-Alex Fry (‘19)
On October 20th, 2017, the Detroit Tigers officially named the Arizona Diamondbacks’ former bench coach, Ron Gardenhire, as their manager for the next three years. He will replace Brad Ausmus, who went 314-322 in four years with the Tigers and finished tied for last in the Majors this past season. It is clear that these next couple of years will be rebuilding campaigns for the Tigers after trading top players such as J.D. Martinez, Justin Verlander and Justin Upton. But the question lingers: is Ron Gardenhire the right manager for the Tigers’ future?
One of the primary reasons Gardenhire was hired as manager was because of his past experiences as one. But his background is also a big reason for skepticism. In 13 years as a manager for the Minnesota Twins, he went 1,068-1,039, a very mediocre record. In those 13 years, he made it to the playoffs six times while winning six AL Central titles as well, but only won a single playoff series. In 2010, Gardenhire won the American League Manager of the Year Award. But then, he proceeded to coach four straight losing seasons for the Twins. In total, there is nothing particularly good that stands out about Gardenhire, as exhibited by his playoff failures and losing streaks. But there is also not much that is terribly bad, as he did have an overall winning record as a coach and won prestigious awards.
An interesting fact about Gardenhire is that he has stated that he does not believe in analytics. According to Shawn Windsor of the Detroit Free Press, “Ron Gardenhire once said that number lies a lot… he does not believe in math”. Instead of looking at the numbers when going into a matchup, such as which batter has a better average against a certain pitcher or where certain players hit certain pitches, Gardenhire relies on his gut when assembling his lineups and developing his strategies. He is an old-school coach in a modernizing game.
Overall, despite his average career and old-school approach to the game, Gardenhire has a new team, a new staff and a new chapter in his life. He can be judged however one pleases with his past, because now he is in a completely new situation with a rebuilding team. And it is going to be solely up to him to determine how to guide that new team to success.