If you've been watching the pennant races, you'll have noticed that the Twins are now 8 games up over the White Sox and are within sniffing distance of having the best overall record in the American League. If you look at the Twins roster, you will see how amazing this is.
The Twins continue to win consistently without their best slugger (Justin Morneau, out for two months now with a concussion) and their longtime closer (Joe Nathan). Their starting pitching is pretty good, but they don't have any true stoppers. They regularly run journeymen like Jason Repko out on the field. Yet they win, repeatedly. For the past two nights they have laid waste to a talented Chicago White Sox team laden with sluggers and power arms. How does this happen?
I think the answer is Ron Gardenhire. His persona is a little gruff and he's often entertaining when he argues with umpires, but he's amazingly good at pushing the right buttons. He's also figured out the optimum way to use Jim Thome, who knocked the Twins out of the playoffs in 2008 and has now hit well over 20 home runs in part time duty for the Twins.
It seems like every year, some other manager gets the Manager of the Year award in the American League and Gardenhire finishes second or third. This year, given everything the Twins have had to face, they rank among the elite. If Gardenhire is not the manager of the year in the American League this year, he'll never win the award. But whether he wins or not, there is no better manager in baseball today. Twins fans shouldn't take him for granted, even if the national media do.