The Minnesota Twins have had a great 2017 and as there may be a brief pause for Thanksgiving, here are some thanks for a face of the past, Terry Ryan.
The Minnesota Twins and their fans spent all of 2017 riding the wave of unexpected success. What a ride it was to watch as month after month the Twins continued to succeed even though everything pointed to their eventual failure.
A fair share of the success has and should be attributed to the new leaders, Derek Falvey and Thad Levine. The 2017 Twins were also very much the Twins that Terry Ryan built. That is a portion of why I as a fan am thankful for Terry Ryan.
As many know Terry Ryan got his start in scouting in 1980 with the New York Mets and came to the Twins in 1986. He started out as the Twins scouting director and eventually moved into the role of Vice President and Player Personnel Director. It was in 1994 when Andy MacPhail left the Twins for the Chicago Cubs that Ryan took over as the Twins General Manager.
His job was tough for many of those early years but Ryan stuck through making moves and trying to rebuild the Twins to match the 1987 and 1991 World Series success. That wouldn’t truly happen until 2001 but when it did man was it fun.
That 2001 team was when I was really hooked as a Twins fan. I am a loyal Minnesotan, so I have always been a Twins fan. There was something about that return to relevance in 2001 that grabbed my attention, and that was the team that Ryan built. It was just the beginning of a Twins team that would compete year in and year out through the first decade of the 2000’s.
As fans, we saw Ryan make moves for guys like Johan Santana, Jason Bartlett, and Shannon Stewart. As Joe Mauer was making his way onto the scene, Ryan turned A.J. Pierzynski into Joe Nathan, Francisco Liriano, and Boof Bonser. Flipped Eric Milton for Carlos Silva and one of most polarizing Twins, Nick Punto. I say that about Punto because you either loved him or hated him for his head first, first base slides.
Then there was the move that allowed me to make my worst Shirsey buying decision. Ryan traded reliever J.C. Romero for Alexi Casilla. I fell in love with Casilla’s potential to the Twins first true base stealing threat since Chuck Knoblauch and had to be able to wear his name on my back. For clarity, this paragraph is more for my nostalgia than anything.
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Ryan also helped bring up through the minors guys like Mauer, Michael Cuddyer, Justin Morneau, and Torii Hunter. Players who in many ways are still the face of Twins baseball for many. They are players who represent playoff appearances, MVP awards, and All-Star appearances and summers of baseball bliss.
Unfortunately, as great as all those years were. Those Twins team left us wanting more. They left us wanting 1987 and 1991. We wanted those years so bad we even tried to break out the Homer Hankys as we tried cheering the Twins out of the first round of the playoffs against, well it was always the New York Yankees right?
2017 represented the first year where it felt like we finally might have been able to get over that hurdle called the Yankees. The core of this team that brought that feeling was also assembled and/or groomed by a Ryan led Twins organization. Not unlike those early 2000’s teams, the young core of Byron Buxton, Max Kepler, Eddie Rosario, Miguel Sano, and Jose Berrios all started to become quality, everyday major league players and returned the team to competitiveness.
Terry Ryan may not have been great at putting the finishing touches on quality rosters. That is why Falvey and Levine are here now. There is no doubt that Ryan was good at scouting which helped him put together another solid core of young players to usher in the next wave of Twins success.