I'm a little late in writing about this, but the Twins announced last week that they have rewarded manager Ron Gardenhire for another successful season by handing him a two-year contract extension that will keep him as the manager in Minnesota through the 2009 season. They also extended his coaching staff through 2008.
The decision is not in any way surprising. Carl Pohlad has stated in the past that Gardenhire will be the team's manager as long as he is the owner. And, if you look at his track record, it's hard to argue that Gardy has not done at least a satisfactory job during his time as manager. He has now managed the team for five seasons; the Twins have posted a winning record in each of those seasons and have made the playoffs in four of them.
Now, one could argue that Gardenhire was gifted with a talent-laden roster when he stepped in, or that three of the division titles he won came in very weak divisions. Nevertheless, it's clear that he's been doing a lot of things right and the team has responded to him by playing very well.
The Twins' lack of postseason success during Gardenhire's tenure is another matter. In their last three playoff series, they have won a total of two games. Still, I would argue that only one of the Twins' postseason failures in the past five years can truly by attributed to Gardenhire in any significant way (his terrible decisions in Game 2 of the 2004 series completely turned the tide of the series for the worst). In 2002, the Twins unexpectedly advanced past the Athletics in the first round before running into a red-hot Angels team in the ALCS that would eventually win the World Series. In 2003, the Twins were simply overmatched by a loaded Yankees team. This year, the Twins came out and gave an absolute dud of a performance and never stood a chance against the A's. It's hard to pin a peformance like that on the manager when the players just can't seem to do anything.
I am fine with Gardenhire being the manager of this team for the foreseeable future. He still does some things that frustrate me and I know that a lot of people out there still aren't big fans of him, but in my opinion 2006 was his most impressive season as a manager. He handled the bullpen extremely well, he kept the players positive after a horrendous start to the season, and he eventually made the changes that needed to be made even if he was a little late to do so.
I look forward to watching his team battle their tails off next season.