Twins likely to give Ron Gardenhire a contract extension

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I co-hosted the postgame call-in show on 1500-ESPN here in Minnesota following the Twins’ season-ending loss to the Yankees on Saturday night and many of the callers wanted Ron Gardenhire fired, but not surprisingly the manager is in absolutely no danger of actually being let go.
Gardenhire is under contract through next season and Twins chief executive officer Jim Pohlad wasted no time saying that he’ll soon receive a contract extension that goes beyond 2011, calling it “a no-brainer.”
In nine seasons under Gardenhire the Twins are 18-57 against the Yankees, including nine straight losses to New York in the playoffs. However, he’s also managed the Twins to six division titles in nine years after the team had one winning season in the nine years before he took over for Tom Kelly and there’s a pretty good chance Gardenhire will be named Manager of the Year shortly.
I’ve been blogging about the Twins since 2002 and during that time I’ve often been accused of being overly critical of Gardenhire, in part because many of his lineup decisions and in-game strategies annoy me and in part because I think his regular season success has been somewhat overstated by virtue of playing in a weak division. On the other hand, I’ve never even come close to calling for him to be fired and certainly wouldn’t do so now.
Being dominated by the Yankees is extremely frustrating, but at no point were the Twins favored in those playoff series. Beyond that, the lack of success the Twins had during the decade before Gardenhire was infinitely more frustrating and there are probably 20 teams that would jump at the chance to go three-and-out in the playoffs in two of every three seasons. I’m far from the world’s biggest Gardenhire fan, but Pohlad is absolutely right when he says that keeping the manager around is a “no-brainer” for the Twins.

Are the Cardinals about to go on a free agent binge?

John Mozeliak AP
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The Cardinals have always emphasized building from within. In the 2016-17 offseason, however, they may end up being one of the bigger free agent buyers. At least according to some informed speculation.

St. Louis is already in agreement with Dexter Fowler. But Derrick Goold and Ben Frederickson of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch write today that the Cardinals “could become more aggressive than previously believed,” with Mark Trumbo and Edwin Encarnacion as “possible pursuits.” Worth noting that separate reports alleged some interest on the part of the Cards front office in free agent third baseman Justin Turner.

The Cardinals are already losing their first round pick due to the Fowler signing, so any other top free agent won’t cost them more than the money he’s owed. And as far as money goes, the Cardinals have a great deal of it, despite being a small market team. They have a billion dollar TV deal coming online and Matt Holliday and Jaime Garcia are off the payroll now. Spending big on a free agent or three would not cripple them or anything.

Encarnacion or Trumbo would be first baseman, which wold fly in the face of the Cards’ move of Matt Carpenter to first base (and, at least as far as Encarnacion goes, would fly in the face of good defense). Getting either of them would push Carpenter back to second, displacing Kolten Wong, or over to third, displacing Jhonny Peralta. If you’re going to do that, I’d say that Turner would make more sense, but what do I know?

Either way, the Cardinals may be entering a pretty interesting phase of their offseason now. And an unfamiliar one as, quite possibly, the top free agent buyer on the market.

 

Bobby Valentine on short list to be U.S. Ambassador to Japan

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 12:  Former MLB player Bobby Valentine attends Annual Charity Day hosted by Cantor Fitzgerald, BGC and GFI at BGC Partners, INC on September 12, 2016 in New York City.  (Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images for Cantor Fitzgerald)
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There is literally nothing you could tell me that the incoming administration is considering which would shock me anymore. As such, I saw this story when I woke up this morning, blinked once, took a sip of coffee, closed the browser window and just went on with my morning, as desensitized as a wisdom tooth about to be yanked.

Rob Bradford of WEEI.com reports that Former Red Sox, Mets and Rangers manager Bobby Valentine is on a short-list of candidates for the job of United States Ambassador to Japan:

The 66-year-old, who currently serves as Sacred Heart University’s athletics director, has engaged in preliminary discussions with President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team regarding the position.

When contacted Thursday night, Valentine refused comment.

Huh. Given his history, I’d have assumed Valentine would be a better choice for the CIA, but what do I know?

Valentine managed the Chiba Lotte Marines of Japan’s Pacific League for six seasons, leading the team to a championship in 2005. He also knows the current prime minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe, as both went to USC. Assuming championship teams meet the country’s leader in Japan like they do in the United States, Valentine has at least twice the amount of experience with top political leaders than does, say, Ned Yost, so that’s something.

The former manager, more importantly, is friends with Donald Trump’s brother, with the two of them going way back. Which, given how this transition is going, seems like a far more important set of qualifications than anything else on this list.