MINNEAPOLIS — Twins manager Ron Gardenhire hopes to end the 2013 season by earning his 999th career win Sunday against Cleveland.
He’s not so sure he’ll get a shot at win No. 1,000.
Gardenhire’s contract is up at the end of this season, the Twins’ third straight year with 90 or more losses. While not all of the blame can be placed on a manager, someone may have to take the fall for yet another disappointing year. As he sat in his office before Game 162 Sunday at Target Field, Gardenhire insisted he wasn’t thinking much about what the future holds for him after this game.
“I don’t worry about it. It’s not something I can control. I come in here just like everybody else. We’re just here to play a ball game today,” Gardenhire said. “It’s an emotional day, but it’s not because this could be my last day. It’s not in the equation right now. I don’t worry about it. I don’t think like that. I’m sure my wife is, but I’m not.”
Minnesota needs a win Sunday against the Indians to finish 67-95, which would be a one-game improvement over last year’s record. Two years ago, the Twins won the final game of the year to avoid 100 losses. Not much progress appears to have been made during those three seasons, and Gardenhire has been at the helm for all three.
His players, however, don’t feel the criticism of Gardenhire is completely warranted.
“I think a lot of people put our results on Gardy. I don’t think that’s necessarily fair,” said reliever Brian Duensing, who has only known one manager since he debuted in 2009. “He can’t go out there and play for us. Just because we’re performing doesn’t mean it’s his fault. I think that’s where some people kind of get things skewed a little bit. It’s frustrating. It’s disappointing as a player to see the blame put on somebody else when we’re the ones that aren’t doing our job very well.”
Gardenhire was hired as manager prior to the 2002 season and led the Twins to an American League Central title in each of his first three years. He’s won 998 games and six division titles in 12 years, but Minnesota finished dead last in the AL Central in 2011 and 2012.
The Twins will avoid a last-place finish this year — barely — but still have plenty of work to do to turn things around in 2014. Whether or not Gardenhire will be the one to help lead the troops next year is a question that may be answered very soon. Major League Baseball discourages teams from making offseason moves during the playoffs, so an announcement from general manager Terry Ryan on Gardenhire’s future could come Monday before the postseason begins on Tuesday.
“We’re still talking, just like we always do,” Gardenhire said. “We all know what’s at stake, and it’s not going to happen through me. It might happen through the man upstairs. I will never tell you my conversations with him. That’s a private thing. It is what it is. Whatever happens, he’s going to make a decision and go with it, and I live with it one way or another.”
Gardenhire said he hasn’t thought about managing any other team, even though a few other clubs will likely have openings this winter. His players would love to see him back, and Gardenhire would certainly love to keep his job, too.
Now it’s just a matter of whether Minnesota’s front office wants him back in 2014.
“He’s a guy that I respect a lot as a manager and a person,” said Twins third baseman Trevor Plouffe. “I really want to see him back. I think he’s a proven winner. He’s a guy that knows how to rally the troops. We just didn’t get it done on the field.”