Tag:Bill Smith
Posted on: November 7, 2011 5:00 pm
Edited on: November 7, 2011 6:43 pm

Twins shock baseball world in firing GM Smith

Be careful what you wish for: With big-market finances come big-market expectations, and the Twins plummeting to a 99-loss season in 2010 despite a club-record $113 million payroll caused a big-time reaction Monday.

They fired general manager Bill Smith and went back to the future, naming Terry Ryan as interim GM.

Forget the Theo Epstein circus, the Tony La Russa resignation and the Orioles hiring Dan Duquette. This is the most shocking news of the off-season, simply because the Twins do not DO things like this.

Stability is their game. Since 1984, the Twins have employed only three men as GM: Andy MacPhail, Ryan and Smith.

For now, that will remain unchanged.

"I don't know if it will be for one year or for 10 years," Ryan said when asked to gauge the length of his interim tag. "We'll see how it goes. Direction, success, workload, all those things. ...

"This is going to be a challenge. I'm up to the challenge. I appreciate the opportunity."

The Twins refused to list reasons for dumping Smith. Owner Jim Pohlad had said at season's end that Smith would return, but he also said he wanted to see a plan for how the team could bounce back

Pohlad's utterings of "philosophical differences" and how this was about "scope and approach" pretty much said it all: Whatever plan Smith presented fell short in the Twins' eyes.

Hard to say if it involved spending even more money, but Ryan said that the 2012 payroll "is going to be south of where it was." He estimated that it would be somewhere around $100 million.

"Wherever it is, it's going to be a heck of a lot more than whatever I worked with," Ryan said in one of the few lighthearted moments of the news conference.

He sure has that right. Neither MacPhail nor Ryan never had a payroll higher than that of the Los Angeles Dodgers -- as the 2011 Twins did -- and they never had a brand new outdoor ballpark filled with exuberant fans night after night.

Smith did. And he signed Joe Mauer to an eight-year, $184 million deal, and he had Justin Morneau on a six-year, $80 million deal, and neither of them could stay in the lineup last summer. Morneau, with his concussion issues, may never come close to being the same player he once was.

The Twins have issues, serious issues, and the fact that they've decided Smith no longer is the man to solve them ranks incredibly high on the seismic scale.

"We struggled on the mound, we didn't pick the ball up and we didn't score enough runs," said Ryan, who remains revered throughout the organization, from top to bottom. "We need to firm up a lot of areas."

Pure baseball always was going to be Smith's biggest challenge once the Twins promoted him to replace Ryan in September, 2007. A rules and contracts specialist who cut his baseball teeth from the ground up in Appleton, Wisc., in the White Sox organization, Smith was going to need a solid baseball man to team with, and the Twins made sure he had that when they promoted Mike Radcliff to vice-president of player personnel when Smith became GM.

Two of Smith's biggest trades backfired badly, and each factored into the 99-loss season as much as anything:

-- He sent two-time Cy Young winner Johan Santana to the Mets in 2008 for a package of four players, none of whom has made an impact with the Twins. Outfielder Carlos Gomez came the closest, but he was spun off to Milwaukee for J.J. Hardy, who now is with Baltimore. The other three players were pitcher Phil Humber and minor league pitchers Kevin Mulvey and Deolis Guerra.

-- He sent big-time catching prospect Wilson Ramos to Washington two summers ago for closer Matt Capps in a go-for-it-now move with the Twins en route to 94 wins and the AL Central title in their first season in Target Field in 2010. But now, with Mauer looking like an old 28 and playing in only 82 games in 2011, the Ramos trade looks like a disaster.

The signing of Japanese infielder Tsuyoshi Nishioka last winter for three years at $9.25 million also has the makings of a bust.

"If you're going to point to those, you should point at Orlando Cabrera [whom Smith acquired in 2009], Brian Fuentes [2010] and some others who worked out," Twins president Dave St. Peter said of two Smith acquisitions who helped the Twins make the playoffs in subsequent seasons.

