Tag: Scott Baker

Ron Gardenhire

Ron Gardenhire: Too much of the credit, too much of the blame


For a few years there, I saw it as my personal mission to the spread the gospel of Ron Gardenhire, then manager of the Minnesota Twins. From 2002 to 2010 or so, Gardy had an amazing run. The team won the American League Central six times in nine years.

And they won those championships with players who were, bluntly, not very good. In 2002, they won 94 games with an offense that couldn’t score (ninth in the American League) and pitching staff without a single starter throwing 200 innings. 

In 2003, none of the five starters who made at least 20 starts had an ERA less than 4.49, and only Torii Hunter managed 20 home runs. They won the division again.

In 2008, their rotation was Nick Blackburn, Scott Baker, an almost unpitchable Francisco Liriano, my buddy Glen Perkins who was soon in the minors reestablishing himself as a reliever, Kevin Slowey and Carl Pavano. They won the division.

In 2010, their closer Joe Nathan blew out in spring training, their former MVP Justin Morneau had a concussion and missed half the season. They won the division.

Twins fans would often to write to me then to say that the team was winning IN SPITE of Gardy, not because of him, and I believed that to a point. I sometimes think that, strategically anyway, managers in general hurt their teams more than they help — meaning that if they would fall asleep in the dugout they might do better than some of the ill-advised maneuvers that they try when wide awake. Gardy was an old-school type, meaning he would occasionally spit on advanced metrics and would talk a lot about the intangible value of Nick Punto.

But the team seemed to fulfill their potential year after year, at least in the regular season. Yes, they were playing in an often lousy division. Yes, it helped in many of those years to have 19 games with the Royals and Tigers and Indians. Yes, in the postseason they would collapse at the first hint of wind. But, honestly, they won six division titles. You look at those teams. Other than 2006 — when they had a legitimately great team with Joe Mauer and Morneau at full power and the good versions of Johan Santana and Francisco Liriano — show me a Twins team that you could win with in Strat-o-Matic. You telling me some other manager is getting more out of Christian Guzman and Boof Bonser?

Anyway, the last four years have been entirely different. The Twins have lost 92-plus games every year and have been general non-competitive. It hasn’t helped that Joe Mauer has aged five years at a time or that the Twins thought it was a good idea to give Ricky Nolasco a billion jillion dollars. But whatever. The Twins fired Gardy Monday, and it makes me sad, obviously, but it’s not like you could blame them. This is the deal with baseball managers. Maybe Gardy did get too much of the credit when the team winning. Now comes the time when he gets too much of the blame.

I suspect Gardy will get another shot with a team, though you never know about these things. Lately the theme seems to be to hire 1980s and 1990s All-Stars — Matt Williams (five times), Robin Ventura (1992), Brad Ausmus (1999), Don Mattingly (six times), Walt Weiss (1998), Ryne Sandberg (10 times) and so on. It makes you wonder if the days are gone when teams will hire scrappy middle infielders who couldn’t hit. Teams seem to be shifting toward player-manager types, once good players who the young players grew up watching.

Gardy comes from the Tom Kelly school — he was the valedictorian of the Tom Kelly school — where managers grump and demand and instill and bunt too much and occasionally fall in love with limited but gritty players. When you get the right players, the Gardy style can still win a lot of games. When you get the wrong players, the Gardy style can still lose a lot games. It’s almost enough to make you think it’s really all about the players.

And That Happened: Sunday’s scores and highlights

Brian McCann

Yankees 7, White Sox 4: A pinch-hit, walkoff homer for Brian McCann in the bottom of the tenth inning. The Yankees scored four runs — none of them earned — against Chris Sale. They’ve won four in a row and refuse, Rasputin-like, to die.

Rockies 7, Marlins 4: Sure, the Rockies won this one, but the Marlins took the season series 4-3. And, as you’re no doubt aware, the winner of the Rockies-Marlins series each year takes home the 1993 Cup. It’s a large, pewter trophy with a little speaker in it that plays Haddaway’s “What is Love” if you press the button. It’s also filled with VHS tapes containing the first season of the “X-Files.” It’s pretty prestigious, actually.

Indians 3, Astros 1: Trevor Bauer tossed six shutout innings. The Indians runs came on a sac fly and a couple of singles. No inning featured more than one run scored. Yet it took three hours and fourteen minutes. I feel like this is exactly the kind of game that baseball needs to speed up as it looks at pace-of-play issues.

Rays 2, Blue Jays 1: Evan Longoria with an RBI single in the tenth to put the Rays ahead to stay. I suppose this being an extra innings game takes it out of the pace-of-play conversation, but it’s still nuts that even a ten-inning 2-1 game can take three hours and twenty-eight minutes.

Mariners 8, Red Sox 6: The M’s sweep the Sox, sending Boston to its eighth straight defeat. Dustin Ackley was 3 for 5 with a double, a triple and three runs scored. This one was over four hours long. It featured (a) tons of men left on base; (b) two stars in Robinson Cano and David Ortiz leaving with illness and injury, respectively; and (c) with an otherwise top-flight pitcher in Hisashi Iwakuma getting beat up. That’s about a 9.6 on the ugly scale. A long rain delay or an instant replay debacle would’ve pushed it to a 10.

