For years under the direction of Tom Kelly, we constantly heard that the baseball season was a marathon and not a sprint.
"Take it one game at a time" was the mantra constantly repeated to the players, media and fans during Kelly's tenure as manager from 1986 to 2001.
In 1991, Ron Gardenhire became the Twins third base coach, a position he held until Kelly retired following the 2001 season. While Gardenhire has a little more fire to his managerial style than Kelly, he espouses the same philosophy.
While Kelly is the Minnesota Twins' all-time leader with 1,140 wins as manager, over 16 years he only had five seasons with a record better than .500, and only two division titles. Kelly made the most of those two postseason appearances, winning the World Series in 1987 and 1991.
Gardenhire has been able to run the marathon with a little more success than Kelly, winning six division titles in nine years. Currently 286 wins behind Kelly, Gardenhire has a solid chance to surpass him by the end of the 2014 season.
Unlike Kelly, Gardenhire's success ends after game 162. In six tries, Gardenhire has only made it beyond the divisional round of the playoffs once.
In the two seasons Kelly won the World Series, he had teams that were better suited for a seven-game sprint than the marathon of a 162 game season.
The best example of this would be in 1987, when, with only 85 wins the Twins would earn the distinction of having the fewest regular season victories of any World Series champion up to that time.
That year, pitching coach Dick Such struggled to find five pitchers for the starting rotation. The Twins would start 12 different pitchers that season with only four of them making at least 20 starts.
Once the postseason began, Kelly was forced to go with a three-man pitching rotation—Frank Viola, Bert Blyleven and Les Straker.
Blyleven was the veteran of the staff, leading the team with 37 starts and 267 inning pitched. Viola was the ace of the staff, going 17-10 with a team-leading 2.90 ERA. Straker was the best of the rest. He only went 8-10 in the regular season with a 4.37 ERA.
The three-man rotation allowed Kelly to pitch Viola three times in the seven-game 1987 World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals. Viola would go 2-1, winning the first and last games of the series.
While the rotation was better in 1991, the Twins still had their best pitcher start three games in the World Series. Like Viola, Jack Morris would go 2-1 and win the crucial seventh game of the World Series in a dramatic 10-inning complete game, 1-0 victory over the Atlanta Braves.
What Gardenhire and the Twins are missing is that one pitcher who can carry the team over a seven-game series.
Gardenhire was unable to take advantage when he did have such a pitcher in Johan Santana.
Between 2003 and 2007, Santana would go 82-35 with a 2.92 ERA. Over that span, the Gardenhire-led Twins were 2-9 in the ALDS.
The closest thing the Twins have to a dominant pitcher this season might be Scott Baker, who leads the team with an 8-6 record and a 3.01 ERA.
Baker was struggling to just make the starting rotation at the beginning of the year. To consider him the ace of the staff shows how poorly the Twins starters have been this year.
Even if Gardenhire can work his magic and get the Twins to their seventh division title in 10 season—which appears unlikely at nine games back and 10 games under .500—he doesn't have the horsepower to make it any further.
With the current starting rotation consisting of five number three or four starters at best, the Twins have no chance of making it out of the ALDS.