There are more serious personnel questions heading toward 2012 than the Twins have faced in several years -- especially given the depths to which they sunk. They've declined the option on closer Joe Nathan's contract. Outfielders Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel and Capps all are free agents. Jim Thome already has signed with the Phillies.

And regarding the pitching staff, only Baltimore (4.89) compiled a higher ERA than Minnesota's (4.58) in 2011.

Ryan, the Twins' GM from 1994-2007, acknowledged that he's fielded inquiries from other clubs during his time out of the chair. Cincinnati, who hired Wayne Krivsky from the Twins, was one. But he loves the Twins, living in Minnesota and was enjoying the freedom working as a special assistant to Smith gave him.

"The situation dictated we were going to make a move," he said Monday. "If he had won 94 games, I wouldn't be sitting here. I didn't want Bill Smith's job. He knows it."

That said, Ryan said that he is going to "take this job head on. It's a 365-days-a-year job. We've got some work to do here."

The Twins are going to need both his baseball acumen and his familiarity. Because this is unheard of. They just don't fire people

At least, they didn't.

"Our family values loyalty, commitment and talent," Pohlad said. "Bill Smith had all three. ...

"We do this with a heavy heart."

"This is a sensitive day," Ryan said.

No question. But the one thing the Twins have going for them through this stunning and uncharted territory is, they've got a pretty good track record of getting things right.

Posted on: February 27, 2011 1:42 pm

Nathan comeback on track

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Joe Nathan has 247 career saves in the majors ... and none since Oct. 3, 2009.

Yes, it's been a long time, but following the Tommy John ligament transfer surgery a year ago that rendered him a spectator for all of 2010, the Minnesota closer is back to full speed and confident he can pick up where he left off in 2011.

So are the Twins.

"He's really done well in his rehab," general manager Bill Smith says. "He's attacked it. He committed himself, from the day of the surgery, to being in the best shape of his life. He wanted to get his body in the best shape possible so that when he came out of surgery, he could start rehabilitation sooner.

"He worked tirelessly, for months, even when he couldn't throw a baseball."

"I figured I'd work on whatever I could at the time," Nathan says.

So if that meant riding an exercise bike so his legs wouldn't go weak during the time he couldn't throw, he rode. And if it meant strengthening other parts of his body, that's what he did as well.

So far this spring, he says, "I can't complain. Everything has been full go. I'm doing all the drills."

He's thrown live batting practice and had no setbacks.

Meanwhile, the Twins have the luxury of bringing him along slowly thanks to the presence of Matt Capps, who closed in Washington and Pittsburgh over the past four seasons before Minnesota acquired him last July 29.

Don't expect to see Nathan working back-to-back games early. Not until the Twins are sure of what he can tolerate.

"A lot will probably depend on the number of pitches I throw," Nathan says. "If I throw a lot of pitches, they probably won't bring me back the next day.

"And the back-to-back-to-backs, the three days in a row, that may have to wait."

There's a lot of spring training left, and a lot Nathan still has to prove. And within that is the unsettled question of his contract beyond this year: The Twins hold a $12.5 million option on him for 2012, or a $2 million buyout.

But so far, he's healthy and determined in what would be a fairly rapid comeback.

"All he points at is, 'Billy Wagner did it'," Minnesota pitching coach Rick Anderson says. "'And if he can do it, I can do it.'"

Posted on: March 7, 2010 11:31 am
Edited on: March 7, 2010 1:34 pm

Closer Nathan returning to Twin Cities for MRI

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- It's hold-your-breath time for the Twins: Closer Joe Nathan, who was removed from Saturday's Grapefruit League game against Boston, will return to the Twin Cities on Monday for an MRI on his surgically repaired elbow.

"We're going to repeat some tests," Twins general manager Bill Smith said Sunday morning. "We want to repeat some tests that we had done on him in September. Those were our baseline tests, and when we repeat those [and compare], then we'll have a much, much better idea of where it's at."

