Business Over Baseball: Twins GM Terry Ryan Loses Gardenhire Decision


What a difference a month makes.

On August 22nd, just over a month ago, General Manager Terry Ryan was quoted by Sid Hartman of the Star Tribune in regards to manager Ron Gardenhire’s future, “He is signed for next year, so you don’t have to worry about him….Yeah, yeah, I would say he’ll be back.”

Today, the Minnesota Twins announced Gardenhire’s dismissal.  So, what happened between August and now?  The answer is almost certainly Jim Pohlad intervened, and Terry Ryan pretty much said so during the press conference.

“After talking to Jim Pohlad and Dave St. Peter, this isn’t just one person’s opinion.” Ryan asserted during today’s press conference, “We decided to make this change.”

Ryan might as well have just said, “I was told by Jim Pohlad and Dave St. Peter to dismiss Ron Gardenhire, so I did as I was told.”  There is nothing to support the theory that Ryan changed course in his opinion of Gardenhire. Time and time again, Ryan has stood up for his embattled manager during the team’s 4 year stretch of dismal performance. The only way one would believe Ryan was part of the decision to dismiss Gardenhire would be to believe either:

A) Ryan was flat out lying every time he defended Gardenhire, or

B) Woke up one morning this past week and thought to himself, “You know what?  Ron really isn’t working out and after working together for over 13 years, we should really make a change, regardless what I’ve said and thought the past 4 years.”

Do either of those sound plausible?  Neither pass the smell test to me, either.

Here’s a scenario that does sound more believable. Pohlad, now facing all-time lows in attendance at Target Field the past two months, coupled with sluggish renewals of season tickets for 2015, comes to this conclusion:  “We won’t be able to get corporate partners and individuals to renew their tickets by keeping the staff and roster status quo.  We need to shake things up, create some excitement, and get people interested in the Minnesota Twins.”  How do you do that?  You cater to the talking heads, the bloggers, and the growing fanbase looking to remove Gardenhire and you pull the trigger on a manager change. You make sure you announce the decision as soon as you can, i.e. the day after the regular season finishes, so you can capture the 24 hour news cycle before the postseason begins.  If this also gives you a chance to recoup some of those season ticket renewals in the process, all the better.

Make no mistake, I am not a Gardenhire apologist.  I lamented the highly questionable decision after last season to extend Gardenhire another two years, feeling that letting his contract expire and have he and the organization part ways at that time would be the perfect send-off to a manager who has experienced more good times than bad with the club.  I have often questioned his on-field performance, especially this season with his constant shuffling of the lineups and overusing his bullpen.  If I felt this dismissal was a baseball decision, I would have no qualms with the Twins saying goodbye to Ron Gardenhire.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t feel like a baseball decision.  When asked at the press conference about his August comments to Sid Hartman, Ryan responded, “Well I have bosses, too.”  He certainly does, and they took the decision away from him and they made the call.  It feels like a cold, calculated business decision made by bean counters and billionaires. Gardenhire, if owed nothing else, deserved better than that.