Minnesota Twins manager Ron Gardenhire reached a milestone Saturday afternoon by gaining career win number 1,000 in a 7-3 defeat against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field.
With the win over Cleveland, Gardenhire has now become the 60th manager in history to achieve the milestone, and just the eighth manager since 1961 to do so with one team.
Gardenhire started out his Major League career with the New York Mets in 1981, playing five seasons with them at shortstop, second base and third base. Injuries, especially to the hamstring, often plagued Gardenhire throughout his playing career, leaving 1982 and 1984 as the only two seasons where he saw more than 70 games.
Gardenhire retired from baseball in 1986, but returned in 1991 as a third base coach for the Twins, a position that he held for 11 seasons. He was then named manager on January 4, 2002, replacing 2-time World Series Championship manager Tom Kelly. (Kelly is also on the list of managers reaching 1,000 career wins with just one team).
In his 13th year as Twins manager, “Gardy” has been known to be active and aggressive, particularly in leaving the dugout to argue with umpires and getting ejected shortly after. To date, he has been ejected a total of 67 times.
In the first three seasons as manager (2002-2004), Gardy led the Twins to three consecutive Central Division titles. The Twins defeated the Oakland Athletics in 2002 in five games to advance to the ALCS, but lost to eventual World Series Champions Anaheim Angels. The Twins then faced the New York Yankees the following two postseasons and lost both years 3-1. Since then, Gardy and the Twins have won three other division titles (2006, 2009, 2010). A seventh division title almost came in 2008, but the Twins fell short in a one-game playoff against the Chicago White Sox to determine who would advance to postseason.
Gardenhire is also an award-winning manager, receiving the Chuck Tanner Major League Baseball Manager of the Year Award in 2009 and the American League Manager of the Year Award in 2010.
Gardenhire’s 1,000-game career win feat could have come at the end of the 2013 season, but the Twins eventually dropped 10 of their last 11 games, leaving the Skipper just two wins shy of reaching the goal.
The Twins have also had losing-record seasons under Gardenhire’s tenure, one coming in 2007 and three coming consecutively from 2011-2013. The three latter seasons have seen the Twins at the bottom of the division, a sight that have left some questioning Gardenhire’s leadership. But, Gardenhire has been signed on a 2-year contract through 2015, which gives him enough time to turn the team around and back to where they were at the beginning of his managerial reign.
With just one week completed in the 2014 regular season, there is still room for much improvement for the Twins. Gardenhire can be a great manager, and a fun one to watch when he gets a little heated with umpires. Many fans would love to see the Twins back at the top of the division, but like every other great feat, it takes time. And who knows, that could possibly be this year.