Last week the Minnesota Twins retired the No. 10 jersey of Tom Kelly, the Twinkies' manager from the bitter and sweet years of 1986-2001. Kelly -- who led the squad to two World Series rings ('87 and '91) as well as eight straight losing seasons ('93-'00) -- now serves the indispensable role of special assistant to the general manager, not to mention guy who lulls us to sleep when Bert Blyleven is gone.
The obvious question that this jersey hanging raises: When our current leader Ron Gardenhire's uni is draped adjacent to Kelly's, whose will bear more legend?
As Kelly's replacement, Gardy has now been skip for a decade. In a head-to-head managerial stat showdown, the two are neck-and-neck. Yes, Kelly has two rings to Gardy's zero, but the Gardy-led Twins have a rather remarkable six division titles in 10 summers; Kelly's squads took the division only twice, in its World Series seasons. Each has one Manager of the Year award under his tight-fitting belt.
But stats, smats: Who are we, Boston, who considers canning their skip after half a season of losing baseball? No, this is Minnesota, and we measure our manager's worth beyond the books. How is his dugout decency? His "hug-a-bility"? What kind of fishing companion would he be? The metric we must abide by is something called the Grandpa Factor.
In this, Gardy wins by a landslide. Picture this: The granddad on your mom's side is lackadaisical ol' Tom Kelly, and the other side is goateed teddy Ron Gardenhire. At whose doorstep would you rather get dropped when your 'rents go out woopty-dooing in the city? Pop-pop Tom would likely sit in his rocking chair, dozing off midway through his gravelly story about being drafted in the eighth round by the Seattle Pilots. Gramps Gardy, on the other hand, we can imagine serving up home-grilled Dome Dogs while talking about being born on a couch in West Germany (seriously!) and letting you do cannonballs off the dock and sneak swigs of his Leinenkugel's.
With an aging roster, almost zero pitching options and few marquee prospects in the pipeline, the future is pretty grim in Twins Territory. But the same went for the decade mark of Tom Kelly's career; in 1996 our center fielder may or may not have been woeful Kirby replacement Rich Becker. We can only hope that both Gardy and his supporters can hold strong for another half-decade of what looks to be long, depressing summers.
Just think: By then, we might be in the market for a new special assistant to the general manager.