Terry Ryan removed the “interim” tag from his title last Friday, making his position as Minnesota Twins General Manager official. After Jim Pohlad stated that he would welcome the change as soon as Ryan wanted to remove “interim” from his title, no one was surprised to see it happen. The change followed the removal or reassignment of six of the Twins’ coaches and the overtly conditional retention of manager Ron Gardenhire and pitching coach Rick Anderson.
The Pohlad family has expressed unquestionably strong support of Ryan:
“I’ll take Terry any way he wants to be here. [...] As long as he’s here, that’s good enough for me.” -Jim Pohlad
Ryan has followed up that support with a lukewarm assessment of Gardenhire and Anderson:
[Gardenhire ] accepted that and said he didn’t deserve a contract extension. -Terry Ryan
But (Anderson) is accountable. He didn’t feel too good about what we did. We had that long discussion yesterday. We’re going to do some things differently, we’re going to end up certainly having some different personnel. [...] He’s accountable. He isn’t hiding, making excuses. We had a difficult year.” -Terry Ryan
The fact that the Twins have retained their manager after two 95+ loss seasons is, admittedly, in and of itself a vote of confidence in a manager who used to be known for his six division titles. One of the most commonly heard or read sentiments as the 2012 Twins season limped to the finish line was that very few other teams would even consider keeping their manager after he lost two 95+ loss seasons. It’s also well-known that Anderson is one of Gardenhire’s favorites. If the Twins were firing (ahem, not renewing the contract of) four of his coaches and reassigning two others, it is certainly possible that they gave Gardenhire the ability to protect the fate of the seventh. It is worth noting that all seven coaches were at the end of their contracts; Gardenhire was already signed through 2013, Anderson was extended through 2013, and it can be presumed that the reassigned Ullger and Vavra were given extensions, most likely through the next season.
While many fans during the 2012 season called for the Twins to fire Gardenhire, a common argument against that strong and un-Twins-like decision was that firing Gardenhire wouldn’t really reach the root of the problem. Taking a step back, what other manager could have done more with the lineup and pitching staff Gardenhire was given? While then-interim GM Ryan brought in bats such as Willingham and Doumit, he also planned on Pavano, Baker, Blackburn, and the off-season acquisition Marquis, to name a few. Those decisions were made by Ryan and his staff, and Gardenhire had to work with the players he was given.
It seems that the Twins are implicitly trusting the man who may have actually created the problem and have given a final warning to the one who has been cleaning up their mess.
More than likely, the Twins are in a both-and situation. Ryan and Gardenhire have both made mistakes in the last two years; it is sometimes forgotten that Ryan was involved in many of the decisions the Twins made while Bill Smith was GM. And, both Ryan and Gardenhire had varying degrees of success in working with the finances (Ryan) and players (Gardenhire) at their disposal. But, whether or not the Twins ownership recognizes it, the success or failure of the 2013 season will probably be much more a reflection of the moves made by the GM during this off-season than the decisions their former “Manager of the Year” makes when he writes out his lineup cards during the upcoming season.