If ever there were more despicable words to utter, I have not heard them. A little history is in order, I think. Ullger’s playing career was with the Twins, and he played 35 games as a light hitting first baseman in 1983. He managed minor league teams in the Twins’ organization in the late 80’s through the mid-90’s, until he became the Twins’ first base coach in 1995.
When Ron Gardenhire became the manager in 2002, perhaps his first order of business was to promote his good friend “Scotty” Ullger to the position of “hitting coach.” Only Gardenhire would make the mistake of thinking that a first baseman with a career hitting line of .190/.247/.241 (with an OPS+ of just 33 — meaning that he was one third as productive as the average hitter) could be a successful hitting coach.
After the team put together OPS+ of 103, 102, 95, and 88 through his first four seasons as the hitting coach — and numerous complaints by the team’s promising young hitters, most notably Justin Morneau, who thought Joe Vavra down at AAA would be a better option — Gardenhire apparently came to the conclusion that Ullger may have been over-exposed as a hitting coach. After the 2005 season, Ullger’s proven ineptitude as a hitting coach got him promoted to third base coach, where he now reigns as Gardenhire’s second in command and right hand man.
Ullger’s abilities as a third base coach are perhaps even worse than his abilities as a hitting coach. He shows no ability to judge a baserunning situation, and appears to nothing about the throwing arms on the other teams’ outfielders or the speed of his own players. He repeatedly holds fast runners at third before the ball has been fielded in the gaps, and — much more frequently and much, much worse — sends slower runners home as the ball is returning to the infield, leaving them to get thrown out at home by dozens of feet.
This ends rallies prematurely, yes, but even worse it endangers our players. Last year, Morneau was hospitalized with a bruised lung after a particularly rough collision at home with Marlins catcher Miguel Olivo — Morneau was a sitting duck in the basepaths, and admirably tried to tackle the catcher and knock the ball loose. The point is that he never should have been in that situation, and Ullger needs to learn that Morneau is not one of the speed demons on this team. Of course, he did not learn from this experience, and has continued to send Morneau home when it’s obvious that he’ll be thrown out easily.
Ullger’s unreliable calls, and perhaps an inability to effectively communicate with the players, resulted in Kubel running through a “stop sign” and being thrown out at the plate on a pop up to the short stop. Ullger claimed he put up the stop sign, and Kubel claimed he looked and didn’t see one, instead seeing Ullger “just kind of standing there,” and decided to make a go of it. It was a piss poor decision on Kubel’s part, but I find it hard to blame him, given Ullger’s known incompetence.
One would assume that this kind of stuff would come up in some kind of annual, or quarterly, performance review. Or that someone — like the manager — would at least tell Ullger to improve his decision-making and stop killing rallies and injuring the players. Alas, no, this has not happened. Instead, Gardy has repeatedly, continually stated that he fully expects Ullger to replace him as manager when he steps down (whenever that happens), admirably continuing the royal managerial lineage.
Ullger’s continued presence in the dugout and on the third baseline is perhaps the most damning testimony against Gardenhire’s judgement of talent and managerial ability. At best, it is simply a case of nepotism gone wrong — at worst, Gardy simply cannot evaluate the performance of those underneath him.
And worst of all, Gardy fully plans to deliver one final punch by recommending Ullger as his replacement. Haven’t we endured enough? Hasn’t Ullger demonstrated that he gets worse at his job the higher he gets promoted? Shouldn’t, therefore, he stop being promoted?
It’s time to get Ullger off the field and out of the dugout. For the benefit of the team and the safety of our players.