For the better part of the past 44 years, Terry Ryan had been with the Minnesota Twins in various roles ranging from a Minor League pitcher, signed out of high school, to two terms as the club's general manager.Through it all, Ryan never lost touch with reality.And so it was
For the better part of the past 44 years, Terry Ryan had been with the Minnesota Twins in various roles ranging from a Minor League pitcher, signed out of high school, to two terms as the club's general manager.
Through it all, Ryan never lost touch with reality.
And so it was earlier this month when he learned of the plans to replace him as the general manager at season's end, Ryan asked that the move be made sooner to open the door for ownership to begin working on its plan to restructure the team's front office.
Not wanting to take away from the Twins Hall of Fame ceremonies during the weekend, in which outfielder Torri Hunter was honored on Saturday and broadcaster John Gordon on Sunday, the decision was made to make the move on Monday.
• Ryan dismissed; Antony named interim GM
Rob Antony, who had been Ryan's assistant, assumed the GM duties for now, but the feeling within the organization is a major overhaul will ensue. Among the first names to surface was Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer, Rangers assistant general manager Thad Levine and J.J. Piccolo, assistant general manager of the division-rival Royals, who face many of the same small-market challenges as the Twins.
All the right things were said by the team's management, and Ryan issued a statement in which he expressed his gratitude to an organization he originally joined as a 35th-round Draft choice out of high school, who then spent three years finishing up a degree from the University of Wisconsin and five years scouting for the Mets before returning to the Twins in a front-office capacity.
• With GM search underway, Twins open to outside hire
"While disappointed we were unable to bring Minnesota a third world championship, I leave the GM post with immense pride in being part of the Twins' organization for the better part of three decades," Ryan said in the statement released by the team. "I'm grateful for the leadership opportunities provided by the Pohlad family. … It's been an honor to be part of the Twins organization and I wish everyone nothing but the best."
And he does.
The Twins are special to Ryan. Back in the winter of 2001-02, when the Twins and the A's were discussed to be the victims of contraction, the Blue Jays received permission to talk to Ryan and made him a lucrative offer to take over their organization. He never gave it serious consideration, feeling an obligation to the people he had hired to stick with them through tough times instead of fleeing.
• Somber mood engulfs clubhouse after Ryan's dismissal
Ryanfelt so loyal that after initially stepping down as general manager following the 2007 season, having spent 12 years in that role to serve as a consultant, that he reluctantly agreed to return to the GM job after the 2011 season. This was when the Twins fired Billy Smith, a longtime aide to Ryan before being promoted to replace Ryan as the GM four years earlier.
Ryan was welcomed back, and a year ago, things seemed so upbeat in the Twin Cities.
After four consecutive 90-plus loss seasons, Minnesota finished in second place in the American League Central, 12 games back of a Kansas City team that won the World Series.
There was hope for a return of a Twins franchise that made six postseason appearances from 2002-10 thanks to the leadership of Ryan.
The hopes of spring, however, disappeared quickly. Minnesota opened the season with a nine-game losing streak, and by the last week of May, the club was 11-34. The Twins woke up Monday morning 21 games behind the AL Central-leading Indians with a record of 33-58.
Jim Pohlad, who along with his two brothers assumed control of the Twins when his father, Carl, died, admitted, "We've hurt our brand over the last couple of years." Pohlad agreed: "The fans, I'm sure, are discouraged."
Truth be told, losing that brand was as big a factor, if not bigger, than losing games. The Twins are concerned about losing their foothold in the Twin Cities market.
They look at the challenges the Indians have faced in Cleveland, where they set what was a Major League record for 455 consecutive sellouts at the turn of the century, but now are battling for survival in a market where the success of the Cleveland Cavaliers has grabbed the attention of major corporations.
For the first time since moving into Target Field in 2010, the Twins are starting to feel some pressures in light of the new stadium the NFL's Vikings are moving into, a resurgence of interest in the NBA's Timberwolves and the popularity of the NHL's Wild.
And that, combined with a team that is on a pace to suffer a fifth 90-loss season in six years, offsets the hope created by the success of last year. It led to the decision to replace Ryan, who was The Sporting News Executive of the Year in 2002 and '06, and the Baseball America Executive of the Year in '04.
Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com.