Terry Ryan decided that a 26-year-old David Ortiz, and his career .809 OPS with 58 homers, was worthy of release prior to the 2003 season. Jose Morban was the man worthy of a roster spot, and the 23-year-old never wound up playing for the Twins before returning to Baltimore and generating just a .412 OPS in 61 games. Fast forward to 2020 and we’re looking at the question of regression regarding Nelson Cruz, but able to do it through the lens of Red Sox legend, Mr. Ortiz.
“Big Papi,” as he’s affectionately known, went on to play 14 seasons with the Boston Red Sox. He didn’t retire until he was 40 years old, and he swatted 541 career home runs. Unlike many players that are simply lapped by the game in their later years, Ortiz went out on top. In 2016 he played 151 games while posting a ridiculous .315/.401/.620 slash line. He blasted a league-leading 48 dingers and paced the crowd with 127 RBIs. Despite a 6th place MVP finish and clearly being capable of big-league production, he stepped away.
Last season Cruz entered his maiden voyage in Twins Territory. The late-blooming slugger joined his fifth organization and posted a career best 1.031 OPS. At 38-years-old he hit 41 longballs and owned a career best .392 OBP. He played in just 120 games dealing with intermittent wrist injuries, but ultimately showed there were no signs of slowing down. The hope would be that 2020 represents more of the same, and Ortiz provides the example that age may simply be just a number.
On pace for a 5.8 fWAR over the course of a full season, Cruz was more productive on a per-game basis than he’s ever been. Steamer projects a step up in games played at 147 in 2020, but the 2.9 fWAR is quite a bit of regression. The OPS sags to .909 with the home run total ending at 40. It’s a very solid output, but with the additional games adding to the body of work, leaves plenty of production on the table. Although projection systems are mathematically sound, there’s analytical substance to the idea that Cruz may not be ready to give in yet.
Say what you want about the baseball itself from a season ago, but the controlled outputs were plenty impressive on their own. A 52.5% hard hit rate was a career best and paced the sport (among hitters with 450 ABs). While he was walloping the baseball, a 31.3% rate of fly balls leaving the yard was only topped by Brewers MVP candidate Christian Yelich. Nelson didn’t chase more, or swing through more pitches, and he actually took a slight dip in contact. What that formula suggests is quality of contact being through the roof.
Branching out from Fangraphs, Baseball Savant agrees with the data as well. A 12.5% barrels/plate appearance tally put him in first place by nearly a full percentage point. His average exit velocity was trumped by only Aaron Judge and teammate Miguel Sano, and his xwOBA of .418 ranked 5th highest in the game.
In short, Nelson Cruz is doing all the right things that would make his production regression projection go poof. Now, as bodies age, a dip could be seen unexpectedly. Time is undefeated, and at some point, will get its due. To suggest that it’s coming simply because he’s a year older and approaching 40 however, does not seem like the greatest bet. David Ortiz is the latest example to prove competence in his twilight, and as much fun as slugging sendoffs are (looking at you Jim Thome), Cruz appears to be more contributing than cooling in the year ahead.
Toting only a bat to the ballpark on a regular basis isn’t a bad gig for an aging star and having a few less big-league miles on a late bloomer can’t hurt either. Nelson Cruz had his nap room installed in the bowels of Target Field, and allowing him the opportunity to continue to wake and rake is something his employer should bask in.
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- Dec 26 2019 04:47 PM
- by Ted Schwerzler
It was the final day of the 2003 All-Star break. The defending American League Central champion Twins had limped out to a 44-49 record and were 7.5 games back in the division, sitting in third place.
The front office/ownership hadn’t made any big moves the previous two seasons despite the team being competitive, so there seemed to be little reason to expect any motivation to build up the roster. There was still just as much discussion about the potential for contraction as there was contention during this time.
But prior to the start of the second half, Terry Ryan struck a deal. The Twins acquired Shannon Stewart from the Toronto Blue Jays to serve as the team’s leadoff hitter. July 16, 2003 ended up being a momentous turning point for not only that season, but in some ways you could argue for the entire organization/future of the Twins.
Stewart hit .322/.384/470 (.854 OPS) for the Twins as the team went 46-23 in the second half. That season-ending surge also saw the team post an insane 24-9 record over its final 33 games. There was an 11-game winning streak included in that stretch. The Twins ended up charging back to win the division by four games. For his efforts, Stewart finished fourth in AL MVP voting.
Things turned out about as good as could have been imagined, but that was actually somewhat of a controversial trade at the time that it happened. The player Ryan sent to Toronto had actually been performing basically as well as Stewart, was younger and had many more years of team control.
At the time of the move, Bobby Kielty was hitting .252/.370/.420 (.790 OPS) for the Twins while Stewart was posting a .294/.347/.449 (.796 OPS) batting line for the Blue Jays. It was essentially a challenge trade, a very gutsy move.
