With the Twins free-falling their way to a third straight 90-loss season the speculation about longtime manager Ron Gardenhire’s job security is starting to simmer a little bit here in Minnesota.
I asked on Twitter how many managers in baseball history have avoided being fired after three consecutive 90-loss seasons and SABR’s own Jacob Pomrenke came through with the information.
It has happened eight times since 1945:
Larry Rothschild Rays 1998-2000
Felipe Alou Expos 1998-2000
Tom Kelly Twins 1997-2000
Joe Torre Mets 1978-1980
Darrell Johnson Mariners 1977-1979
Preston Gomez Padres 1969-1971
Casey Stengel Mets 1962-1964
Zack Taylor Browns 1948-1951
Some other interesting tidbits from Pomrenke (who you should follow on Twitter, where he goes by @BuckWeaver): Four of the eight managers who kept their jobs after three straight 90-loss seasons were from expansion teams, so obviously tons of losing was expected/accepted. And five of the eight managers who stuck around after three straight 90-loss seasons were fired by the middle of the next year.
And of course as a Twins fan Tom Kelly’s tenure is most familiar to me, as well as being most relevant to Gardenhire. Kelly managed the Twins to four consecutive 90-loss seasons from 1997-2000 and then went 85-77 in 2001, at which point he stepped down from the job and retired at age 50. Gardenhire replaced him.
All of which is a long way of saying that if the Twins lose 90 games again this season and Gardenhire keeps his job for 2014 he’ll be one of just a few managers since 1945 to avoid getting the boot in a comparable situation. Right now the Twins are 37-50, which is a 93-loss pace, and Gardenhire’s contract is up in 75 games.
Bobby Jenks was a key part of the 2005 world champion White Sox. By 2010, his effectiveness as a closer fell off and he signed with the Boston Red Sox for the 2011 season. He’d pitch in only 19 games that year, suffer a back injury and would never pitch again.
In the year or so after that, we heard that Jenks was arrested for driving under the influence. And then we heard that his back surgery was botched, and his baseball career was over. Then, after years of silence, we learned last spring that Jenks won $5.1 million in a medical malpractice suit against the doctor who performed his surgery.
We did not, however, know all the details until Bobby Jenks wrote about them at the Players’ Tribune this morning. This is must-click link stuff, folks.
Jenks talks about how a seemingly innocuous pitch to Jorge Posada in an early-season Red Sox-Yankees game in 2011 was the last pitch he’d ever throw. He talks about the presumably simple surgery that would supposedly get him back on the field. And then the scary complications in which he almost died due to leaking spinal fluid resulting from the botched surgery. Then, after using painkillers to deal with back pain, Jenks’ fell into drug addiction, all of which culminated in him finding himself half-naked and crazed in a car that didn’t belong to him with police and rescue workers surrounding him.
Jenks got clean but his wife left him. And then he mounted a multi-year lawsuit during which he learned that the reason his back surgery was screwed up was because the surgeon was performing two surgeries at one time, which is an apparently common practice called “concurrent surgery,” that sounds like it totally should NOT be a common practice.
Yet Jenks has survived. He’s been sober for over seven years and he seems to be in a good place. But boy did he have to go through something harrowing to get there. Definitely take the time to read it.