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AL Manager Of The Year: 10 Reasons Minnesota Twins' Ron Gardenhire Deserved It

Tim ArcandCorrespondent INovember 17, 2010

AL Manager Of The Year: 10 Reasons Minnesota Twins' Ron Gardenhire Deserved It

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    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    Congratulations to Ron Gardenhire! No longer the bridesmaid, the ninth time's the charm!

    The Twins' skipper earned 108 votes as the AL Manager of the Year Award, while the sentimental favorite Ron Washington of the Texas Rangers finished second with 81 votes.

    As the longest tenured manager in the AL Central, Gardenhire finally gets to add his name along side past winners Ozzie Guillen and Jim Leyland as the top manager in the American League. 

    Since taking over for Tom Kelly in 2002, his 803 victories are the fourth most among active managers in the all of baseball. 

    Perhaps the Baseball Writers Association of American finally forgot that the award is for the manager that did the best job during the regular season?

    With today's announcement, here are 10 reasons why Gardenhire deserves the honor.

No. 10: Winning With The Harris/Punto Platoon at Third.

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    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    Going into the 2010 season the Twins needed to fill a hole at third base. 

    The hot corner had become a revolving door since Corey Koskie had played there full time between 1999 and 2004.  

    Since 2005, Michael Cuddyer, Nick Punto, Brian Buscher, Joe Crede, and Brendan Harris all had a shot to become the full time third baseman. 

    In 2010, Harris and Punto would combine to play 68 games at third.

    In 43 games for the Twins, 23 playing third, Harris would bat only .157 with one home run and four RBI.

    Punto would only do slightly better seeing action in 88 games, playing 48 games at third, with a .238 average, one home run and 20 RBI.

    On June 3rd the Twins would call up Danny Valencia from AAA Rochester.

    In 85 games Valencia would hit .311 with seven home runs, and drive in 40 RBI, becoming what Twins' fans hope is a long term solution at third.    

No. 9: A Pitching Staff In Need Of an Ace.

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    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    Along with a third baseman, the Twins also needed a veteran presence on their pitching staff. 

    The team had acquired Carl Pavano in August of 2009. In 12 games he went 5-4 for the Twins.

    Besides Pavano at 33 years old, the Twins starting staff included Scott Baker (28), Nick Blackburn (28), Kevin Slowey (26) and Francisco Liriano (26).

    Liriano was coming off a 5-13 season in 2009, his first since returning from Tommy John surgery.

    Slowey has missed the second half of 2009 after having season-ending wrist surgery.

    Baker led the staff in 2009 with a 15-9 record.

    In 2010 the staff would have its ups and downs.

    Liriano would go 3-0 with 0.98 ERA in April to earn AL Pitcher of the Month. Unfortunately, he would only go 3-6 over the months of June and July, before getting back on track in August and finishing the season at 14-10 with a 3.62 ERA.

    Pavano would open the season with a 5-5 record, finding his groove in June going 4-1 to lead the Twins in victories and lead the league with seven complete games.

    Including Brian Duensing, a last addition to the starting rotation, the Twins would end up with all six starters winning at least 10 games, led by Pavano going 17-11.

No. 8: Navigating The Opening Of a New Ballpark.

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    This was the inaugural season of Target Field. 

    Gone was the "dome-field" advantage the Twins had maintained for 28 seasons.

    With the start of the season the Twins had no more of a home field advantage than that of their opponents.  

    The Twins needed to learn how the new ballpark would play, understanding all its quirks like the limestone overhang in right field, or the diminished foul territory down the lines.

    It didn't take long for the Twins to acquaint themselves with Target Field going 53-28 at home in 2010.

No. 7: Maintaining The Chemistry With Many New Faces.

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    Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

    Ron Gardenhire and the Minnesota Twins opened the defense of their 2009 AL Central Division title with three new starters and several new faces among the bench players.

    J.J. Hardy and Orlando Hudson made up a new double-play combination for the Twins, and Jim Thome was added to provide some power.