After accounting for a 125 wRC+ over his time with the Twins, Kielty never came even close to that production elsewhere. He posted a 92 wRC+ over 367 career games from that moment forward. Stewart ended up signing a three-year deal to remain with the Twins the following offseason.
Stewart was excellent when healthy once again in 2004, helping the Twins to yet another AL Central crown. His first Opening Day in Minnesota was a memorable one, as he delivered a walk-off homer in the bottom of the 11th inning, sending the Metrodome into a frenzy.
Stewart’s my personal all-time favorite among Twins midseason additions. I’d love to hear your memories from that time, but I’m also interested in your own personal favorites from over the years. A certain hitter on one of the World Series champion teams certainly sticks out, if anyone else cares to share some memories from 1987.
If you haven’t signed up for an account at the site yet, click here to get registered and join in on the conversation.
- Jul 11 2019 06:42 PM
- by Tom Froemming
The Kansas City Royals are on the field. They already took a round of infield, and now I am watching Alex Gordon launch baseballs into the bleachers. Over the speakers, Prince songs are blaring. Moments ago, Adalberto Mondesi was taking his hacks while "...You sexy m()%#*@($#%" played.
It's Prince Night tonight at Target Field. The Twins took batting practice earlier sporting t-shirts with the Prince symbol on the front and their name and number on the back.
But in the end, this weekend is a celebration of the career of all-time Twins great Joe Mauer.
On Saturday the Twins will officially retire Joe Mauer's uniform number 7 in a pregame celebration. The ceremony will begin at 6:00 p.m. on Saturday so be sure you don't miss that whether you are at the stadium or watching on TV.
Recently, the Twins sent a list of about 40 former players, coaches, Twins Hall of Famers and more who will be in attendance. The list is really impressive and speaks to not only the Hall of Fame-worthy, 15-season career of Mauer, but to the impression that he made on his teammates.
I had the chance to catch up with former Twins GM Terry Ryan for about 10 minutes before the game. He will be here, as will Bill Smith, 15 members of the Twins Hall of Fame (including 5 National Hall of Fame players), and many former teammates including Trevor Plouffe, Nick Punto, Denard Span and Matt Belisle, and a lot more. All seven previously retired numbers will be in attendance or represented (Kirby Puckett's daughter will be here).
I wonder what is behind the covered up circle?
As we know, Mauer also did a ton in the community, and Joe Mauer weekend began with a great event on Friday morning at Target Field. Mauer and a bunch of his friends welcomed kids from the Gillette Children's Hospital to play ball on the field.
There will be opportunities to get photos and autographs with some of the former players throughout the weekend.
And, what is really exciting is going to Target Field and seeing crowds. I know that can be tough in some ways, but people really care about this team. The passion for Twins baseball is back.
Of course, there is also baseball to be played. Tonight Kyle Gibson will be on the mound, taking on Brad Keller. With a huge, sold out crowd, it would sure be fun to see a lot of Twins Bombas!
Keller is making his 15th start of the year for the Royals. The 23-year-old was a Rule 5 draft pick of the Royals from the Reds in 2017. He is 3-8 with a 4.29 ERA. In his most recent start (last Saturday), he went eight innings against the White Sox. He gave up just two runs on five hits, though the big hit was a two-run Eloy Jimenez homer. No Twins hitter has more than six at-bats against Keller.
Kyle Gibson is 6-3 with a 4.14 ERA. The 31-year-old has 71 strikeouts in 67 1/3 innings. If Gibson records the second out of the top of the sixth inning tonight, he will reach 1000 career innings pitched. He comes into the game with 994 1/3 innings. He will become the 11th Twins pitcher to reach that milestone number.
It sure is great to see these big crowds to see the Twins and sell outs throughout the weekend. .
- Jun 14 2019 05:48 PM
- by Seth Stohs
Vargas was designated for assignment by Cincinnati and Minnesota claimed him back.
The Reds seemed like a tough spot for Vargas to fit, with Joey Votto occupying first base and no designated hitter in the National League. Because of his switch-hitting ability, there was some thought that he could serve as a bench bat or the club could try to sneak him through waivers to the minors.
That plan didn’t work as he is back in Minnesota.
Some Twins fans were a little paranoid about losing Vargas. It’s hard to blame fans for remembering when the club made one of the biggest judgment gaffes in baseball history. Letting David Ortiz go was a mistake. Even former General Manager Terry Ryan has admitted as much. But let’s make one thing clear… Kennys Vargas isn’t David Ortiz.
It’s easy to see why fans can see similarities between the two players. Both players fit a similar profile as large men who have little to no defensive value. Even more eerie might be the fact that the Twins let both players go entering their age-27 season. Beyond those surface level similarities, there are some stark differences between these two players.
