Souhan: Ryan sees himself, manager in same boat

  • Article by: JIM SOUHAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 28, 2013 - 2:30 PM

Yes, Ron Gardenhire's future could depend on how the Twins perform this season, but the same can be said for the GM.

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Minnesota Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, left, and general manager Terry Ryan talk before an exhibition game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Hammond Stadium, Friday, March 4, 2005, in Ft. Myers, Fla.

Photo: Robert F. Bukaty, Dml - Associated Press

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On Sunday, the local baseball franchise held what it hopes will be its last TwinsFest in the Metrodome. You could find a team picture from 2006 with only two current regulars in the frame. By next season, there could be only two players on the Twins roster who played a big-league game in the Dome.

The organizational chart has undergone similar upheaval in the past couple of years. The team has changed general managers, several coaches, the farm director, the minor league staff and the training staff, while making the many alterations that should be expected on a losing team's 40-man roster.

The losing and turnover have led to much speculation about the future of manager Ron Gardenhire. He's entering the last year of his contract. He's seen friends on his coaching staff dismissed or reassigned. He's spoken this winter about being accountable for the team's performance. He's the most visible decision-maker for a franchise that feels pressure to encourage fans to spend copious money at Target Field.

Few big-league managers survive three consecutive losing seasons, and Gardenhire is unlikely to win a division title with this year's roster, which is dependent on young pitching.

Sunday, I asked General Manager Terry Ryan what Gardenhire must do to keep his job. Ryan's answer indicated that Gardenhire may not be in as much jeopardy as people think.

"I don't think people should be too concerned about Ron's future and his status," Ryan said. "I didn't think it was right that any of us start talking about contract extensions after two years of losing 90-plus games. I thought that was the wrong message to send. We've got to be accountable.

"As long as things go according to plan here ... obviously, even if we struggle to some extent, you look at control of the clubhouse, injuries that we should not have to worry about, the professional approach that we all treasure, those are the types of things that I'm looking at more than wins and losses.

"It's no different for me. I'm in the same boat. We're joined at the hip."

Ryan said that he, as well as Gardenhire, is in the last year of his contract. In part, that's because Ryan began his second stint as the team's general manager as a self-described interim employee. During his first stint, he often worked on handshake deals, and since coming back he has not committed to staying on the job long-term.

"We're both on one-year deals here," Ryan said. "I don't think it's any different, his situation and mine. I can't put our ownership in a situation where we're the main decision-makers here and we continue to lose 90 games. That's not right."

Ryan has hired only one major league manager: Gardenhire. For all of the changes Ryan has made in the organization, he has yet to blame Gardenhire publicly for any of the team's failings. If the 2013 team shows promise and plays with professionalism, Ryan might keep Gardenhire around regardless of the final record.

"The circumstances matter," Ryan said. "If we have five, six, seven of our core-type players go down, and it's just, 'OK, they have a broken hamate, what are you going to do?' Are you going to blame Ron Gardenhire? No. That's what I'm talking about."

Whatever optimism the franchise leaders offer in terms of this year's team, there is an understanding throughout the organization that better years are ahead. Through the draft and trades, Ryan has acquired quality young arms, and he has an impressive group of position players rising through the farm system.

Asked if Gardenhire can keep his job if this year's team shows promise, Ryan said, "I would say that's the secret to anyone's future. He's got a job to do and so do I. I would say that he's in about as good of standing as any man that's been around here in a long time."

Ryan could fire Gardenhire this season. Sunday, he seemed to be hinting that he won't. One reading of Ryan's comments is this: Either he and Gardenhire will turn the Twins around together over the next couple of years, or they'll leave the organization joined at the hip.

Jim Souhan can be heard Sundays from 10 a.m. to noon and weekdays at 2 p.m. on 1500-AM. His Twitter name is SouhanStrib. • jsouhan@startribune.com

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