Gardenhire Unsure Of Future With Tigers: I Wasn't 'Worth A Flip This Year'

He should be back for 2019. Beyond that, it's hard to say.

Jamie and Stoney
October 02, 2019 - 1:56 pm

Ron Gardenhire has endured two brutal seasons of baseball in Detroit. 212 losses, the most of any manager in that span. 

You can understand why he's been ejected from so many games. 

Gardenhire signed up for this, of course. The Tigers were on the ground floor of an all-out rebuild when they hired him two years ago. With one year remaining on his contract, Gardenhire, who turns 62 this month, intends to be back for 2020. Beyond that, he's not so sure.

He acknowledged last week that he probably won't be here when the team starts winning again. By then, Al Avila will likely have found someone else to take the wheel. 

"I’m here to do a job, get this thing on the right track and go from there. And then somebody eventually will take over and they’re going to have a good baseball team here," he said. "You’re going to see a lot of good wins and a lot of good players." 

Asked on the Jamie and Stoney Show on 97.1 The Ticket how he views his future with the organization, Gardenhire said Wednesday, "That’s going to be dependent on how everything feels next year -- my feelings, and I’m sure Al's, on what he wants to do moving forward. My job when I took this job was to go through a rebuild. We’ll see how it goes. I don’t feel like I did worth a flip this year. I mean, I know we grinded it out, but when you lose over 100 games I don’t think there’s any way possible I can feel like I really did a great job this year."

If there's one positive of Gardenhire's tenure thus far, it's the mood he's established in the clubhouse. Somehow, despite all the losing, he's kept things upbeat. But ultimately the losing has to stop, and Gardenhire appreciates this as much as anyone. 

"We created a positive atmosphere, an atmosphere where the players were at least comfortable coming to the ballpark. They had fun, but losing is never what you want to do. I have to figure out a way next year to make it all better, where we win, win ballgames at home. I know we’re still going through a rebuild, I know we’re not going to sign all these big shooters to come in and fill the roster out, but still, we have to be better all the way around. 

"We’re making changes with the coaching staff, moving people around, trying to get people in better positions where we think it’s going to work out better. Hopefully it will, but there’s a lot of things we have to do better, myself too." 

The losing isn't Gardenhire's fault. The Tigers fielded a Quadruple-A team for most of this season, particularly in the last couple months. The same was true last season. But the reason Gardenhire was hired, aside from putting on a good face through tough times, was to groom Detroit's young players, to teach them smart, fundamentally sound baseball. He made one promise at the outset of last season. We're going to play the game the right way.

In that regard, it's hard to say the team has made much progress since he arrived. 

That has to factor into Avila's decision as to whether he sticks with Gardenhire beyond next season. 2021 is when the Tigers should realistically start climbing the ladder. And with the young talent that's beginning to graduate to the majors, there should be tangible signs of improvement in 2020. 

"Our fans need to see some good baseball next year -- better baseball, let’s just put it that way," Gardenhire said. "And I get it. I want to be a part of that, and then after that I’ll let Al and everybody else decide how we did. But like I said, I have to do a better job. Myself, my coaches, we worked our tails off, but you have to play better at home, you have to win more ballgames." 

The Tigers went 22-59 at Comerica Park this season, tied for the most home losses in MLB history. They went 0-9 during one particularly awful homestand in May. It bothered Gardenhire throughout the season, and it will live with him for the next few months. 

"I’ve always been a big believer that you have to defend your house, and we didn’t play well at home in front of our fans. That’s the biggest disappointment for me," he said. "I don’t know how to correct it, other than we have to make sure that we take care of our home next year. I preached it this year and it didn’t work out too well, so I don't know if they’re trying too hard, I don’t know if they’re too comfortable at home. We definitely played better on the road -- and we didn’t play great on the road, either -- but we have to take care of home. Hopefully we’ll be able to fix that." 

On the flip side, Gardenhire said the high point of the season was the road trip through Tampa Bay, Houston and Minnesota in August during which the Tigers played competitive baseball against three of the best teams in the AL. That included a 2-1 win against Justin Verlander and the Astros. 

"We played against teams that are going to be in the playoffs and we really played well. That was fun. I was really proud of the guys," Gardenhire said. "The game against Houston against Verlander down there was unbelievable, it was really intense. You beat a guy like that, that's incredible. We played really well in Tampa and really well in Houston, so I was really proud. I was impressed with the guys.

"We just have to bring that every day, have to bring that intensity every day during the course of the season. Those are some of the things we didn’t have. Came out flat and it was really disappointing, so hopefully we can figure out a way to every day go out there and grind it out."