    During the season rookies Drew Butera, Luke Hughes, Wilson Ramos, Trevor Plouffe, and Matt Fox would all make successful major league debuts.

No. 6: The BBWAA Finally Gave Ron Gardenhire His Due.

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    Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    In his nine years as the Minnesota manager, Ron Gardenhire has finished second in the Manager of the Year balloting five times, and third another year.

    Every other manager in the AL Central had been named AL Manager of the Year except Gardenhire.

    With 800 wins since taking over in 2002 Gardenhire's recognition was overdue.

    The fact that his teams have consistently performed well every year may have made Gardenhire a difficult selection, as other managers took over programs in worse shape and were able to produce more wins.

    It's about time that Gardenhire's success was finally recognized! 

No 5: The Master Of Discipline, Playing Twins' Style Baseball.

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    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Since the days of Tom Kelly, the Twins have been known as a fundamentally solid team.

    They make few mistakes and don't beat themselves.

    That has not changed since Ron Gardenhire took over, and is just as evident today as ever.

    Gardenhire and the Twins have gained the respect and praise from the likes of Ozzie Guillen, and Jim Leyland, who get to face Gardenhire 16 to 18 times each season.

    In 2010 the Twins had the third highest batting average in the American League.

    They led the league in triples, were third in doubles and sixth in runs scored.

    On the defensive side they committed the second fewest errors and had the second best fielding percentage in the AL.

    The discipline extended to the pitching staff, where Twins' pitchers yielded the fewest number of base on balls in the Majors.  

No. 4: The Emergence Of a Star—Delmon Young

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    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    Ron Gardenhire has to get some credit for the emergence of Delmon Young in 2010.

    After playing in 108 in 2009, the fewest since breaking into the starting lineup, Young did not look comfortable in the field and at time struggled at the plate, finishing with 92 strike outs in 395 at bats.

    The trade of Carlos Gomez to the Brewers in the off season, led to the full-time left field position for Young. A situation he took full advantage of.

    Young led the team with 112 RBI and was tied for second on the team with 21 home runs.

    Along with his .298 batting average, this was Young's best season since playing full time in 2007.

    Before a slight dip in his numbers toward the end of the season, his name was included in many league MVP conversations.

No. 3: Managed The Loss of All-Star Closer Joe Nathan

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    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Before the season even started, Ron Gardenhire and the Minnesota Twins were dealt a huge blow to their championship aspirations.

    During spring training it was determined that Nathan had torn his ulnar collateral ligament in his throwing elbow. After an unsuccessful attempt to pitch through the injury, Nathan decided to have Tommy John surgery and was lost for the season. 

    It would be no easy task to manage without their closer who had averaged 41 saves over the past six seasons.

    Yet, without Nathan, Gardenhire was able to put together the second highest win total in his career, going 94-68. 

No. 2: A Strong Finish Without MVP Justin Morneau.

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    Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    Justin Morneau opened the first half of the season, playing at an MVP caliber level.

     

    July 7th, 2010.

     

    This would be the date of the last game Justin Morneau would play in 2010. 

    After suffering a concussion sliding into second base against Toronto, Morneau would not return to the lineup.

    At the time he was hitting 0.345 and leading the majors with a 0.437 on-base percentage and 0.618 slugging percentage. His 18 home runs and 56 RBI were leading the Twins. 

    He was voted as the starting first baseman for the American League in the All-Star game.

    Without Morneau, Ron Gardenhire was forced to patch together a lineup that included moving Michael Cuddyer from right field to first base.

    The Minnesota Twins went the last 78 games of the season without their best run producer as well as without a back-up first baseman, and still won the AL Central by six games.

No. 1: The Hottest Team In Baseball The Second Half Of 2010.

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Even with everything that took place in 2010, Ron Gardenhire was able to piece together lineups that kept the Twins close until everything settled into place.

    The Twins would go into the All-Star break in third place, 3.5 games behind Detroit and Chicago in AL Central.

    Going 6-13 to end the first half of the season, they would open the second half 24-8 propelling them into first place by five games.

    They would finish the second half 48-26, the best record in baseball after the All-Star break. 

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