Gardenhire tops Washington for AL Manager of the Year

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Ron Gardenhire finished runner-up for Manager of the Year in five of his first eight seasons as the Twins’ skipper, including each of the past two seasons. Today he finally claimed the award for the first time, receiving 16 of 28 first-place votes to top Ron Washington of the Rangers and Joe Maddon of the Rays.

Gardenhire led the Twins to their sixth AL Central title in nine seasons, winning 94 games despite losing closer Joe Nathan to Tommy John surgery in spring training and cleanup hitter Justin Morneau to a concussion in July.

He was the only manager named on all 28 ballots cast by Baseball Writers Association of America members. Washington received 10 first-place votes, while Maddon and Cito Gaston received one apiece. Voting was conducted at the end of the regular season, so the Twins being swept by the Yankees in the first round and the Rangers advancing to the World Series were not factors.

I’m far from the world’s biggest Gardenhire fan, but the notion that he could be deemed the second-best manager in the league five times in eight seasons without ever actually winning the award always struck me as fairly absurd and perhaps more than anything reinforced the idea that there’s really no clear, established criteria for picking a winner.

Did he do a better job than Washington or Maddon or Gaston or Francona? I don’t think anyone really knows the answer to that, but Gardenhire won 94 games minus two of his stars and certainly deserved the award as much as anyone this season. Mostly, though, it’s a tough award to really argue about objectively.

Giants sign Darin Ruf to minor league contract

Darin Ruf
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The Athletic’s Jayson Stark reports that the Giants have signed 1B/OF Darin Ruf to a minor league contract.

Ruf, 33, played parts of five seasons in the majors with the Phillies from 2012-16, enjoying occasional offensive success. He spent the last three seasons in the KBO League in South Korea with the Samsung Lions, reigniting his career. Ruf hit an aggregate .313/.404/.564 with 86 home runs and 350 RBI over 1,756 plate appearances.

Ruf joins an ever-increasing list of players whose major league careers fizzled out, then found new life overseas — Eric Thames and Miles Mikolas are a couple of examples. Ruf will hope to prove himself as a big leaguer once more in spring training with the Giants.