Minnesota Twins History: Ranking the Twins Managers

Tim ArcandCorrespondent IJanuary 29, 2012

Minnesota Twins History: Ranking the Twins Managers

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    On Thursday, the Minnesota Twins announced that the No. 10 jersey would be retired. The only person to wear that jersey since 1983 is Tom Kelly, who wore it when he joined the Minnesota Twins as a part of manager Billy Gardner's coaching staff.

    For Kelly, the only Minnesota manager to lead the Twins to a World Series title, this honor is a little overdue. 

    Perhaps they were planning on doing it to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the team's first World Series Championship, but there is no indication from the story on Twins.com. After turning things over to Ron Gardenhire in 2002, there have been plenty of opportunities to honor Kelly, who led the Twins to World Series titles in 1987 and 1991. 

    No doubt there will be a daily countdown at Target Field until it's "Tom Kelly Day" on Sept. 8—as the team did to mark Jim Thome's march to 600 home runs, and Bert Blyleven's induction to the Hall of Fame.

    I'm hoping the team wasn't holding on to this gesture, only to bring it forth when they needed something to generate some attention around the team. The timing seems a little dubious after the team suffered their second worst record in Minnesota Twins franchise history.

    Even after stepping down as manager, Kelly, who serves as a special assistant to the Twins, is still very involved with the team. From running drills in spring training to taking a turn as the color commentator for the Fox Sports North broadcasts, Kelly is to the Twins what Bud Grant is to the Vikings. 

    Since the Washington Senators moved to Minnesota to open the 1961 season, the Twins have had 11 different managers leading the team. I ranked them based on how long they managed, their winning percentage, and their numbers of playoff appearances and World Series titles.

    Things have changed since the Twins started play in 1961 with the formation of divisions and expanded playoffs, making it slightly easier to make the postseason. When Sam Melee managed the team in the '60s, he had to beat out the entire American League in order to earn a World Series berth.  Therefore, postseason appearances in the '60s are weighted more heavily than any others.

    While it's impossible to tease that Kelly might not finish with the top ranking, it is possible that Gardenhire may not be No. 2.

    Here's a look at ranking the 12 men who have managed the Minnesota Twins.

The Twins First Manager: Cookie Lavagetto, 1961

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    Cookie Lavagetto was named the Washington Senators manager in 1957. He moved with the team to Minnesota to open the 1961 team as the Minnesota Twins first manager.

    He only lasted 59 games that season, leading the Twins to a 23-36 record. During the course of the season he took a leave of absence from the team for nine games. Upon his return he lasted only 10 games before being replaced by Sam Mele.

    Lavagetto's 59 games are the fewest of any Twins manager, and his .390 winning percentage is the lowest.

No. 11: Johnny Goryl, 1980-1981

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    Johnny Goryl managed the Twins for only portions of two seasons. His 73 games as the Twins manager are the second fewest in Minnesota Twins history.

    Goryl took over from Gene Mauch in 1980 after 125 games with the Twins sitting at 54-71, in a distant third place in the American League West.

    He led the club to a 23-13 record to close out the season. It was enough to earn his the chance to open the 1981 season at the helm.

    The Twins stumbled out of the gate that season, and Goryl was fired after only 37 games. The Twins were in last place in the American League West at 11-25. (Note: the Twins' game on April 29 was suspended following the eighth inning with the score tied.)

    Goryl would finish with a 34-38 record, a .472 winning percentage for the Twins.

    It was his only managerial job at the major league level.

No. 10: Ray Miller, 1985-1986

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    Ray Miller is another Twins manager that never got the opportunity to manage for a complete season in Minnesota.

    In 1985, he replaced Billy Gardner after the Twins opened the season 27-35. The Twins hired him away from the Baltimore Orioles where he had been their pitching coach since 1978.

    Miller led the Twins to a 50-50 record to close out the 1985 season at 77-85, good enough for only a fourth-place finish in the AL West.

    Miller managed the Twins to a 59-80 record in 1986 before being fired and replaced by Tom Kelly.

    He would finish with a 109-130 record, a 0.456 winning percentage over those two seasons.

