Friday, September 14, 2007

Terry Ryan: GM No More

Early in the day yesterday, the Twins announced that they would be holding a 2:00 p.m. press conference, and they indicated that the news was going to be big. Indeed it was; the Twins announced that general manager Terry Ryan will be stepping down from the position he has held for almost 13 years. Assistant GM Bill Smith will take over Ryan's spot effective on the first of October, while Ryan (at least for the time being) will move into a special adviser role.

This came as a major shock to me. It's well documented that I've been pretty unimpressed with the job Ryan has done for the past couple years, but there was no way I expected him to be vacating the GM spot anytime soon. My first instinct when I heard the announcement -- as with any announcement of an executive resigning unexpectedly -- was to wonder whether perhaps Ryan was forced out. Had he been pressing owner Carl Pohlad to hard for money? Was the organization disappointed with his poor showing in 2007?

After studying a wide range of accounts and listening to Ryan speak, I'm convinced that he was tired of the stress and workload associated with the position. I think former Star Tribune columnist and current KFAN radio personality Dan Barreiro put it best on his blog:
Listening to Ryan during his news conference on Thursday afternoon, this is what came through loud and clear: He just didn't want to work this hard anymore. Always more a ball guy than an administrative guy, he had been beaten down by the administrative side of the job, to the point where he noted his personality was changing for the worse. The job was eating him up. I take him at his word on that part of it.
Ryan's new role will primarily involve scouting, which a Star Tribune account describes as Ryan's "first love." I also think it's his greatest strength, so I think the role will fit him well. However, I have to imagine that with his strong track record, Ryan will gain immediate interest from other organizations, so I do wonder whether he'll be able to resist the pull of such offers. Was he truly tired of filling the GM role, or was he just tired of filling it here, under the budget restrictions imposed by Pohlad?

I have generally been a supporter of Ryan, but I'm not disappointed to see him step down. I have a lot of respect for the wonderful job he did of turning the Twins back into a contender after years of cellar-dwelling. He put the pieces in place to allow the team to turn a major corner back in 2001, and they haven't really looked back since. Lately, however, he has done little to help the club, and in my opinion he has actually impeded them from being able to take the next step. His free agent acquisitions have been disastrous. He has been far too timid on the trade market, guarding his pitching prospects while watching useful hitters get nabbed up by other clubs with less drastic offensive needs.

I have also grown increasingly dissatisfied with Ryan's apparent philosophies on the game. I suppose it's difficult to criticize the baseball mind of a man who has been around the game as long as Ryan, but when I read comments like, "I don't care about home runs," I have to wonder if maybe he's losing touch with some of the important aspects of building a team. In interviews, and when I met him personally, Ryan always seemed like a very nice and down-to-earth fellow; yet, he also seemed to have a stubborn air and a sometimes arrogant (and often misguided) mindset about the game that he didn't like to have challenged.

With all of that in mind, it should be nice to get some fresh blood in the GM spot for this organization. And yet, to say that I don't know much about Bill Smith would be an understatement. I've heard this guy's name maybe a handful of times in my life. Here's what La Velle's article in the Strib has to say about Smith:
Smith has been one of Ryan's closest advisors ever since he was named to his current position in 1994. Smith is well-versed in baseball rules and is a stickler for details. He watched practically every brick get put into place in the Twins' year-round facility in Fort Myers, Fla. He was the club's point man during its expansion into Latin America.
I don't envy the man's position. He walks into an extremely crucial and difficult offseason for the Twins. Torii Hunter was already likely on the way out, but now that will happen under Smith's watch and not Ryan's. Meanwhile, Johan Santana and Joe Nathan both have just one year remaining on their contracts, and the Justin Morneau and Michael Cuddyer situations will need to be resolved at some point as well.

Certainly, Smith will be tested right away, and it will be very interesting to see how he fares. My hope is that he's a bit more aggressive and straightforward than Ryan. The Twins need to get into a "win now" mindset, because 2008 is shaping up to be a great chance to go for it all. With the expected return of Francisco Liriano and the possible last year of Santana and Nathan, the Twins need to add some pieces on offense and make a serious run. If they don't, it could be a while before they have this great of an opportunity.

Fortunately, the rookie GM Smith will have help. I'm glad that Ryan is staying with the organization, and I believe he will be a big help to Smith, especially in the early goings. Meanwhile, a few other key promotions were announced yesterday, with former scouting director Mike Radcliff moving into the Vice President of Player Personnel role and Rob Antony, former director of baseball operations and contracts, becoming assistant GM. I'm especially excited about the Radcliff promotion, because I am a big fan of his and I think he has done a magnificent job as scouting director.

The Twins didn't play a game yesterday, but it may end up being the most important day of the season for the organization. Numerous changes will be made, and all we can do is sit and wait to see how they play out. Ryan did some great things for this franchise during his lengthy tenure as GM, and I hope that Smith can step in and do the things that need to be done to put the Twins in a position to succeed next season. Terry, thanks; Bill, I'm excited to see what you can do.

7 comments:

twayn said...

I'm going to be cautiously optimistic about this reorganization. Ryan did a great job during his tenure. He was the James Brown of GM's, the hardest working man in baseball, and he put together a team that's been fun to follow. My hope is that Mr. Smith will want to establish himself right away and make some good moves that would be unlikely to happen with TR at the helm. My fear is that Mr. Smith will want to establish himself right away and make some bad moves that would be unlikely to happen with TR at the helm.

Andersklasen said...

Twayn:

I don't think Ryan will allow Smith to make any moves that are that bad.

But I can't wait to see Smith face some tough decisions, and to see if he comes out on top.

John said...

Cautiously optimistic is right, Smith will have a tough assignment with all the free agents on this team in '07 and '08 that have been vital to this teams success, as well as the expectations of the fans becoming higher with the new ballpark. I do realize that baseball is a business and it is fairly unreasonable to expect the Twins to resign Santana, Hunter, Cuddyer, Morneau, Mauer, Nathan for the money that they will require. The difference between good GMs and poor GMs is the judgement to know the vital moves from the frivilous ones and when to realize that the value of a player that leaves doesn't always correspond with the money they get. Let the poor GMs pick up the bad contracts and make the poor trades (Mr. Krivsky?).Ask the Giants if Barry Zito is worth $128 Million. I think Smith will fall further from the Terry Ryan/Jim Pohlad tree enough to make bolder moves than TR, but I don't expect him to make a move for A-Rod or some premier A-list free agents. Good luck Mr. Smith, Minnesota is depending on you.

Nick N. said...

Well said, John.

valdespino said...

I think the Twins will be better off without the clubhouse cancer known as Toriiii Hunter and his backstabbing in the press. I notice he has no comment yet. Usually, you had better not stand between him and a reporter if there's a quote to be made. The sniping by Hunter mouthpieces in the papers this summer was being stoked by Hunter's contract situation and his feeling of being tossed aside for the new wave of talent. Goodbye to Terry and good riddance to Toriiii.

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