Twins: Too much hope in Terry Ryan?

Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire (right) and pitching coach Rick Anderson (center) watch as Nick Swisher hits a home run in the seventh inning of game three of the 2010 ALDS at Yankee Stadium. Noah K. Murray/THE STAR-LEDGER via US PRESSWIRE

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.

Topics: AL Central, Minnesota Twins

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  • Greg

    I admit, I don’t know too much about Terry Ryan, but I do think highly of Gardenhire. How quickly people forget that he was the manager of the year just two years ago. There can’t be that much of a change in him, so I think the fault probably lies elsewhere. You make a good case for that being Terry Ryan. I think it’s telling that despite a losing season, the Twins still had a player in the running for a batting title. I agree with this article. Give Gardy a break.

  • jefft265

    I am happy to read this piece. I had been pulling my hair out of frustration that no one even considers Terry Ryan to be the weak link. As you mentioned, he was the go-to guy behind Bill Smith. He was the one who completely failed to address their biggest need this off season. He was the one with the poor drafts prior to Bill Smith that left the minors in sad shape. He was the one that recommended Bill Smith in the first place. He was the one that failed to fire anyone except Al Newman until this week. Ryan has one playoff series win in what, 14 years or so of being the GM. And if had been the GM in another division, he would have zero.
    The final straw for me what his breathtakingly stupid move to resign Capps and give up on a free draft choice, for a team that so desperately needs to replenish it’s minor leagues. And what do you need a closer for when you are a last place team, in the first place?
    I think Ryan’s slow, calm voice in interviews and on TV gives people the sense he is thoughtful and logical in his decision making. In my opinion, he is not.
    He could have fired Gardy, but in my mind, it would not have fixed the real problem with this franchise. He is the weakest link.

  • PMinell

    Thanks for the comments, guys! I’m not certain that Ryan is the problem, but I definitely think the question needs to be asked. After mulling over the coaching changes for a bit, it just struck me that the one person who has never been questioned in all of this is the guy that really has the most control.

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