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.
José Bautista hasn’t appeared in the majors since 2018 but the 39-year-old isn’t done playing just yet. Last month, we learned via a report from ESPN’s Jeff Passan that Bautista is hoping to come back as a two-way player. He spent the winter working out as a pitcher.
Bautista had also been working with former Blue Jays teammate Marcus Stroman. Back in January, Stroman tweeted, “My bro @JoeyBats19 is nasty on the mound. We been working working. All jokes aside, this man can pitch in a big league bullpen. I’ll put my word on it!”
In March, Passan added some details about Bautista, writing, “I’ve seen video of Jose Bautista throwing a bullpen session. Couldn’t tell the velocity, but one source said he can run his fastball up to 94. His slider had legitimate tilt — threw a short one and a bigger bender. @STR0 said in January he could pitch in a big league bullpen.” Stroman retweeted it, adding, “Facts!”
Stroman reiterated his feelings on Tuesday. He tweeted, “Since y’all thought I wasn’t being serious when I said it the first time…my bro @JoeyBats19could EASILY pitch in a big league bullpen. Easily. Sinker, slider, and changeup are MLB ready!” Stroman attached a video of Bautista throwing a slider, in which one can hear Stroman calling the pitch “nasty.”
Stroman attached another video of Bautista throwing a glove-side sinker:
Replying to a fan, Stroman said Bautista’s body “is in better shape than 90-95% of the league.”
I am not a scout and won’t pretend to be one after watching two low-resolution videos. And Stroman’s hype is likely partially one friend attempting to uplift another. That being said, I’ve seen much worse from position players attempting to pitch. It’s a long shot, especially given his age, that Bautista will ever pitch in the majors, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see him get an opportunity to pitch in front of major league scouts.