Nathan, following a season in which he had 47 saves, had surgery to clean out the elbow in October. Noted orthopedist Dr. James Andrews removed two bone spurs and some bone chips, and Nathan said Saturday, in describing his elbow as "achy" and saying he felt "tightness", that doctors had warned him he would have moments like that along his recovery.

One of the game's top closers, the prospect of a Nathan-less Twins club -- for any amount of time -- would shake things up in the AL Central.

"He came out of the game, so we're a little concerned," Smith said. "But until we see how the tests compare ... our doctors have talked a lot about establishing baselines, especially with our pitchers' shoulders and elbows, and using that date into the future to evaluate."

Up next in that plan is Nathan.

The Twins are holding their breath.

Posted on: December 9, 2008 12:18 pm

Retro night on someone's pitching mound?

LAS VEGAS -- Scott Erickson, who essentially has not pitched a full major-league season since 2002 and mostly has been out of baseball since 2005, is making noises about a comeback.

Erickson, 40, has contacted the Minnesota Twins about coming to spring training in 2009 and apparently was met with a tepid response.

"He wants to come back," Twins GM Bill Smith told CBSSports.com. "I told him to go get a job in winter ball and let's see what you can do."

Erickson, who was 142-136 with a 4.59 ERA over 15 big-league seasons, so far is not pitching winter ball.

Following a run between 1991 and 1999 in which he threw 200 or more innings seven times, Erickson developed elbow trouble in 2000 that eventually led to Tommy John ligament replacement surgery.

Category: MLB
Posted on: September 5, 2008 7:47 pm
Edited on: September 5, 2008 7:48 pm

Hank Steinbrenner and tampering

Would have LOVED to have been within earshot of the conversations between Toronto general manager J.P Ricciardi and his Minnesota counterpart, Bill Smith, this week as the Blue Jays and Twins played the Hank Steinbrenner Memorial Tampering Bowl in Canada.

"I didn't have much conversation with J.P. about any of that," Smith said Friday.

Too bad, because there's so much to talk about.

Such as, Steinbrenner clearly tampering with Blue Jays pitcher A.J. Burnett when he told Newsday last week, "Everybody's looking at (CC) Sabathia and Burnett, not just us. We'll see. The main concern is, are their arms going to be OK after this season?"

And, such as, the Yankees' bull-in-a-china-shop general partner blatantly tampering with pitcher Johan Santana early last December during trade negotiations with the Twins.

Then, setting a deadline on the Twins to accept a deal with the Yankees, Steinbrenner said:

"We'll see how it goes, but this is not an act. It's not a bluff. It's just reality. Because as much as I want Santana, and you can make that clear -- for his sake, to know that I do want him -- but the fact is that I'm not going to play the game."

Baseball rules clearly prohibit executives publicly discussing players from another team.

Of course, what are rules if they're not enforced?

A baseball official told me this week that Steinbrenner was reprimanded by the Commissioner's Office for that Santana comment. There was no fine levied, it was more of a stern lecture meant to educate the new kid on the block.

Clearly, based on his comments regarding Sabathia (who will be a free agent this winter) and Burnett (who has the right to opt out of his Toronto contract and become a free agent if he wishes), Steinbrenner didn't learn.

Or maybe he's simply incapable of being refined.

Tampering is difficult to enforce because, in these days of whirlwind free agency, so many executives wind up talking about opposing players. Most who do, however, are careful to speak off the record, offering background information -- without quotes or attribution -- about what their clubs may want to do in the off-season.

On the rare occasion when an executive is careless or clumsy enough to talk about a desired player when he's still playing elsewhere, baseball essentially lets it go unless, as a baseball official says, "one party is angry and came to us and said, 'Hey, we have a problem here.'"

At that point, baseball will investigate.

Steinbrenner's comment about Santana was so out-of-line that baseball officials apparently sat him down for a talk without it ever reaching that point. Smith said the Twins never complained formally.

