All that remains is a mini-mission to finish above .500 for the sixth time in Gardenhire's six-year tenure. But beyond that? That's where the real roots of the tension lie.
The Twins have spent much of this decade feeling better about their future than their oft-exciting present. Now, that's not the case.
They've offered Hunter a three-year deal. He wants at least five. The White Sox are among the teams salivating over him, and when the Twins arrived in Chicago, they were reminded that suitors would be lined up for Hunter if he hits the market.
Santana and Joe Nathan could follow him to free agency after next season. For them, this had to be the year that management went all-in, and Santana, Nathan and Hunter all voiced frustration when the team traded Luis Castillo to the Mets on July 30.
Alexi Casilla muted some of that with the energy he brought as Castillo's replacement, but the veterans' skepticism now seems well justified.
Entering Saturday, Castillo had a .697 on-base-plus-slugging percentage for the Mets, while Casilla had posted a .590 OBP for the Twins. Throw in Casilla's penchant for making head-scratching decisions, and you can point to second base as one reason the Twins are 14-22 since Aug. 1.
Of course, the Twins also lost Mauer to another leg injury Aug. 25. When two local columnists suggested it was time to move him to third base, with one suggesting his clubhouse reputation had taken a hit for not pushing himself into the lineup, Gardenhire and Mauer both went on the defensive.
That was Monday. When Johan Santana fell to 0-5 against Cleveland that afternoon, he used his postgame media gathering to send a message to the entire team perhaps all the way to the front office again when he said, "We're not giving everything that we have."
Joe Christensen firstname.lastname@example.org