The Minnesota Twins most recent run of success has coincided with the team hiring Ron Gardenhire prior to the 2002 season. In his first nine seasons, the Twins won the American League Central six times, which more than doubled the franchise's total before Gardenhire took over.
However, since the 2010 season (which was the team's last AL Central division title), the Twins own one of the worst records in baseball at 99-151 entering Monday's game against the Oakland Athletics.
At times last year, many fans felt that it was a factor of injuries and ineffectiveness that lead to the Twins' sudden decline. Yet, the fate of the team is usually tied to the guy that's in charge of it and that's why many fans have put Gardenhire on the hot seat.
Here is why the Gardenhire era may be running out of time in Minnesota and why he hasn't had the success he had earlier in his managerial career.
First, we have to give the benefit of the doubt in this situation. It could be that Gardenhire isn't losing his touch at all, and that the Twins front office had screwed up so badly during the Bill Smith years that the garbage has finally made its way to the field.
Since Smith's arrival in 2008, the Twins have made some bad moves such as trading a young pitching prospect (Matt Garza) for a headcase hitter (Delmon Young), weak free agent signings (Mike Lamb, Adam Everett) and other moves that were made for the short-term (Wilson Ramos for Matt Capps).
Other moves since Terry Ryan have not worked out as planned, either. The Jason Marquis experiment ended with a 2-4 record and an 8.47 earned run average. Jamey Carroll is hitting way below his career average, and Joel Zumaya threw less than 15 pitches before his elbow exploded on him...again.
You can't build a good meal without the right ingredients, and if the Twins were a pizza they would be closer to Jack's frozen pizza than authentic Chicago Style Deep Dish.
For the Twins to get out of the rut they're in, they may need to give Gardenhire some better players first.
We'll never know what actually goes on inside a clubhouse, but the vibe from the outside of it seems like the players got too comfortable with Gardenhire at some point and realized their roster spot was never in that much danger.
Of course, the glaring example was the situation with Joe Mauer in 2011. This storyline dominated a majority of the headlines for the entire year, and many things were made about what exactly happened with Mauer's attitude in the clubhouse.
Granted, Mauer has returned to form this season, but it's still a mystery as to what happened the year before and what's happening now with Mauer catching roughly 50 percent of the Twins' games.
Even prior to the Mauer incident, Gardy routinely had said in the paper that he would go up to a guy and ask him if he felt like playing today. If he didn't, Gardy would accommodate and give him a day to "clear his head."
Eventually, the players must have felt like they didn't have to play if they didn't feel like it. When Gardy changed his tune this season, the players might have brought that demeanor to the field, and that's eventually what sent Danny Valencia to Triple-A.
Things have gotten better, but this is a distinct possibility.
Another suggestion that a fading Gardenhire may be smoke and mirrors is that the training staff hasn't exactly been accurate over the past several seasons.
The most recent textbook produced by the Minnesota Twins staff on "How to Treat a Player's Injury" looks something like this.
After the first day of the injury, ask the player how he's feeling. Then, declare the player "day-to-day" if he's unable to go. If the player starts to complain, call him out in the media by saying he's overreacting and needs rest and rehab to recover from the injury.
After about a week, place the player on the 15-day disabled list and send him to Fort Myers, Florida where he can enjoy some time in the sun while rehabbing. Toward the end of the stint, send him to a rehab game. If he complains of an aggravation, call him out in the media again and see if he's "tough."
If the conditions still persist, cave in and let him see a real doctor to treat the injury. At this point it seems likely that the player has a legitimate injury and will not be available the rest of the season.
There's not actually a textbook on the Twins training staff's philosophy, but the message is loud and clear. When the training staff screws up, it affects the product on the field. Once that happens, Gardenhire is left with a hole to fill and the Twins haven't been able to do that well in the past couple of seasons.
It could be that Gardenhire's supposed decline has been a result of the younger players tuning him out.
Gardenhire is a player's manager, but I have to imagine that players on the team must get sick of hearing "Let's battle our tails off" when they're getting whipped by the New York Yankees.
Gardenhire's ability to teach the game could be questioned seeing as his run of dominance was set up by guys who learned from Tom Kelly or were acquired from other organizations.
The counter argument here would be Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau, but after the recent departures of some of the mainstays you could question how much they really learned from Gardenhire and his regime.
On most baseball teams, you see one player that is kind of a deputy sheriff and helps bring the team together along with the manager. With the Twins, those players may have walked out the door last offseason with the departures of Joe Nathan and Michael Cuddyer.
