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.

No evidence that Gardenhire has lost his players

Posted by: Phil Miller under MLB, Ron Gardenhire, Vikings Updated: September 29, 2013 - 8:40 PM

    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.

XXX

    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."

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