Two days before his own future becomes known, Ron Gardenhire said he wasn’t surprised Eric Wedge decided to walk away. The third-year Seattle manager, who announced his plans Friday, hinted as much when the Mariners visited four months ago.
“I talked to Wedgie. He talked about some of the things going on with the organization, what he expected and which way they were going to go,” Gardenhire said Saturday of Wedge, the 2007 American League Manager of the Year while with the Indians. “He told me they had offered a one-year deal, and he wasn’t very confident with that. So I kind of expected it.”
Gardenhire won’t give any hints about what to expect when he meets with General Manager Terry Ryan, a postseason session expected to take place Monday. Would he accept a one-year contract? “I’ll let you know after I talk to Terry,” said Gardenhire, whose team fell to 66-95 in his 12th season as manager with a 5-1 loss to AL wild-card leader Cleveland on Saturday. “I don’t have an opinion on anything right now. We’ll talk. Every situation is different. I’m open to conversation with Terry on everything.”
Ryan, too, is expected to sign a new contract soon, but the Twins have kept everyone guessing about whether Gardenhire, who won six AL Central titles during his first nine seasons, will survive three consecutive 90-loss seasons, as predecessor Tom Kelly did in the 1990s.
Gardenhire’s contract expires once the season does Sunday, after Ryan declined to offer him an extension last winter. The manager has made several jokes about his contract status this season, and has seemed entirely unfazed by his uncertain future.
But lately, Ryan and Gardenhire have both spoken, in discussing other topics, as though they will both be back next spring. In explaining his upcoming search for better starting pitching, for example, Ryan said, “I would like to think I’m going to be able to get Gardy some people here.” And Gardenhire has talked several times about sorting out his roster in spring training next March.
Yet Ryan maintained again Saturday that final decisions have not been made but will come soon after the season’s final game. “We know the importance of that conversation, so it will happen and it will happen soon,” Ryan said.
It’s not just the manager waiting to hear his fate, either. Gardenhire’s coaches are all working under one-year contracts; last year, three coaches were let go and two others were reassigned. As hitting coach Tom Brunansky said Friday: “As a coach, after one year, you could be fired and out of the game. With us, it’s all one-year contracts. I knew that coming in — when you reach this level, it’s about won-loss, and showing improvement.”
New contract or not, Gardenhire said his offseason plans are set. He will remain in Minnesota for a week or two, visit his family in Oklahoma and former Twins coach Steve Liddle in Nashville, and eventually head to Fort Myers, Fla., where he owns a home. And in between?
“There’s going to be a little golf ball that’s going to meet its maker here,” Gardenhire said with a smile, “because I’m going to envision a lot of faces on that golf ball.”