Mets 11, Dodgers 3: A big win and a triple play? That’s a fun day at the old ballpark for the visiting team. Of course, the triple play doesn’t happen if Puig doesn’t Puig his way into out number three at hime plate. Didnt even slide or anything. But hey, they were down by five at the time. It’s not like making dumb outs on the base paths really mattered at that point. [Someone whispers in my ear]. I’m sorry, I take that back. Running into outs is way worse when you’re down by a bunch of runs. My apologies. Oh, Yasiel.

Reds 5, Braves 3: Not as close as the score would suggest, as Alfredo Simon held the Braves in check all day before the bullpen let a couple of runs across. It was Simon’s first win since the All-Star break. I had forgotten that he was actually an All-Star this year.

Nationals 14, Giants 6: The Nats were down 5-0 after three innings and were down 6-2 heading into the bottom of the sixth. Then they scored 12 unanswered runs off of Giants pitchers. Well, the runs were answered with lots of expletives and stuff — Jake Peavy was ejected for arguing balls and strikes and he didn’t even pitch in this game — but they weren’t answered with any other runs. The Nats extend their division lead to eight games.

Padres 7, Diamondbacks 4: Yasmani Grandal had a three run homer and a sac fly. Ian Kennedy beat his old mates. Well, normally we assume that former teammates are “old mates” in that friendship way, but I’m pretty sure the Dbcaks’ team handbooks requires no relationship higher then “frenemies” for former Diamondbacks players under penalty of a Miguel Montero wedgie.

Phillies 7, Cardinals 1: Jerome Williams allowed one run on five hits in eight innings. I suppose the third team of the 2014 season is the charm. Justin Masterson has a 7.43 ERA in five starts since being traded to the Cardinals at the deadline. So that’s not looking to hot I suppose.

Editor’s Note: Hardball Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $40,000 Fantasy Baseball league for Monday night’s MLB games. It’s $25 to join and first prize is $5,500. Starts at 7:05pm ET on MondayHere’s the FanDuel link.

Brewers 4, Pirates 3: Mike Fiers allows two runs on two hits in seven and helps the Brew Crew avoid the sweep. Fiers has been a revelation for the Brewers since being called on to replace Matt Garza in the rotation. He’s struck out 32 and walked just four in four starts with a 1.29 ERA since.

Cubs 2, Orioles 1: Tsuyoshi Wada didn’t allow a hit until surrendering a Steve Pearce homer with one out in the seventh. And that was the only offense Baltimore would get.

Tigers 13, Twins 4: Victor Martinez and Torii Hunter each drove in four in this rout. Seventy-three runs were scored in this four-game series. The Twins outscored the Tigers 42 to 31 yet the series was a split.

Rangers 3, Royals 1: The Rangers avoid the sweep. Scott Baker got his first win as a starter in more than three years. It was around 100 degrees for this game. Kind of sticks out for those of us in the Midwest and/or east coast, where’s it’s been a pretty cool and went summer. My brain really hasn’t gotten into “crap, summer heat sucks” mode all season. And my kids start school today, so it’s not going to feel mentally like summer much more either. Weird year.

Angels 9, Athletics 4: Josh Hamilton homered and drove in three, Mike Trout hit a homer and the Angels salvaged one in Oakland. Still, they leave on top of the division. To be continued next weekend.

Yu Darvish has start pushed back to Friday because of the weather

Yu Darvish

Good news for the Orioles, bad news for the Mets.

Yu Darvish was scheduled to start tonight against the Orioles, but with bad weather in the forecast in Baltimore, the Rangers decided to scratch him at the last minute and go with Scott Baker instead. Now Darvish is scheduled to start the series opener against the Mets tomorrow at Citi Field.

While Darvish will only be pushed back one day, the move has some ramifications for the upcoming All-Star Game. He previously lined up to start the Sunday before the All-Star break, which essentially would have removed him from consideration to pitch in the 85th midsummer classic. However, he could now be available to pitch. And that’s cool. So thanks, rain.

Rangers sign Scott Baker

Scott Baker AP

Released by the Mariners earlier this week, right-hander Scott Baker has agreed to a new minor-league contract with the Rangers.

Texas was in the market for rotation depth with Yu Darvish, Matt Harrison, and Derek Holland all hurting, but Baker was a mess in Mariners camp and missed nearly all of the past two seasons following Tommy John elbow surgery.

He declined an assignment to Triple-A from the Mariners, which led to his release, but Baker will almost surely be Triple-A bound for the Rangers and if he ever does make it back to the majors this season Texas’ ballpark is a whole lot worse home for an extreme fly-ball pitcher.

Nationals release right-hander Chris Young

chris young getty

Chris Young proved he’s recovered from thoracic outlet surgery this spring by posting a respectable 3.48 ERA and 1.16 WHIP in four Grapefruit League appearances for the Nationals. But there’s no spot for him on Washington’s major league roster and so he was let go in a round of cuts Tuesday in camp.

Young did not pitch at the big league level in 2013, but he was decent for the Mets in 2012 and would make for solid emergency rotation depth for a number of clubs. He joins Freddy Garcia, Scott Baker, and Erik Bedard on the secondary starting pitching market. Also, the Mariners just released veteran left-hander Randy Wolf, according to MLB.com’s Greg Johns.