By: Will Burchfield
The Tigers introduced new manager Ron Gardenhire at Comerica Park on Friday afternoon after he signed a three-year contract with the team.
Gardenhire, 59, spent last season as the Diamondbacks bench coach. He managed the Twins from 2002 to 2014, during which time he gained praise for winning with undermanned teams.
He said his time away from the manager’s chair increased his desire to get back in it.
Here are five takeaways from Gardenhire’s first press conference as a Detroit Tiger.
1. Gardenhire, who also interviewed for the Red Sox’ vacant manager position, said the Tigers were an easy choice:
“I had a great interview with Al (Avila) and a few other people. Mr. Al Kaline was there and Alan Trammell and David Chad, and we had a really nice a sit down. I felt very, very comfortable there — not to say I didn’t with Boston, they were great people also — but I’ve known this Central Division. I’ve been in it. It feels good here, and all the respect I’ve had for this fan base and this organization, it wasn’t that hard of a decision, really. I told my wife that right from the get-go: ‘I hope they do make me an offer.'”
2. The Tigers are embarking on a full-scale rebuild, a process with which Gardenhire has vast experience:
“We went through those things with Minnesota. …We were a smaller-market and it was constant developing, teaching, trying to rebuild and get you back to where you want to be. …We lost a lot of our players through free agency. So all these things that we’re talking about here, I’ve seen, I’ve been through it.
“Talking with Al, I think that’s what they were looking for. I felt that. They were looking for somebody that’s been there and done it. There’s not going to be too many surprises for me.”
3. Gardenhire never flinched at the idea of taking over a rebuild, and he isn’t sold on the idea that the Tigers will be a losing team next season:
“It never really bothered me whatsoever. I’ve had a lot of my buddies going, ‘What are you doing? You want to get your brains beat out?’ No. I don’t want to lose, and who’s to say we have to lose next year? Who’s to say? Baseball’s a great game and a lot of things can happen, so I’m going to go in there thinking we’re going to kick some people’s butts.”
4. Though Gardenhire has refuted the vale of analytics in the past, he said he came around during his time with the Diamondbacks:
“Honestly, I just went through the analytics department and I told every one of those guys I love them — because they’re going to help me. Everybody needs help with it, and fortunately for me this last summer with the Diamondbacks I got involved in it. I actually saw it working first hand. I don’t know if it’s new knowledge, but it’s sure put in a lot of different ways, and it makes a lot of sense. It was a lot of fun, is what I’m trying to get to.
“We talk about old-school, new-school. I don’t mind being called old-school because we all learned to play baseball old-school. We also know there’s a lot of new ways out there, and if you stop learning you’re probably screwed. I don’t want to get screwed, so I’m not going to stop learning the game of baseball and all the ways to play it.”
5. Gardenhire believes the key to managing a young team, as the Tigers will be next season, is staying on top of the players about fundamentals and offering constant feedback:
“We talk about the fundamentals, obviously. Those are the simple things, easy words, but I think it’s paying attention to detail in everything you do. Communication skills come into play. You have to be able to talk with these kids, you want them to ask questions openly. It’s being there for them, and also if we screw something up making sure we don’t just let it go. We talk about it and we try to understand what we think is right and wrong.
“More than anything else, with young players, you might have some tough love for them every once in a while but you’re going to end up patting them on the back an awful lot when they do well. It’s very important they see both sides.”