July 19, 2016

Twins fire longtime GM Terry Ryan

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.”

Extra innings…

-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:






Hi, I’m Rolf Boone, Twins fan.

I became a fan of the Minnesota Twins after a friendly wager in the early 1980s. I survived Ron Davis, the meltdown in Cleveland, Phil Bradley at the Kingdome and then marveled at a rising generation of stars and two World Series wins in 1987 and 1991. Brad Radke made the 1990s bearable, while Kirby Puckett’s eye injury, exit from the game and eventual death made it almost too much to bear. The new century ushered in more talent — Joe Mauer, Johan Santana, Joe Nathan, Torii Hunter, Justin Morneau — and consecutive seasons of playoff baseball, followed by consecutive seasons of losing baseball. A winning season returned in 2015. So here we are. Go Twins.