And don't forget the game of roster roulette he's had to play as every one of his infielders, nearly his entire starting rotation and a few relievers and bench players have missed time to injury.

Terry Ryan deserves credit, too, but Gardenhire is the guy who puts them in the right places.

Sending the right pinch-hitter up here. Using the right relief pitcher there. Boosting Jones' confidence before the season by telling him he'd play every day, yet holding the streaky left fielder out of games when a nasty lefty is on the mound. Easing Hawkins into his new role and watching his ERA shrink before thrusting him into the team's top right-handed spot. Using Dustan Mohr and Bobby Kielty at the proper times in right field.

Gardenhire wouldn't argue -- he did walk into a great situation. But many managers might've messed things up.

Dave Campbell is the Minnesota-based sports columnist for The Associated Press. He can be e-mailed at

What To Read Next
Get Local