Ron Gardenhire: 4 Things He Must Do in 2013 to Keep His Job with Minnesota Twins
Ron Gardenhire's situation is no different. While the last couple seasons of lackluster Twins baseball can't be blamed entirely on Gardy, his future in Minnesota—as well as that of GM Terry Ryan—may depend on the success of the team in 2013.
With a track record as one of the best managers in baseball throughout the 2000's, including a run of six division titles in nine years, some are questioning the leadership of Mr. Gardenhire after the last two seasons totaled a disastrous 195 losses.
Some point to Gardy, some point to the front office and others point to injuries as the reasons for the team's recent failures. One thing is for sure: Minnesota is in a funk.
However, bright days may loom ahead for the frozen fans in the Midwest. With one of the top farm systems in baseball, the Twins may only be a couple of years away from legitimate contention.
The only question is: Who will manage the next youth movement in Minnesota?
Here's a blueprint for success as Gardenhire enters the twilight of his tenure in Minneapolis.
Rebuild the Defense
Minnesota wasn't dead last in any defensive categories in 2012, but they were near the bottom. That's a far cry from the defense-first teams of the early 2000's that featured ball vacuums like Doug Mientkiewicz and Torii Hunter.
With a glut of ground ball pitchers entering the Twins' rotation, defense will be a huge factor in 2013—especially infield defense.
This is where Ron Gardenhire comes in.
Besides Justin Morneau at first, the Twins infield holds a few questions marks.
Can Trevor Plouffe improve at the hot corner? Who will man second base and short? Gardy has some talented defenders to choose from, including the likes of Pedro Florimon, Jamey Carroll and Eduardo Escobar.
Field a Contender
2011-12 were hard to stomach for a lot of Twins fans—myself included. There were no winning stretches to speak of and the team as a whole seemed to play uninspired ball.
What the Twins desperately need in 2013 is contention: No more blowouts, no more crooked numbers, and a pitching staff that is competent.
The Twins should have a capable offense even with the losses of Ben Revere and Denard Span, so the success of the team lies in large part with the pitching staff.
Vance Worley, Kevin Correia and Mike Pelfrey don't exactly have big shoes to fill, but they have a lot on their plate as the catalysts to the team's success this season.
Play the New Guys
Even if the Twins drop out of contention at some point in 2013, that doesn't necessarily mean Gardenhire's job is lost.
One of the most important things that needs to happen if the Twins do in fact start losing ground early is to get the new guys in.
That means Aaron Hicks, Oswaldo Arcia, Kyle Gibson and any other youngsters who have a chance to stick to the major league roster in the future.
Even if the Twins' brass were hesitant to admit that they are in the midst of a rebuilding stage in Minnesota, perhaps the opportunity to truly build for the future will come on the field—where the next wave of Twins prospects will have their chance to shine.
Bring Back the Piranhas
Ozzie Guillen once coined the term "Piranhas," referring to the incessant small-ball play of the Minnesota Twins.
They bunted, hit-and-run and stole bases in an attempt to frustrate opposing pitchers and gain an advantage on the basepaths.
With Nick Punto and Alexi Casilla long gone, the Twins once again have a roster that coincides with the piranha way of life—and it all starts with the top of the order.
Darin Mastroianni, Jamey Carroll and Aaron Hicks could very well be the new Piranhas. They bunt, they run and they hustle. And with the hitting machines behind them in Mauer, Morneau and Willingham, this Twins team could score a lot of runs if they look to the recent past for a little inspiration.