Tag:Terry Ryan
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.

 
 
 
 
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