Even before this year, the Twins had a similar situation when Torii Hunter and Johan Santana left prior to the 2008 season. In that situation, the Twins had Nathan and Cuddyer step up to be the vocal leaders on the team and they helped carry the Twins to division championships in 2009 and 2010.
Right now there seems to be something missing when it comes to team leaders. Many have questioned Mauer's leadership skills, but maybe it's just not in him to get a room of guys going. I mean, have you seen the guy talk?
Justin Morneau could be considered one of those guys that could lead the team too as he's built the reputation that when he speaks people listen. Yet, it could be that he speaks so rarely that teammates turn around in amazement while thinking "Wow, Justin is talking?"
Gardy needs that one player to come on the team and give them some fire, because it doesn't look like he has any of them on his roster at the moment.
Gardenhire's fade has also been accelerated by the lack of legitimate major league prospects in the Twins system.
This could be attributed as another bi-product of the Bill Smith era, but regardless of how the Twins lost their reputation as a solid organization from top to bottom, it still stings when you're keeping light-hitting Brian Dozier in the lineup on a regular basis.
Perhaps this dearth is most evidenced by the Twins' lackluster starting pitching. In previous seasons, if a starter were to underperform or get injured, there was an eager prospect that could come up and hold down the fort. Since the 2010 season, there's been nobody that's been capable of doing that.
Prospects such as Kyle Gibson, Miguel Sano and Oswaldo Arcia could be the ones to fill some of the holes on the current roster. However, they're still several years away from making an impact (or in Gibson's case recovering from injury).
Could a trade help save Gardenhire his job? Maybe. It just depends on what happens when he gets the talent. All we know is that Gardenhire may need it soon.
Ron Gardenhire is entering his 11th season as manager of the Minnesota Twins. That's way over the average lifespan for a skipper in Major League Baseball. Maybe a decline in the performance with the Twins has to do with him burning out and in need of a break.
I know that most of us who work at a local hardware store or in a cubicle are laughing at that thought, but it's fully possible that Gardenhire has lost the energy to manage the Twins.
The man who preceded Gardenhire, Tom Kelly, lasted 17 seasons with the Twins before calling it quits prior to the 2002 season. To boot, Gardenhire was an assistant for Kelly beginning in the 1991 season.
Simply put, Gardenhire has been around baseball a long time and may be heading toward the end of his tenure if he wants it to end...
The Twins have been one of the most loyal franchises in all of sports when it comes to the manager (or coach) of their ballclub. Remember that since 1986, the Twins have had just two managers. For a team like the Pittsburgh Pirates, they couldn't imagine what that would be like.
Alas, loyalty sometimes has its downfall. If Gardenhire hasn't been doing his job (which is a possibility), Twins management may be reluctant to get rid of him because of monetary issues like paying him for the remainder of the contract and finding (and paying) a replacement.
It seems crazy, but it's not like Jim Pohlad has been doling out big money contracts left and right. The painful thought of him going into his giant piggy bank and spending a couple of bucks on a solid manager must be mind-boggling and perhaps Gardenhire knows it.
I'm not saying that Gardenhire isn't trying, but when you know you aren't going to be fired one may tend to slack off a little bit.
I should note that having a long hook will probably always happen when you're using this pitching staff, but it seems like when the Twins' rag-tag group of starters has a decent start; Gardenhire seems to leave them in one batter too long.
For most Twins fans, they can tell when the end is near for one of the team's starters. Unfortunately, that concept has become lost on Gardenhire because his rotation has been so awful that starts like this are few and far between.
This means that the bullpen is tired and Gardenhire is forced to leave the pitcher out there to face impending doom.
Like a lot of the things on this list, it could be another mirage that suggests that Gardenhire is losing a bit of his touch.
Personally, I don't believe that all the Twins' problems are on Ron Gardenhire. As you've seen with the list, the reasons the Twins have fallen stretch all around the organization and it could take some time to rebuild no matter who is managing the team.
Yet, if the problems truly are because of Gardenhire, it may be best for the organization if he walked away.
Gardenhire already has a spot in Twins history for being the manager of the team's second-most successful stint in Minnesota. But with that being said, all good things must come to an end.
Perhaps this could all be a mirage and Gardenhire will right the ship when the team reloads their farm system and is able to fill holes at the major league level. It's hard to tell right now.
What we do know is that the Twins have been on a downward spiral the last year and a half, and if Gardy is the reason, then he needs to go.