Twins general manager Terry Ryan was fired Monday, ending a total of 19 years as GM of the club. Assistant GM Rob Antony was named interim and apparently told he was free to pursue the job as he sees fit.
Ryan’s firing came as a shock — the Twins are known for their continuity and loyalty — but just as quickly I realized it was the right move, despite Ryan’s past success with the team. It was time for a change. The Twins have had one winning season since 2010, and after winning 83 games and nearly making the playoffs in 2015, the expectation was that the Twins were on the rise.
And then this season happened. It began with a nine-game losing streak, followed by sub-.500 play that now has the Twins 21 games out of first place in the American League Central and a win-loss record that makes them the second worst team in all of baseball. Only the Atlanta Braves are slightly worse than the Twins.
Ryan was named GM in late 1994 and slowly rebuilt the Twins to become a winning team in 2001, followed by division-winning seasons in 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2006. He stepped away from the Twins in 2007 and then returned to the job in 2012 after GM Bill Smith was fired after the 2011 season.
Although Ryan had developed a reputation as a shrewd evaluator of talent and a dealmaker of sorts — his standout deal likely was trading A.J. Pierzynksi for three players, including Joe Nathan (Nathan is the Twins’ all-time saves leader) and Francisco Liriano — but some of that seemed to be missing when Ryan returned to the Twins in 2012.
He gets credit for developing one of the best farm systems in baseball, but his dealmaking wasn’t as sharp when one considers free-agent pacts for pitchers like Ricky Nolasco and Ervin Santana. I’m going to give him a pass on Phil Hughes because Hughes showed up and did his job, winning 16 games his first year in Minnesota.
“Terry was disappointed, for sure,” owner Jim Pohlad told the Strib on Monday. “But it feels like we lost our confidence.”
-Amid the turmoil of Monday’s decision, ownership also announced that they remain committed to manager Paul Molitor for this season and the next. Let’s see how that plays out if ownership brings in a new GM. One name that has already been floated is Billy “Moneyball” Beane of the Oakland A’s. Beane played for the Twins in 1986-1987.
-Meanwhile, a baseball game was played Monday at Detroit. The Twins mustered only three hits against Tigers starter Matt Boyd and three relievers to lose 1-0. Ricky Nolasco was sharp for the Twins, but he made one mistake: a Justin Upton solo home run. And that was the game. I imagine the team was distracted by the Ryan news and the likelihood of more change.
Some reaction to Ryan’s dismissal:
Molitor on Ryan: "He’s as good as it gets in terms of people in this game. You feel like there’s a loss there — a personal loss." #MNTwins
— Mike Berardino (@MikeBerardino) July 18, 2016
Most upset person I've talked to so far is Mrs. Reusse. Not exactly a baseball insider, but she loves Terry Ryan as a person.
— Patrick Reusse (@1500ESPN_Reusse) July 18, 2016
I feel so lucky to have worked for Terry Ryan. Thanks for always setting the example, never taking short cuts & taking the time to teach #TR
— Dustin Morse (@Twins_morsecode) July 18, 2016
(1/2) Difficult day for everyone w/ @Twins organization. Thx to Terry Ryan for his authenticity, candor & respect for our game/franchise.
— Dave St. Peter (@TwinsPrez) July 18, 2016
8.) Twins will strongly consider external candidates. IMO, they should ONLY consider outside candidates. Need to reset & break the pipeline.
— Phil Mackey (@PhilMackey) July 18, 2016
140 characters weren't enough. Thanks Terry. pic.twitter.com/qWv6CAWUck
— Cory Provus (@CoryProvus) July 18, 2016