In the trial that is the Twins’ 2014 season, Terry Ryan doesn’t deny that he has announced a verdict already. But he made it clear on Friday: There is still more evidence to examine.
Ryan didn’t backtrack, retract or withdraw the support he stated for Ron Gardenhire in Friday’s Star Tribune, when he was quoted by columnist Sid Hartman as saying Gardenhire “is signed for next year, so you don’t have to worry about him. …Yeah, yeah, I would say he’ll be back.”
That’s an off-the-cuff opinion, offered before any actual consultation and evaluation has occurred, Ryan clarified Friday. Any decision about the manager’s 14th season will be made in October, after the pair have met to review the season and hash out the future. His support is genuine, Ryan said — but premature.
“There’s a lot of season left yet,” said the general manager, who has generally been given full authority over baseball decisions, including the dugout staff, by owner Jim Pohlad. “There are a lot of things that need to be discussed, and we’ll do that at the end of the year. ... There are no guarantees for anybody’s job, including mine.”
Gardenhire, whose 2,072nd regular-season game as manager Friday was a 20-6 victory over Detroit, said it’s not appropriate for him to talk about 2015 when 2014 still has five weeks to play.
“Nothing’s been talked about,” said Gardenhire, who signed a two-year contract last October. “I worry about that stuff when the season’s over with.”
Both Ryan and Gardenhire said neither has spoken a word about next year to the other, and neither was particularly happy that the topic has surfaced with 35 games to play. “I don’t pay attention [to media coverage]. I don’t worry about it,” said Gardenhire, whose 13 seasons as Twins manager make him the second-longest-tenured manager, behind Tom Kelly, in franchise history. “I talk to Terry Ryan about it, and we’ll talk at the end of the year, as always.”
Does Gardenhire, 57, want to return for a 14th season? “I’ll talk about it at the end of the year,” he said. “I’m not going to get into it.”
Those talks will come in the wake of what appears to be the Twins’ fourth consecutive lousy season, and amid a clamor for Gardenhire’s job, particularly on social media. The manager enjoyed eight winning seasons and six AL Central championships in his first nine years leading the Twins, but three consecutive seasons of 96 or more losses, and a last-place standing this season, have turned many fans against both Ryan and Gardenhire.
“I get that. People always like change if you’re not successful. That’s kind of the way professional sports are,” Ryan said. “If you don’t have immediate gratification, change it up. But our ownership is not of that mold. They have faith in our front office, that we’ll get it done.”
Actually, Pohlad said last fall that Ryan’s job is safe as long as he wants it. Ryan said he appreciates the sentiment, “but everybody’s got a breaking point,” and he doesn’t believe he deserves such loyalty. “I would never hold Jim Pohlad to that statement, because it wouldn’t be fair to him,” Ryan said. “We’re losing way too many games here for anybody to put that kind of faith in anyone.”
Ryan’s future has been a matter of speculation ever since he was diagnosed with cancer in January, but he said his health isn’t a concern following radiation treatments last spring. And he sounded as resolute as ever about restoring the Twins to the division-winning level they were five years ago.
“If there’s one thing that drives me here, it’s to give this fanbase a reward for their patience, which they’ve shown. We’ve drawn remarkably well in these circumstances here. That gives me more incentive to get it right,” Ryan said. “I’ve taken my share of shots — they come by e-mail — and that really hurts. But they have a right to a better product.”