Little Big League may be one of the most underrated baseball movies of all time. With its blend of comic mischief and genuinely funny moments, it's a must-have for any Minnesota Twins fan, as they were the featured team in the 1994 film.
In case you've never seen the film (and why wouldn't you have seen this?),Thomas Heywood (the owner of the Twins) dies and bequeaths the team to his grandson, Billy.
After being treated as a joke originally by the major league team (and their hot-headed manager), Billy decides to become manager of the team and leads them into a race for the American League wild card spot.
Currently, the Twins are similar to the one featured in the movie when Billy first took over. As the Twins hold the worst record in the American League entering Friday, it's appropriate to see how the current members of the Minnesota Twins fit in with the characters in Little Big League.
Gardenhire's player-first mentality is similar to that of Heywood's in the film.
While Ron Gardenhire didn't inherit the team from Carl Pohlad several seasons ago (and for all we know Joe Mauer isn't chasing after his mother), he does share several parallels with the young manager of the Minnesota Twins.
When Billy first took over the team, he confronted George O'Farrell, the current manager of the Twins, for being too tough on the players. After a confrontation where O'Farrell said he wouldn't work for a kid, he got the boot and was replaced by a younger version of Gardenhire.
Gardenhire has been known to be friendly with his players and, prior to this season, asks if they're good to go or if they need to have a day off because they are "sore."
Gardenhire has also preached to make the game fun to prospects that are coming up through the Twins' farm system and (just like Billy) was a terrible baseball player who happened to know a lot about the game.
Gardenhire hasn't been caught sleeping on the bench as another victim of the Night Nurses From New Jersey, but his managing style strikes a resemblance to that of Billy Heywood.
As big of a reach it may be to take a fictional character in the minds of Twins fans and bring him to life for this assignment, it's fair to say that George O'Farrell is the manager that fans would like to see replace Ron Gardenhire someday.
Sure, Gardenhire has had plenty of success as Twins manager, but he just doesn't have the edge to chew out a player when he's making a mistake. Actually, he doesn't have the edge to do anything to his beloved players (that is...up until this season).
Twins fans would like to see a manager who holds his players accountable, and O'Farrell was a guy who did that. However, many times in Major League Baseball a manager with O'Farrell's temper may get taken the wrong way, and that team usually finds themselves with little improvement.
Oddly enough, that might be how the Twins are seeing themselves right now.
In the film, Billy is befriended by the team's pitching coach when he decides to take over the Twins' managerial position. The two are inseparable as Billy brings up his questions to Mac, and Mac returns the favor by feeding advice to Billy.
That's kind of how the Twins current regime works between Ron Gardenhire and Rick Anderson.
Anderson and Gardenhire have been a part of the Twins organization since 2002. Both have made key decisions for the Twins regarding personnel and strategy (and both are the reason that Nick Blackburn is somehow employed by the Twins, but I digress).
Is Anderson calling Gardenhire to warn him about the Night Nurses From New Jersey? Probably not. However, the two have the same bond, and if Gardenhire were to ever step down, it wouldn't surprise me if he gave Anderson the keys to the car.
I'm guessing Lew Collins doesn't make as much money as Joe Mauer does, but he's still the face of the franchise—just as Mauer is.
Collins is the key guy in the middle of the order for the Twins and becomes their team leader when Billy thrusts himself into the manager position.
Collins never had an extra-base hit for the Twins during the movie (or at least from what we saw), and Collins was only allowed to marry Billy's mother at the end of the game if he hit a home run.
Apparently for Collins and Mauer, it's an equally big deal if they hit one out of the park.
Perhaps it wouldn't be a shock if we find out years down the road that Mauer was actually healthy during his battle with bilateral leg weakness and was benched instead for going after Gardenhire's mother.
Stranger things have happened on the baseball diamond...
As sad as it is, Justin Morneau may resemble Jerry Johnson as the player who is having father time and injuries keep up with him.
Unlike Johnson, Morneau is only 30 years old, but his body has to feel like it's on the verge of 40. Once a great player, Morneau has started to succumb to multiple concussions, back and wrist injuries, and simple rust after sitting out the majority of the past two seasons.
There is potential there with both of these guys as the Twins think that they can get on a hot streak and put the team on their back. Unfortunately, the Twins may be so desperate that they get excited over seeing a mere single.
Like Johnson, Morneau's time with the Twins could be coming to a premature end as the July 31 trade deadline approaches. Let's just hope Ron Gardenhire doesn't have his baseball card.
While "Blackout" John Gatling was a member of the Twins' bullpen, he has to be considered the closest match to Twins pitcher Francisco Liriano.
Both pitchers are complete headcases, as the Twins are never sure how to harness either pitcher's full potential.
Both pitchers also love their best pitch (Blackout had the curveball, while Liriano had the slider), which leads them into tricky situations on the mound.
Also, both pitchers don't exactly listen to what the coaching staff has to say but find out that it's for the best in the end.
When both of these guys are on track, they can be devastating for an opposing offense and can lead the Twins to many victories. Heck, they both chew bubble gum to boot! (Well, Gatling has a wad of tobacco the size of his fist underneath his gum, but you get the idea.)
When it comes to space-cadet pitchers, these two are a carbon copy.