The Minnesota Twins season ended on Wednesday in Toronto with another loss, the 96th of the season and went into the record books as the second consecutive season that the team had the worst record in the American league. On Thursday the payment came due for a number of manager Ron Gardenhire’s coaching staff.
It is never a good thing when someone loses their job, we all need to work in order to earn money to put food on the table and to support our families. It is easy to say that so and so should be fired because the results are not what we want to see but I still find myself feeling sorry for the individuals involved. The coaches let go by the Twins yesterday didn’t make a single error, they didn’t throw any gopherballs and they certainly didn’t strikeout when the bases were loaded but yet today they still find themselves unemployed. When the team that you are coaching loses 90+ games for the second year in a row someone has to pay the price if for no other reason than to send a message to its paying customer fan base that the team is doing what it can to turn things around. But in reality the firing of bullpen coach Rick Stelmaszek, or 3B coach Steve Liddle, or 1B coach Jerry White or even head trainer Rick McWane won’t add a single win to the Twins win column in 2013.
What it does do is send a message to everyone in the Twins organization that the Pohlad family views baseball as a business like any of their other businesses and if the Minnesota Twins are to be successful and profitable then everyone needs to work harder to be the best that they can be. When the Twins let these three coaches go, they lost 58 years of Twins coaching experience and head trainer Rick McWane has been in the organization for 24 years. Don’t think for a moment that this was a hasty decision, the team gave this matter a lot of thought, you don’t arbitrarily fire people with that much experience on a whim. Having said that, you also need to understand that it is natural for people to do things that have worked for them in the past and it is difficult for someone who has been with the organization for that many years to think outside of the box and come up with new ideas and new ways of doing things. In business it is a fine line between rewarding loyalty and making changes that bring new blood and new and fresh thinking into the organization. I am retired now but I worked for a single organization my entire 38 working years and I can tell you for a fact that there were many times over the years that either a new manager or a new employee would bring up a different way of doing something and we “old timers” in the company would say “stop right there, that is not the way we do it here at this company, we have been successful for many years doing it this way” so butt out and learn our ways of doing things or you will find yourself on the outside looking in. It is just the way that most of us think, change is difficult to accept and we don’t like to leave our comfort zones.
I feel the reason that the Twins have fallen on hard times is that they have neglected to accept change, the organization has gotten stale and they have gotten stuck in a rut with what has proven to work for them in the past and doing things the “Twins way”. There is always risk associated with any change but if you stand still and keep doing business as usual you will find out that your competitors not only have caught up to you but left you in their dust. It is easy to look at your team and say that we have some very good players and if we give them some time and experience they will continue to improve. That is true to a degree but you constantly need to look for better ways and better players. Over the year the Twins have been a model of stability but that only takes you so far, if you don’t take big risks at times you will not reap huge rewards. The Twins organization has been too conservative over the years and unwilling to take a risk, their “bird in the hand is worth two in the bush” approach has now bit them in the butt. Sometimes change will pay off and other times it will come back to haunt you as we all have witnessed in the recent Tsuyoshi Nishioka situation. But if you let the fear of failure keep you from taking a risk to get better, your are done, it is time to move on. Failure to take solid calculated risks will certainly lead to mediocrity and we are all paying for that now.
A lot has been made of the Twins letting Rick Stelmaszek and his 32 years with the team go but let’s be realistic here, what has Stelmaszek contributed recently to help the team? Stelmaszek has had health issues over the several years that have name it difficult for him to fulfill all his coaching duties. It is time for Stelmaszek to retire and give someone else a chance. As for Steve Liddle, the rumors have been out there for some time that he was thinking of retiring, if you are not 100% committed it is time to move on. I have not heard much about Jerry White either from a positive or a negative stand point so maybe it is just time for a change there too. Bench coach Scott Ullger and hitting coach Joe Vavra have been reassigned and their future roles are not yet clear if they will have a job on a major league or minor league level.
I have no issue with Gardy keeping the managers title but I am not as convinced that Rick Anderson should have been retained as the pitching coach. Both of these guys have a year left on their contracts and it seems very clear to me that both of their jobs are at risk going forward. GM Terry Ryan holds the key here and if he doesn’t get some players this off-season both Gardenhire and Anderson will be history. Fair or not, that is life in professional baseball. You can make a case that Gardy should resign at this point and just walk away but I don’t think that is the way that Gardy is wired, the man wants to win but right now he does not have the horses in the barn that will allow him to do so. I like GM Terry Ryan a lot and respect what he has accomplished over the years but he too is at the crossroads coming into 2013, he has to come up with a way to get some players that will help the Twins win or he will be riding off into the sunset after next season. Twins president Dave St. Peter is not in the clear here either, when you are in charge of the entire organization you need to accepts responsibility for the negatives as well as the positives. Yes, the times are changing in Twinsville and the fans will speak their minds over the next few weeks as they chose to either renew or not renew their season tickets and I think their voices will be loud and clear and the Twins organization will probably not like what they hear.