As for his latest comments on Sabathia and Burnett, don't expect much to come of that, either. The Blue Jays, for one, simply figure that's show biz in the modern era.

"Whatever," Ricciardi told me Thursday. "I never even thought twice about it, to be honest with you. What are you going to say? What are you going to do? He can say whatever he wants to say.

"If someone is tampering on any type of job -- hitting coach, pitching coach -- it comes down to whether the guy is happy when he's here, anyway. He either is or he's not.

"And if he is, he'll stay. And if he's not happy, he'll leave."

Burnett is expected utilize his opt-out window following this season to again test free agency. If he elects to stay with the Jays, his contract would extend two more seasons (2009 and 2010) for $24 million.

Of course, Steinbrenner's comments should be a pretty good indication to Burnett that he can probably make a whole lot more than $24 million with the Yankees over the next several years.

Makes you wonder exactly what the Yankees' Loose Cannon, er, General Partner, would have to say before he actually was slapped with a tampering fine.


Posted on: September 5, 2008 6:33 pm
Edited on: September 5, 2008 8:40 pm

Terrible blow for White Sox

Sure, the news Friday for the Chicago White Sox could have been worse. U.S. Cellular Field could have been condemned. A Black Sox Scandal II could have been uncovered. Ozzie Guillen's arch-enemy columnist, Jay Mariotti, could have been re-hired.

But failing those disastrous possibilities, dang, it's difficult to imagine anything much worse for the poor White Sox than slugger Carlos Quentin heading to the surgeon's table.

He will undergo surgery Monday and have a screw inserted into his fractured right wrist. He'll be re-evaluated in two or three weeks and, though he hopes to salvage the season, it doesn't look good. There is a very real possibility that he's done for the year.

Wrist injuries, particularly serious wrist injuries, are temperamental things, and for the White Sox, losing Quentin is no less of a blow than if Boston were to lose David Ortiz, or the Los Angeles Angels were to lose Vladimir Guerrero. That's how important he's been to them in his first season on the South Side.

Sox general manager Kenny Williams absolutely stole Quentin from Arizona last winter, sending infielder Chris Carter to the desert in exchange, and Quentin has responded with a Most Valuable Player-type season. He leads the AL with 36 homers, ranks fifth in the AL with 100 RBIs and has provided needed heft for the White Sox lineup.

"He's had a phenomenal year," general manager Bill Smith, whose Minnesota Twins are battling the White Sox for the AL Central title, said Friday afternoon. "He was probably one of the best pickups of the year.

"You never like to see players get hurt, and I'm sorry to see this. He's had a huge impact for them every game he's played against us this year, I can tell you that."

The Sox play the Twins three more times, at Minnesota from Sept. 223-25, in what likely will be a key series to determine the AL Central title. Entering the weekend, the White Sox had opened a 1 1/2-game lead on Minnesota.

Most aggravating, and manager Ozzie Guillen was vocal about it before Chicago opened its weekend series with the Angels, was the fact that the probable season-ending injury appears self-induced. Quentin says he angrily slammed his bat with his right fist after missing a pitch during his final at-bat Monday in Cleveland. It's something he's always done, Quentin says, only this time, he missed his spot and hit the bat with his wrist instead of his fist.

Undoubtedly, it will go down in the freak-injury annals of stretch-run baseball. Nobody ever plans on getting hurt, but Quentin's fracture would be more understandable if, say, it occurred when he was hit by a pitch.

"Quentin is one of those guys who's led every league he's ever played in in being hit by a pitch," one scout said Friday.

Quentin, who has been hit by a pitch an AL-leading 20 times this season, also led the Triple-A Pacific Coast League in hit-by-pitches in both 2006 (31) and 2005 (29), and he led the Class A California League in 2004 (27).

Now, thanks to one brief instant in which his self-discipline disappeared, Quentin is out.

And no surgery is going to fix the hole he's leaving in the middle of the White Sox lineup.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com