Citing health, Tigers manager Gardy retires

Gardenhire: 'I know I have to take care of myself'

September 20th, 2020

DETROIT -- Ron Gardenhire, who guided the Twins to six American League Central titles before guiding the Tigers through their rebuild, announced his retirement Saturday after three seasons in Detroit and 16 years managing in the Major Leagues.

The decision, announced shortly before the Tigers’ 5-2 win over Cleveland, came out of a Saturday afternoon meeting with general manager Al Avila at Comerica Park, during which Gardenhire discussed his recent health issues.

“I’d like to congratulate Gardy on one of the best managerial careers really in Major League Baseball history,” Avila said. “His leadership and hard work over the last three seasons has put us in a position to get closer to our goal of bringing back winning baseball to Detroit. His hard work and leadership with the young players over the years has really put us back on track and where we need to be and where we need to go.”

Gardenhire, who turns 63 next month, has had his health on his mind this season. He’s a prostate cancer survivor who was considered high-risk for COVID-19; he said around the start of the season that he would opt out if the team had an outbreak. He missed two games in Minnesota earlier this month with what was described as a stomach virus.

Gardenhire was in the final season of his contract. He had given no public indication whether he wanted to return, saying he would talk with Avila at season’s end. Instead, his situation came up during their usual pregame meeting Saturday.

“I come down and go into his office to talk baseball stuff,” Avila said. “And at that point we started talking, and then he mentioned to me that he was going to retire and that he wasn't feeling well from a health perspective.”

“As we talked about the way I've been feeling since I had that bout of food poisoning in Minnesota and stomach problems, and then the tension, the stress that goes along with this job,” Gardenhire said, “I told Al I would step out right now.

“I don’t want to put any pressure on Al or anything like that. It's been wonderful here. But I also know I have to take care of myself. And when you come to the ballpark and you're stressed out all the 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. And as I told Al, I'm going to step back and take care of myself, try to get healthy and get back to the norm.

“Very tough decision, very hard talking with the players and staff, because they’ve been everything to me here and it’s been nothing but a pleasure managing this team. But I have to do what’s right for me.”

Bench coach Lloyd McClendon will manage the Tigers through the rest of the season. The remainder of the coaching staff will stay on through the end of the season.

The Tigers hired Gardenhire in October 2017 to help guide the team through its rebuilding process, having seen his success over 13 seasons managing the American League Central rival Twins. He finished his time in Minnesota with a record of 1,068-1,039, posting the second-most wins in franchise history and becoming one of 25 managers in baseball history to win 1,000-or-more games with a single team.

The Tigers went 132-241 under his charge, but they showed noted improvement this season after a league-worst 47-114 record last year. Detroit vaulted into playoff contention in an expanded AL bracket earlier this month, despite a nine-game losing streak early this season. The Tigers have since fallen back, but they have begun the influx of prospects that have come through their farm system. Ten players have made their Major League debut this season under Gardenhire, including top pitching prospects Casey Mize and Tarik Skubal.

“On behalf of all of us with the Detroit Tigers, congratulations to Ron Gardenhire on a tremendous managerial career,” Tigers chairman and CEO Christopher Ilitch said in a statement. “One of the best baseball men around, we’re fortunate to have had Gardy lead our team for the past three seasons, and during this rebuilding period. He has done a great job in shaping the future successes I know our organization will see.”

Gardenhire finished with a 1,200-1,280 overall record. The Tigers’ win over the Royals on Tuesday made him the 46th manager to reach 1,200 career wins. His 2,480 games as a manager rank 35th in Major League history, while his 84 career ejections rank seventh.

“Wearing this uniform has been really special. The history of this uniform and this team here is second to none,” Gardenhire said. “Getting a chance to manage the Detroit Tigers has been nothing but special. I knew going in that this was going to be a rebuild, and there was going to be some tough times. But through it all, all three years, the teams that we had here -- we didn’t have all the talent that other teams had -- but we played, and we really got after it.

“They played hard. They gave everything they had. Sure, the outcomes weren’t great, but through it all, we had a great clubhouse every year I was here. And that’s important. We did the best we could.”