Out of the Frying Pan
by Jessica Polko
Ron Gardenhire will be the new manager of the Minnesota Twins in 2002. Gardenhire, who is 44, has spent the last 10 years as a coach under manager Tom Kelly for the Twins. He has coached both first and third base and spent one year as the bench coach. Before joining the Twins' major league staff, Gardenhire spent 2 years managing Minnesota's AA club and a year managing their A ball team at Kenosha. Gardenhire began his player development career almost immediately after he retired from his own major league baseball career. He spent portions of 5 seasons in the majors with the New York Mets as a mediocre utility infielder.
The Twins postponed naming a new manager after Tom Kelly retired following the season, as Minnesota and Montreal were thought to be the original targets while MLB tried to sort out the issues surrounding contraction. The matter of contraction has obviously not been resolved, but as the new season and Spring Training approach, the club felt that they could no longer wait. Minnesota third base coach and former Twin Paul Molitor was the favorite for the position until he withdrew his name from consideration due to the ambiguity surrounding the organization's future.
While probably the Twins' second choice, Gardenhire should work out well for the club. When he joined the major league coaching staff, he was thought to be one of the minor league managers best suited to a major league position, and although that was some time ago, he knows this team and should be able to find his "sea legs" again. Now that the managerial question has been answered, Minnesota is expected to fill the rest of their coaching and support positions quickly, probably from within their minor league system. They have already started to move forward with some of things that need to be resolved in the near future. Arbitration eligible players Joe Mays and Torii Hunter have both reportedly been offered four-year deals.
The age and experience difference between Kelly and Gardenhire obviously comes to mind whenever you start to look at how this change might affect the team next season, but overall I don't think it will be a hard transition. While it is only natural to expect that Gardenhire will have some new ideas that he will want to implement, he has spent the majority of his coaching career under the tutelage of Kelly. Because he has worked with them as a coach, he also seems to have the support of the players to a far greater extent than anyone the Twins could have found outside of the organization.
Unlike many new managers, Gardenhire is fortunate in that he is inheriting a team that finished second in their division last year and which was in the playoff race until well into the season. He has made a few comments as to his plans for the team. It looks as though he wants to start the season with Eddie Guardado as his closer and with Luis Rivas batting leadoff. Both decisions are somewhat questionable but at this early stage in his career as a major league manager, I am willing to give him a little leeway. We'll have to check in again after Spring Training and throughout the season to see how well he adapts to his new role. As long as he is flexible and learns from his "mistakes", the change might be good for the Twins.
Gardenhire signed for the next two seasons.
On Saturday the San Francisco Giants signed free agent OF Reggie Sanders to a one-year, $1.75 million deal with a mutual $3.5M option for 2003. Once the Diamondbacks chose not to offer Sanders arbitration, the outfielder selected San Francisco as the team for which he wanted to play.
Other teams were reported to have interest in the outfielder and some were even rumored to be offering more than San Francisco, but he felt strongly enough about his preference that he pursued the Giants. Sanders was interested in working with Manager Dusty Baker and feels that the Giants have a very good shot at the World Series this year. After successfully identifying Arizona as World Championship material last season, he appears to feel he has a knack for picking winners. I like Frisco's chances a lot better after this acquisition, but I'm not quite sure I'm ready to join the Reggie Sanders Betting Pool.
This is the kind of move that the Giants needed to make this off-season to put some additional offense behind Barry Bonds. While it is unlikely that Sanders will be able to remain fully healthy for the entire season, Baker should be able to use him in a way that will maximize the rest of the offense, and when healthy, he offers a lot more than the Giants' outfield alternatives. However, those alternatives could be used to strategically rest Sanders in order to attempt to prevent injuries.
Marvin Bernard has been on the trading block for a while now, but the size of his contract when compared to what he has to offer has made him unattractive to other teams. He will most likely stay with the Giants through the 2002 season, the last year of his 3-year, $11.1M contract. If he stays in San Francisco, then he will probably serve as a fourth outfielder, potentially starting when the team wants to rest Sanders. Tsuyoshi Shinjo is currently expected to receive the majority of the playing time in center field, although as the season progresses, Bernard will see some ABs there as well.
Shawon Dunston will make the team as a utility player off the bench. Calvin Murray probably has to compete for a roster slot in Spring Training, but I would give him at least a 50% chance of making the team.
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