No. 9: Billy Gardner, 1981-1985

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    Billy Gardner is the manager that bridges the gap between Johnny Goryl and Ray Miller.

    As a player, Gardner joined the Washington Senators in 1960 and played 143 games at second base. The following season he relocated with the team to Minnesota.

    That season, he was traded to the Yankees in June and replaced at second base by Billy Martin.

    Gardner's playing career ended in 1963, and his coaching career began the following season.

    He managed in the minor leagues for Boston, Kansas City and Montreal, with a couple stints at the major league level as a third base coach while with Boston and Montreal.

    In 1981 he joined the Twins as their third base coach, and took over as manager with the firing of Goryl.

    In 1982 he led the Twins to the worst record in franchise history, losing 102 ball games that season.

    Over parts of five seasons Gardner managed 621 games, with a 268-353 record—only a .432 winning percentage. 

    His best season as manager was 1984 when he led the Twins to second place in the AL West with an 81-81 record.

    He was fired in 1985 after 62 games with the Twins at 27-35.

No. 8: Cal Ermer, 1967-1968

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    Cal Ermer spent parts of five decades coaching in the Washington Senators/Minnesota Twins minor league system.

    In 1967, he was promoted from the Twins Triple-A club in Denver to take over the Minnesota Twins from Sam Mele with the team at 25-25.

    Ermer had the Twins contending for their second American League pennant heading into the last weekend of the season. Needing only one win in two games at Boston to clinch a tie for the AL Championship, the Twins would drop both games to the Red Sox, who finished ninth that season in American League. 

    Ermer managed the Twins for the entire 1968 season. The team would falter to a seventh place finish in the American League and he was fired after the season.

    He never managed again at the major league level. He finished with a 145-129 record in Minnesota, a .529 winning percentage.  

No. 7: Gene Mauch, 1976-1980

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    Gene Mauch took over the Minnesota Twins in 1976 after managing the Montreal Expos for seven seasons.

    He managed the Twins for five seasons, and his 772 games were the most of any manager since Sam Mele led the team from 1961 to 1968. 

    Mauch finished with a 378-394 record in Minnesota, a .490 winning percentage. The highest the Twins finished under him was third in the seven-team American League West.

    The Twins fired Mauch after 125 games in 1980 and the Twins sitting 54-71. Johnny Goryl would replace him to finish out the 1980 season.

    Over 26 years managing four different teams, Mauch only made the playoffs twice while with the Angels, the last team he managed.

No. 6: Frank Quilici, 1972-1975

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    Frank Quilici's entire major league playing career was with the Twins over portions of five seasons from 1965 to 1970. In 1971 he became a coach for the Twins.

    With no experience as a manager, he took over as the Twins skipper in 1972, replacing Bill Rigney after the Twins opened the season 36-34 and in third place in the American League West.

    The Twins finished the 1972 season 77-77, still in third place. 

    Quilici manged the Twins over the next three seasons and could never get the club to finish any higher than third place in the division.

    Following the 1975 season he was fired and replaced by Gene Mauch.

    He finished with a 280-287 record as the Twins manager.

No. 5: Bill Rigney, 1970-1972

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    Bill Rigney was hired by the Twins in 1970 after 14 years of managerial experience with the Giants (5) and Angels (9), replacing the Billy Martin.

    In his first year as manager he led the Twins to their second consecutive American League West title with a 98-64 record.

    The Twins were swept by the Baltimore Orioles, the eventual World Series Champions, in the ALCS. 

    The following season the Twins faltered to fifth place in the six-team AL West. After only 70 games in 1972, with the Twins sitting at 36-34, and in third place, he was fired and replaced by Frank Quilici.

    In his two and a half seasons he finished with a 208-184 record, good for a .531 winning percentage. He is one of only five managers to lead the Twins to the postseason. 

No. 4: Billy Martin, 1969

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    It might be a stretch to rank someone who only managed a single season this high.

    Billy Martin is best known as the Yankees manager—five different times.

    He played 11 seasons in the majors making his debut with the New York Yankees in 1950 where he played seven seasons.

