Phil Miller covered three seasons of Twins baseball, but that was at a different ballpark for a different newspaper. Now Miller returns to the baseball beat after joining the Star Tribune as the Gopher football writer in 2010, and he won't miss the dingy dome for a minute. In addition to the Twins and Gophers, Miller covered the Utah Jazz and the NBA for six years at The Salt Lake Tribune.
Terry Ryan and Ron Gardenhire aren't saying. And in the absence of information, opinions are all over the map.
Everybody in the Target Field press box was guessing about whether Gardenhire will manage the Twins next season, a question that fortunately should be answered as soon as Monday. I heard confident predictions that he'll be fired, that he'll turn down a one-year contract, that he'll definitely be back. My own guess is that he signs a new contract, but that's as I type this; I've switched my opinion three times today.
But one thing was pretty clear in the Twins' clubhouse this weekend: The players seem pretty solidly behind their manager. Nobody ever goes on the record with calls for firing the manager, of course, but the current roster seems pretty loyal to Gardenhire. There's no evidence of a whisper campaign against him, no sense that he's lost the clubhouse in the least. If that's true, even amid 291 losses over three seasons, it's pretty remarkable.
Glen Perkins was particularly emphatic about his support.
"I don't think there's anyone else we want leading the team. There's no better guy," the Twins' closer said. "I've said it a thousand times -- this isn't his fault. He's doing the best he can with what he's given, and Terry [Ryan] is working hard to give him more."
His evidence, Perkins said, is on the field; it may not look like it given the record, but the Twins never stopped trying to win.
"He still gets us to work, he still gets us to care," Perkins said "You can't tell me our record would be better with someone else."
Brian Dozier, Joe Mauer, Scott Diamond, Brian Duensing and others seconded Perkins' sentiment.
"He's had my back, every single game," Diamond said.
"I respect Gardy more than anybody, he's a phenomenal manager. He knows how things should work, as far as winning," Dozier said. "I wouldn't want to play for anyone else."
We'll see on Monday if he has to.
One more clip from Perkins: As I wrote for the paper, he took the field before the game, in part to thank the fans on behalf of the team. But he also wanted to say, he explained afterward, that he understands and shares their frustration.
Some of the team's critics aren't just frustrated, they're angry. Perkins knows that very well, partly because he's active on Twitter. But also because he has been that angry fan himself.
When he was attending Stillwater High School in the late 1990s, he was constantly frustrated with the Twins, he said. "Actually, I've been an angry fan of every team here, at one time or another," he said with a smile. "I'm an angry Vikings fan right now."
I didn't ask about the quarterback. But I asked what he would tell those angry fans, most of whom want sweeping changes and more accountability. "Well, I'd say that we're working hard to turn this around, we're doing everything we can. And I'd say, thank you for supporting us," Perkins said. "Hopefully we'll continue to get their support."
He's sincere, he said, when he expresses his belief that a turnaround isn't as far off as many fans believe. The Indians, after all, had three 90-loss seasons in the last four, lost 94 games just last season, and now are heading home for a playoff game.
When better times arrive, Perkins said he wants to be part of them.
"Bobby [Cuellar, the bullpen coach] was saying today how much fun it is to work here, how great the people are. And I said, 'Imagine how fun it would be here if we were winning,' " Perkins said. "I think we'll get it turned around. And the fans on the fence, I hope we keep them, because I was one of them once. I was a diehard."
There are still plenty of those around, as the Twins' attendance of more than 2.4 million this year demonstrated.
"I definitely don't think the fan base here is apathetic," Perkins said, "and that's a good thing."
NEW YORK -- The strain of losing is difficult, it's true. He's lost plenty of sleep, and spends a lot of time worrying about his players and coaches. But Ron Gardenhire made it clear on Friday that he's not interested in walking away from the job he's held for 11 1/2 seasons -- managing the Twins.
"I like managing. I like running the ballclub. I have a lot of fun doing it," the Twins' manager said before his slumping team opened a three-game series in Yankee Stadium. "I get to see a lot of really good players, on both sides. Best seat in the house. Hottest seat, too, right now. That goes with the territory."
Gardenhire acknowledged that many Twins fans are unhappy with the team's decline over the past three seasons, and especially with him. But at a remarkably upbeat press conference, considering his team has lost 11 of its last 12 games, he said he has no plans to quit. "I've seen an awful lot of good here. It's a little rough right now; we're trying to figure that out," he said. "As long as they keep me here, I'll try to figure it out. If they decide they want to do something, that's what they decide."
"They" in this case is presumably general manager Terry Ryan and the Pohlad family. Gardenhire has had a strong relationship with Ryan for years, and considers the Pohlads "great owners and good friends. They've treated me very well." But he has had no discussions with any "decision-makers" about his job status -- "except my wife."
He also responded to Star Tribune columnist Patrick Reusse's Thursday column, which proposed that Gardenhire not be made to suffer through "another death march" in the season's second half.
"It's never good when someone starts out with, 'Goodbye, Gardy.' But the article was actually" complimentary, Gardenhire said. "I think it was an entertaining article, let's put it that way. As a manager, when people start writing things like that, it's really not good."
The 2010 A.L. Manager of the Year also said he doesn't believe the current team will suffer the fate of his last two teams, which lost 99 and 96 games. "I believe we can run off a 10-game winning streak, just like we ran off a 10-game losing streak, and that's the streak I'm looking for," Gardenhire said. He's losing sleep trying to find answers for the slump, he said, but "as a manager, it would be a lot of fun to turn this thing around with this group. That's what my goal is."
He'll try to end the current five-game losing streak tonight with a shuffled lineup. Chris Parmelee is batting second tonight against righthander Hiroki Kuroda, the second time he's batted that high this year. It's a move made for its own sake, Gardenhire said, just trying to change things up after getting swept in Tampa Bay.
