The Detroit Tigers will play games against the Twins on Tuesday and Wednesday at Target Field but manager Ron Gardenhire won’t be in the opposing dugout. Gardenhire, the longtime Twins manager, resigned on Saturday before the Tigers’ 5-2 victory over Cleveland in Detroit.
Gardenhire, who will turn 63 on Oct. 24, was close to the end of his third season managing the Tigers. This was the final year of his contract and his resignation came with 10 games remaining in the regular season. Gardenhire left the Tigers game against the Twins at Target Field on Aug. 5 because of a stomach virus related to gastrointestinal issues and then remained in the clubhouse for games the following two days. Gardenhire informed Tigers general manager Al Avila on Saturday that he was not “feeling well from a health perspective,” according to Jason Beck of MLB.com.
Lloyd McClendon, the Tigers’ bench coach, will assume the interim job with Gardenhire’s departure.
“It’s been wonderful here, but I also know I have to take care of myself,” Gardenhire said. “When you come to the ballpark, and you’re stressed out all day, and your hands are shaking, that’s not fun. I’ve got grandbabies; I’ve got kids that I need to take care of, and my wife.”
Gardenhire, who had been a coach on Tom Kelly’s staff with the Twins, went 1,068-1,039 in managing Minnesota from 2002 to 2014. The Twins won six American League Central titles in that time. Minnesota won 90 or more games in a season five times under Gardenhire, who was named AL Manager of the Year in 2010. The Twins, however, went 63-99 in 2011 and did not have another winning season under Gardenhire. He was fired after the 2014 season and replaced by Paul Molitor. Gardenhire had been in the Twins’ organization for 27 years, including 11 years as Kelly’s third base coach before becoming manager.
While Kelly was laid-back in his style, Gardenhire was a fiery manager who never minded being kicked out of a game. He had 84 career ejections, 71 in a Twins uniform. Gardenhire’s son, Toby, is a manager in the Twins organization and was slated to lead Triple-A Rochester this season before COVID-19 forced the cancellation of the minor league season. Toby has been working at the Twins’ alternate training site in St. Paul.
Baseball has always been better with Ron Gardenhire part of it. His legacy is highlighted by the hugely positive impact he made on players and staff. I will always remember his authentic connection to the fans. The Gardenhire family will always be part of the @Twins family. https://t.co/hwU5DCrBLD
— Dave St. Peter (@TwinsPrez) September 19, 2020
Justin Morneau, who became an MVP under Gardenhire and is now an analyst on Twins telecasts, recalled playing for Gardenhire before Saturday’s Twins-Cubs game. “I came up as a 22-year-old,” Morneau told MLB.com. “He was the manager. He looked out for me. He treated me like a son. He was a guy who always wanted the best for his players. He would go to bat for his players. He was a players’ manager. And he had such a good feel of, once or twice a year, if the effort wasn’t good enough, come in and yell and blow up the room and let everybody know that effort is expected and focus is expected.”
Gardenhire returned to baseball in 2017 as bench coach for the Arizona Diamondbacks but had to take a leave of absence during that season because of prostate cancer. He took over the rebuilding Tigers in 2018 and went 132-241 in two-plus seasons. Detroit lost 114 games last year but Gardenhire was brought back.
“Whether this is it for him or not in the game of baseball, the game of baseball is better when he’s involved,” Morneau told MLB.com. “You just hope that he’s in good health. That’s the first thing you hope. And if this is it for him in the game of baseball, hopefully he’s able to go around on his pontoon and enjoy what he’s got going forward, and maybe watch his son do what he did one day.”
Gardenhire visited Target Field during his one season with the Diamondbacks and had gotten himself into excellent shape. Of course, the stress of managing is much different. “This is tough. It’s a tough day for me,” he said. “Didn’t expect it, tell you the truth, when I walked in. But I just know how I’ve been feeling lately, and I expressed that to Al, and elected to just go ahead and step down.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.