    His career ended in 1961 with the Twins. Over the next three seasons he was a scout for the Twins organization. In 1965 he was the Twins third base coach until midway through the 1968 season when he was sent to Denver to manage the Twins Triple-A club.

    In 1969 he was named to succeed Cal Ermer as the Twins manager.

    In his only season as manager, he led the Twins to a 97-65 record, becoming the first winner of the newly formed American League West division.

    Martin was known as a fiery manager who had no problem arguing with umpires.

    Unfortunately, because of a fight he had with one of his pitchers in August that season, he was fired after the season, despite improving the team's record by 18 games and making the playoffs. 

    After being out of baseball in 1970, Martin would return in 1971 to manage the Detroit Tigers for three seasons. He also manged the Rangers, Yankees and A's.

    His managerial career mirrored that of his playing career. Where his playing career debuted with the Yankees and finished with the Twins, his managerial career started in Minnesota and finished in New York.

No. 3: Ron Gardenhire, 2002-Present

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    If only Ron Gardenhire had a little more success in the post season, where he has a 6-21 record, he would have finished as the Twins second best manager. 

    Gardenhire played part of five seasons with the New York Mets from 1981 to 1985. In 1986 he played for the Mets Triple-A affiliate. 

    The year Tom Kelly and the Twins were winning their first World Series Championship, Gardenhire was playing in Portland after being traded to the Twins before the season.

    The following year he was named as the manager in Kenosha, the Twins A affiliate.

    In 1989 he was named the league's best manager by Baseball America.

    The following year he was co-Manager of the Year in the Southern League.

    He was eventually promoted as the Twins third base coach for the 1991 season and had a front row seat for the Twins second World Series Championship.

    In 2002 he was named Tom Kelly's replacement after Kelly decided to step down. At the time the Twins were also considering Paul Molitor, the leading choice for most Twins fans. 

    Gardenhire is currently second all time with 1,621 in his 10 seasons with a 866-755 record. His .534 winning percentage is the third best of any Minnesota manager. 

    With the expansion of the playoffs to include three divisions and a wild card team, Gardenhire has led the Twins to six playoff appearances. The only time he has made it past the divisional round was in 2002 when the Twins defeated the Oakland A's in five game, and fell 4-1 to the Anaheim Angels.

    On the downside of Gardenhire's tenure, he also led the team to their second worse record in franchise history last season when they finished 63-99.

No. 2: Sam Mele, 1961-1967

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    Sam Mele is the only manager other than Tom Kelly to lead the Twins to the World Series.

    He took over for Cookie Lavagetto during 1961 season.

    In 1962 and 1963 he led the Twins to back-to-back 91-win seasons—one of only three Twins manager to win 90-plus games consecutively.

    In 1965 he led the Twins to their American League pennant with a 102-60 record—the most wins in a single season in franchise history.

    The Twins lost the World Series in seven games to the Los Angeles Dodgers that year.

    He managed parts of seven seasons for Minnesota, and his 963 games are the third most behind Kelly and Ron Gardenhire. His final record in Minnesota was 524-436, good for a .546 winning percentage—second only to Billy Martins .599.

    Mele was fired after 50 games in 1967 with the Twins sitting in second place with a 25-25 record.

No. 1: Tom Kelly, 1986-2001

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    Yeah, I know, not much suspense for this spot in the ranking.

    Tom Kelly's 16 seasons and 2,285 games as manager are the most by any Minnesota manager.

    His 1,140 wins are more than any other manager in Twins history, with the pinnacle being the two World Series Championships in 1987 and 1991.

    The only spot on his resume that isn't quite as shiny, might be his winning percentage of .478, but if not given the opportunity to manage through some tough years, those two titles may have never happened.

    From Sam Mele, who managed the Twins for 963 games from 1961 to 1967, until Kelly took over in 1986, the biggest problem for the Twins was the lack of consistency.

    Between these two World Series managers, no one else managed the Twins for more than five seasons.

    Heading into his 11th as the Twins manager, here's hoping Ron Gardenhire can get the Twins, not only back to a winning record, but find the right combinations and moves to get them back to the World Series.

    If you made it this far—thanks for reading.