Justin Morneau is back in the lineup, too. He felt "sore all over," particularly in his legs, after a week's worth of games on artificial turf in Toronto and Tampa Bay, but took early batting practice and said he's much better today.
The headlines here are all about Derek Jeter, who made his 2013 debut last night, then suffered a strained quad while running the bases. Yankees general manager Brian Cashman announced that Jeter will not play this weekend.
The lineup from new Yankee Stadium, where a light rain is currently falling:
The Minnesota Twins today filled their three major league coaching vacancies, naming Terry Steinbach their new bench coach, Tom Brunansky their new hitting coach and Bobby Cuellar their new bullpen coach.
Joe Vavra will remain on Ron Gardenhire’s staff as the third base coach, Scott Ullger will be the first base coach, and as announced earlier this month, Rick Anderson will remain the pitching coach.
Brunansky and Cuellar were expected choices for the Twins, but the one surprise was Steinbach coming back into a coaching role, as it was widely speculated that the Twins would promote Class AAA manager Gene Glynn to their big league staff.
Steinbach, a New Ulm native who caught in the majors from 1986 through 1999, will be the bench coach and catching instructor, Ullger will oversee outfield instruction and Vavra will oversee infield instruction.
FORT MYERS, FLA. -- Jason Kubel's eighth-inning strikeout against Mariano Rivera in Game 2 of the 2004 Division Series has haunted Twins fans ever since.
Torii Hunter offered an interesting twist recently in this piece by Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com, saying a young righthanded hitter turned down a chance to pinch hit in that spot.
But two Twins sources I spoke to this morning refuted that claim, saying there's no chance they would have pinch hit for Kubel in that spot. As our Ken Chia notes in this post, the Twins had two righthanded options on the bench at the time -- Lew Ford and Matthew LeCroy -- as well as the switch-hitting Augie Ojeda.
Ford had a terrific 2004 season, but he went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts in Game 1, including a strikeout against Rivera. It's possible, one source conceded, that the Twins asked Ford if he felt like he was seeing the ball well off Rivera for a potential pinch-hit appearance that night and that the answer was no. But those questions get asked all the time. Managers want an honest response, and the bottom line is that even if Ford had puffed out his chance and said, "Heck yeah, I own that guy!" the Twins weren't going to send him up against Rivera instead of Kubel.
This was the 2004 Jason Kubel, the pre-knee surgery monster whose every plate appearance had impressed the Twins. And while Rivera's cutter does tend to make him more effective against lefties than righties, think about that eighth-inning sequence: The first two batters Rivera faced were lefthanders. Justin Morneau singled, Luis Rivas entered as a pinch runner, and Corey Koskie followed with a ground-rule double.
Among the lingering disappointments for the Twins is that Rivas didn't steal second, despite being given the green light against Rivera and Jorge Posada. Had Rivas swiped the bag, it wouldn't have mattered that Koskie's ball hopped into the stands. But you can go on and on with the if-game after a night like that.
So yes, with one out, all the Twins needed was a sac fly from Kubel, and Rivera schooled him, climbing the ladder for a three-pitch strikeout. The Twins lost the game in 12 innings and seemingly never beat the Yankees again -- until Kubel hit a grand slam off Rivera on May 16, 2010.
Hunter and Michael Cuddyer made other good points in Heyman's piece about how the Yankees seem to be in the Twins heads. But the revisionist history about Kubel's at-bat only stirs bitter memories. We'll ask Manager Ron Gardenhire for his thoughts when he does his press briefing later today, but I'm guessing he'll have a different recollection than Torii.
Here's some quick notes off today's Twins media luncheon:
* Camilo Pascual has been elected to the Twins Hall of Fame, team president Dave St. Peter announced.
* Also, the Twins plan to unveil another statue this year at Target Field, this one of Kent Hrbek. It will be outside Gate 14.
* St. Peter said there are no plans to change the batter's eye at Target Field this year -- in other words, the trees aren't coming back -- but he said the team will continue to discuss ways to make that big black wall look better.
* Manager Ron Gardenhire confirmed that Carl Pavano will be the Opening Day starter, on April 6 at Baltimore, with Scott Baker slated for the home opener, April 9 against Albert Pujols and the Angels.
* Denard Span said he feels the best he's felt, physically, in two years. He wants to play center field but is open to moving to a corner if that's best for the team. But to hear Gardenhire talk, this won't be an issue.
"[Span's] going to lead off and be my center fielder," Gardenhire said. "That’s my expectations. If somebody were to tell me that he’s not able to do that, then we’d have to ad lib. But if Denard comes in healthy, then he’s my center fielder, there’s no questions to me about that."
The results are in. Ron Gardenhire is the 2010 American League Manager of the Year.
The Baseball Writers Association of America announced the results today at 1 p.m. The voters -- two writers from each AL market, so 28 overall -- submitted their ballots before the postseason.
Gardenhire finished with 108 points, including 16 first-place votes. Rangers manager Ron Washington finished second with 81 points, including 10 first-place votes. Rays manager Joe Maddon was third with 44 points, including one-first place vote. The other first-place vote went to the Blue Jays' Cito Gaston.
Padres Bud Black took home the National League honor, edging Reds manager Dusty Baker by one point.
Gardenhire, 53, had finished second in the voting five times: 2003, 2004, 2006, 2008 and 2009. The Twins went 94-68 to win their sixth AL Central title in nine years, despite losing All-Star closer Joe Nathan in spring training and All-Star first baseman Justin Morneau at mid-season.
Gardenhire was on all 28 ballots, including 16 first-place votes, eight second-place votes and four third-place votes. Washington was on 25 of 28 ballots.
The only other Twins manager to win the award was Tom Kelly in 1991.
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