Tom Kelly, an astute baseball mind, spent his entire Major League managerial career with the Minnesota Twins. Kelly became as common a figure in the Twins dugout as Darryl Strawberry was to rehab institutes. Kelly led the club from the Twin Cities to two World Series titles during his tenure.
He inherited a sixth place club in 1986 but with the talent at his disposal and his supreme baseball acumen, Tom led his Twins to the World Series in 1987. The Twins were a strong offensive team, geared around homegrown talent like Kent Hrbek, Kirby Puckett, Gary Gaetti, Greg Gagne, Tim Laudner and Randy Bush. The pitching staff was hit-or-miss with homegrown Frank Viola and solid veteran Bert Blyleven. Despite the inconsistent pitching, the rookie skipper led the Twins to the World Series and beat the St. Louis Cardinals of Hall of Fame skipper Whitey Herzog.
The Twins finished in second place in 1988 with the American League’s top slugging team. Tom then had two seasons when the Twins finished just under .500 before leading them back to the World Series in 1991 in one of the greatest Fall Classics ever played. As a team, the Twins were the American League’s top hitting squad with a combined .280 batting average. But the 1991 World Series was noted for its pitching which culminated in a classic pitcher’s duel in Game 7 in which Jack Morris won the deciding game for the Twins in dramatic fashion.
The Twins just missed the postseason in 1992. They had the junior circuit’s top hitting team and an exceptional bullpen, but the back of their rotation kept them from winning another pennant. Kelly’s charges then floundered in 1993 as their pitching staff imploded. Scott Erickson couldn’t build off a solid showing in ’92 and the bullpen showed signs of being mortal as well.
Kelly suffered through his worst year in 1995, managing one of the worst pitching staffs in baseball history. Kevin Tapani was the lone starter to post an ERA below 5.00 and his was an unflattering 4.92. Despite the atrocious pitching, Kelly still coaxed solid seasons out of his bats, indicated by a team batting average of .279. As a team, the Twins hit .288 in 1996 but the lack of pitching Kelly had to endure throughout the 1990s (with the lone exception of Brad Radke) kept the Twins in the second division throughout the remainder of the decade.
After eight years of sub .500 ball, due to the Twins poor pitching, Kelly finally had another winning season in 2001. The pitching, once the bane of Kelly’s existence, finally clicked that year as Tom had 17 game-winner Joe Mays and a pair of fifteen game-winners in Radke and Eric Milton. The Twins finished in second place and much like a master showman, Kelly got out while the getting was good, leaving the Twins in the capable hands of Ron Gardenhire who still manages them to this day.
W 1,1140/L 1,244/PCT .478
2 Pennants and 2 World Series titles.