Ron Gardenhire: Minnesota Twins Manager 2002-2014


The Minnesota Twins and manager Ron Gardenhire parted ways earlier this afternoon, effectively ending his 13-year tenure with the team. Due to the recent four-year skid of 90-plus loss seasons, many fans have already forgotten the near-decade of success the Twins had under Gardenhire from 2002 until 2010. While this move comes at the right time, if not potentially a year too late, Gardenhire’s achievements as manager of the Twins should not be forgotten. Here is an opportunity to look back on the Gardenhire era in Minnesota and remember him for what he achieved and not his recent failures.

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Gardenhire took over the Twins in 2002, after two-time World Series winner Tom Kelly stepped down. He had previously been the Twins’ third base coach for 11 seasons. At this point in time, the Twins had not reached the playoffs since 1991, which also happens to be the year the team won its second World Series title. The roster was filled with no-names that, under Gardenhire, would become household names.

In his first season as manager of the Twins, Gardenhire would lead his team to the playoffs. The Twins would finish the 2002 season with a record of 94 and 67, as the team managed to only play 161 games this season. Regardless, this record was good enough to win the American League Central Division.

Gardenhire and the Twins would meet the Oakland Athletics in the first round, ultimately winning the series in five games. While this would be the only time the Twins would advance in the playoffs under Gardenhire, it was certainly a special season. Unfortunately, the Twins would lose in the second-round to the eventual World Champion Anaheim Angels, but the winning seasons did not stop here.

The Twins would reach the postseason in both 2003 and 2004, marking the first time in franchise history that the team had reached the playoffs in three consecutive seasons. In both seasons, however, the Twins would lose to the New York Yankees in the ALDS. Still, there was plenty to be excited about in Minnesota. Not only did the Twins have multiple players named to the All-Star team in 2003 and 2004, but Johan Santana won his first Cy Young Award in 2004.

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  • While the Twins failed to reach the playoffs for a fourth consecutive season in 2005, the team would rebound with their best regular season win total since 1970 the following year. Behind Santana, who would win his second Cy Young Award, MVP Justin Morneau and batting champion Joe Mauer, the Twins won 96 games in 2006. However, the Athletics would get revenge on their 2002 ALDS defeat, ending the Twins’ World Series hopes much earlier than anticipated.

    After a disappointing 79-win 2007 season, long-time center fielder and fan favorite Torii Hunter would leave the Twins for the Angels via free agency. The Twins would also trade Santana to the New York Mets before the 2008 season. Despite losing two of the team’s best players to larger markets, Gardenhire managed to keep the Twins in contention. The Twins would finish the 2008 season tied on top of the division with the Chicago White Sox. While the Twins would ultimately lose in game No. 163, the team was able to achieve far more than originally expected under Gardenhire in 2008.

    The following year would prove to be one of the most memorable in franchise history. Behind Mauer, who would later be crowned MVP, the Twins forced game 163 for the second consecutive season. After 12 innings of extremely competitive baseball, the Twins would defeat the Detroit Tigers in dramatic fashion on a walk-off single by Alexi Casilla. This would mark the Twins fifth division title in eight seasons under Gardenhire. However, the Twins were once again knocked out of the playoffs in the first round by the Yankees.

    The Twins would reach the playoffs for the sixth and, what would prove to be, final time under Gardenhire in 2010. While the season would once again end in misery, as the Yankees trounced the Twins out of the playoffs for the second consecutive season, Gardenhire would be awarded the Manager of the Year Award. He had previously finished second in the Manager of the Year Award voting in 2009, 2008, 2006, 2004, 2003 and third in 2002.

    We all are well aware of how the final four seasons under Gardenhire would finish.

    Under Gardenhire, the Twins won the AL Central Division six times and turned in eight winning season. His 1,068 wins are the second-most in team history, behind only Kelly. It may not have ended pretty, but Gardenhire will go down as one of the greatest managers in franchise history.

    Here’s to you Gardy, Thank You for Everything.