Minnesota Twins Manager Ron Gardenhire has been named American League Manager of the Year.
After finishing runner-up five times, including each of the past two seasons, Gardenhire joins Tom Kelly as the only Twins manager to win the honor.
This season, Gardenhire led the team to its sixth division title in their last nine seasons, but the Twins lost in the first round of the playoffs. MPR's Tom Crann spoke with Gardenhire on Wednesday.
Tom Crann: Congratulations and good afternoon.
Ron Gardenhire: Good afternoon. I appreciate it. It's been one of those kind of whirlwind days, and everything started happening, and it's been a lot of fun, actually.
Crann: Everyone talks about how awards really aren't all that important, but today what does this award mean to you?
Gardenhire: I look at it as one of these things (where) people are recognizing myself and my coaching staff and our ball club. And I think that's really important, recognizing that we've done some pretty good things and had another really good year.
Unfortunately for all of us, we didn't get as far as we wanted to, and we didn't get some things accomplished, but we did get a lot of things accomplished, and we did open a new stadium, and it's wonderful. So there's a lot of really, really good things that happened, and this award ... I think people are saying, "Congratulations to you."
Crann: Did you see it coming at all, especially at the beginning of the season? You heard the news about Joe Nathan. Did you think you'd win the division and get this award at that point?
Gardenhire: Your bullpen's going to be as good as the guy at the end, and when you lose a guy as good as Nathan, there was a lot of doubts that crept into a lot of people's minds. I think that's where, as a manager, you really have to step up and you have to make sure people are on the right page and have that right frame of mind that we have to overcome some things to be successful.
But definitely, you don't want to go into spring training and lose a guy like Nathan because that's not a way to start a season, but fortunately for us, we had some people really step up.
Crann: And then you lose Justin Morneau halfway through the season. How do you handle that news and the lack of certainty, especially with a player like Morneau?
Gardenhire: When it happened out there, we didn't think much about it. He got kneed in the head and we thought he might miss a day or two. We know he'd had an injury before like that, a concussion, and you're thinking maybe a few days here, but as it went along, we realized how serious it was.
And again, you're fighting not only the injury and the performance out on the field, but you're fighting the perception that the Twins are done. And you can't let that creep into your players' minds or your coaches'.
So we have to stay positive, and we have to make sure our players understand that we have the job to do. Somebody's got to pick up where Morneau left off.
Crann: You have a lot of different audiences to manage. You have your team. You have the fans, umpires, the sports writers, talk radio. How do you balance all those different interested parties when you get to work for the job that you do?
Gardenhire: There's really no way you can. The great thing about all sports is people have their opinions, and you're never going to be able to change that. You have to really believe in what you're doing and believe in the way you're doing things. And we believe we're doing things the right way.
We believe we put a baseball team out there that's competitive. We believe we put a baseball team out there that can win and gives everything they have.
Crann: What do you think the most important skill is for a good baseball manager?
Gardenhire: Well, as I talked about, I think it's remembering what it was like to be a player, remembering how hard it was on the other side because for most of us in the game that are on the coaching side of it, we were players. And we played out there on the field.
I played in the big leagues, and I remember how hard it was. And if I can remember that on a day-to-day basis and understand what my players are going through, I'll be better off in the long run, and I think my players will be, too, because I understand.
(Interview condensed and edited by MPR News reporter Madeleine Baran.)