Twins manager Ron Gardenhire began his pregame media session Friday by with the television in his office turned to “Who Wants to be a Millionaire.” An avid golfer, Gardenhire’s new driver leaned up against a desk behind him. He cracked occasional jokes and took on all questions.
It was as if it was spring training and not the middle of August with his team 11 games under .500.
It was as if he was in the middle of a contract and not at the end of one.
There were no signs of tension — neither in his voice, nor in his actions — despite the fact his future is uncertain. One of Gardenhire’s mentors and closest confidants, Charlie Manuel, was fired Friday by the Philadelphia Phillies, which led to the tables turned on Gardenhire. Did it make him wonder about his expiring contract?
“It doesn’t affect me at all,” Gardenhire said. “I’ve got mine and he’s got his. We’ll deal with that at the end of the year. Just like I’ve talked with the Pohlads and I’ve talked with [GM] Terry [Ryan] and everything will be talked about at the end of the year. It’s the right thing for this organization, for myself, and for Terry.”
Ryan told Gardenhire at the end of last season that his contract would not be extended, then fired three members of Gardenhire’s coaching staff. The Twins needed to show improvement this season in order for Gardenhire to be brought back. Things didn’t look good as the Twins fell to 16 games under .500 just before the All-Star break, and one local columnist suggested that Gardenhire be put out of his misery. Owner Jim Pohlad responded: “I don’t think he’s miserable. He’s got a great job and we love him.”
The Twins are playing better of late, entering Friday 17-12 over their past 29 games. But a third consecutive 90-loss season is possible, and it could make it hard for the club to sell the fanbase on the future if Gardenhire comes back in 2014.
Gardenhire, 55, has daily (unreliable starting pitching) and long-term (job security) issues circling him. Yet he appears to be having a good time.
“It is what it is,” Gardenhire said. “In all honesty, this is my 12th year [as manager]. It doesn’t get any better than that. Managers just don’t stay in places like that. I’ve feel like I’ve been blessed. I’ve been lucky. I’m not going to sit here like this is my last year and mope, believe me. If it is my last year in Minnesota, I’m going to enjoy the hell out of it.”
Gardenhire has been frustrated after some tough losses but they have not drained on him like 2011, when he spoke of many sleepiness nights.
“For me his personality hasn’t changed,” Ryan said. “In fact he’s got a little bounce in him. He’s got a lot of joy being around this club. There is a good clubhouse here. It’s kind of a neat crew to be around.”
Gardenhire finished up his media session by talking about a joke he played on the equipment manager, then he went out to the field to run a team that has not yet rolled over.
“I have fun with these guys in this clubhouse and on the bench and they are trying hard and I see some really good things coming,” he said. “I don’t know if I’m having more fun. I like to win, I’ve always like to win and that part hasn’t been good enough. These guys are trying and it’s a pretty good atmosphere around here.”