Cleat Geeks

Tiger Time: Gardenhire Named as Manager

The Detroit Tigers’ search for a new manager ended only 19 days after the dismissal of Brad Ausmus.

The new Tigers skipper: Ron Gardenhire.

The hiring came shortly after the club announced they had put together a shortlist of ten candidates, including Cubs’ bench coach Dave Martinez, former Marlins skipper Mike Redmond, and former Braves/Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez, the seeming front-runner, among others. Reports emerged earlier in the week that Gardenhire was in Detroit interviewing for the job. More news emerged Thursday claiming that Gardenhire was offered and accepted the position, which was confirmed by the team later that night.

On Friday Gardenhire officially signed on as the club’s next manager, inking a three-year deal.

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Gardenhire found success at the helm of the Minnesota Twins from 2002-2014, winning over 1,000 games and the central division six times (2002-2004, 2006, 2009-2010). He saw his fair share of difficulty as well, losing over 1,000 games with five sub-.500 seasons, including four straight from 2011 until his firing in 2014. He returned to the dugout in 2017 as a bench coach for the Arizona Diamondbacks only to take an early leave of absence to recover from surgery pertaining to prostate cancer.

The appointment of Gardenhire as manager, which many fans thought should have happened as soon as he became available, serves as a welcomed change. Facebook comment threads and Twitter feeds call him an immediate improvement over the hiring of then-green Brad Ausmus before the 2014 season.

Gardenhire’s impact will be noticeable from the jump in multiple areas. Coaching style is one of these. While Ausmus managed in a more laid-back approach, Gardenhire brings a much more fiery, active approach to the dugout that is somewhat akin to Jim Leyland during his years in Detroit. While any manager wants the best from his players Gardenhire will bring it out of them, not being afraid to light a fire underneath his players and let them know when they’re underperforming. He will become more animated in the dugout in reaction to umpiring calls, which has great potential to serve as an immediate spark to his players on the field.

However, there is also uncertainty with Gardenhire at the helm. As mentioned above, he posted five losing seasons, including four consecutive. While he won the division six times his teams never made it farther than the League Championship Series, where his Twins were able to salvage one victory before falling to the eventual World Series champion Anaheim Angels. Every other year they never advanced beyond the Division Series. Granted, the club is not going to be in the playoff hunt in 2018. But that’s something to consider for the long-term if Gardenhire remains involved.

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As well, Gardenhire has never been charged with helping lead a rebuilding team. The team he inherited in 2002 was the fruits of a rebuild project led by longtime Twins skipper Tom Kelly. His team was perfectly in place for him and ready to go, save for pieces added in later like Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau. Once veteran talent ran out, the team faltered and he was unable to right the ship.

But his abilities to develop young players he’s given is a point of hope. That he aided in developing Mauer and Morneau into the players they’d become is promising, with young players waiting in the Tigers’ minor league wings. Jeimer Candelario could be his next Justin Morneau. JaCoby Jones may receive the coaching he needs to become a consistent player on both sides of his game. James McCann’s resurgent 2017 at the plate could be carried on into the future with the right coaching staff around Gardenhire.

With a new captain of the ship the Tigers now sail into offseason waters, where trades, coaching staff appointments, and the Winter Meetings await.

Find me on Twitter @milz_chris and follow @CleatGeeks for more baseball and sports news.


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