Ortiz broke into the majors as a 21-year old in 1997. He played a little over 100 games through his first three seasons before becoming a regular player in 2000. From 1997-2002, he hit 266/.348/.461 (.809) while averaging 10 home runs and 18 doubles per season. He also had 339 strikeouts compared to 186 walks in 455 games.
His best season in Minnesota was his last as he hit .272/.339/.500 with 20 home runs and 75 RBIs in 125 games. He battled injuries throughout his time in a Twins uniform. During the 2002-2003 off-season, Ortiz was due to make roughly $2 million through the arbitration process. Matt LeCroy would take over the designated hitter role with Doug Mientkiewicz penciled in at first base. Justin Morneau was closing in on the big leagues as well.
“There wasn’t any one thing,” Terry Ryan told MLB.com. “If you look at his numbers across the board, they were very respectable. And not that it was totally about money, but we were a little bit strapped. That would be a good excuse, but it wasn’t that entirely. It was just a bad error in judgment of a guy’s talent.”
Ortiz would sign with the Red Sox for $1.25 million and the rest is history.
Vargas is a much different story. He made his debut as a 23-year old in 2014. During his four seasons in Minnesota, he hit .252/.311/.437 (.748) with 35 home runs and a more strikeouts (251) than hits (197). While Ortiz showed flashes of brilliance in the upper minors, Vargas posted a .248 batting average in 630 Triple-A at-bats.
Vargas might the definition of a replacement level player.
Ortiz became known for his clutch hits to help the Red Sox win multiple championships. Vargas struggled to be successful in high-leverage spots on rebuilding Twins teams.
Because both the Twins and Red Sox train in Fort Myers, Vargas and Ortiz have become acquaintances over the years. In fact, a friendship has developed between these Caribbean born players. Vargas also knows it took Ortiz multiple years to make it as a big leaguer. “He was in my spot years and years ago,” Vargas told the Pioneer Press. “He just trusted in himself, and he found a spot and (won) three World Series.”
Vargas is still searching for his spot and now he’s back with the organization he’s known for his entire career.
- Mar 24 2018 07:27 PM
- by Cody Christie
Molitor has managed three seasons and in two of those years he has had the Twins in surprise contention for the playoffs. During his rookie managerial season, the Twins fought off their recent losing trend as the club was in the playoff hunt until the season's last weekend. An 83-79 record was a vast improvement compared to four straight 90-loss seasons under Ron Gardenhire. Players like Brian Dozier, Eddie Rosario and Miguel Sano posted strong numbers at the plate under the leadership of a Hall of Fame hitter.
The 2017 campaign has been up and down to say the least. Minnesota somehow finds themselves in the thick of the wild card race even though they have been outscored by over 50 runs. A young core of Miguel Sano, Byron Buxton and Max Kepler are supplementing a rotation led by Ervin Santana and Jose Berrios. For the second time in three years, Molitor has the Twins in position to make the playoffs which is something the Twins haven't seen since 2010.
It's hard to forget how bad the Twins were in 2016. The team fumbled and stumbled their way to a franchise-worst 103 losses. Moving Sano to the outfield was a disaster while the pitching staff was one of the worst in the game. In the end, the Twins fired long-time general manager Terry Ryan. A roster reconstruction was needed and Minnesota's young core needed more time to develop. It was time for a change but the team's ownership stood behind Molitor.
As the hunt started for men to lead the baseball operations department, Twins owner Jim Pohlad made it clear that Paul Molitor wasn't going anywhere. Some thought this might have handcuffed the Twins in their search for new front office personnel. However, the Twins have rarely made changes under Pohlad ownership. For example, the team has employed only three managers since the 1987 campaign. With changes happening in the front office, it was an interesting stance for the owner to take, and now the future is murky.
Molitor's three-year contract is expiring at season's end and this time Pohlad isn't insisting on him returning as manager. He told the Star Tribune that he wants Molitor back for 2018 but that will be up to Derek Falvey and Thad Levine. Pohlad said, "I know how much they value the relationship between them and the manager, and the engagement with the whole baseball staff. They are going to make the decision." It will be a decision that won't be made until after the 2017 campaign.
Falvey and Levine have already been making changes to the front office. Longtime executive and current scout Wayne Krivsky was fired along with four other scouts. Part of the agreement when Falvey joined the Twins was that he couldn't bring any scouts with him from Cleveland during his first year. That calendar year will be expiring soon and the new front office wants some fresh faces.
"The Twins are a proud, historic franchise with a lot of people who are deeply connected to the organization," Falvey said. "We didn't want to make a lot of changes at the outset and bring in a whole new staff. We set a new direction and vision, let people know what expectations were of them, and then let people do their jobs. And we're learning a lot about people."
Has Molitor met the expectations of the new front office? Do the Twins need to make the playoffs for him to save his job? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
- Aug 14 2017 04:33 PM
- by Cody Christie
Throughout his professional career, Polanco has played over 3300 innings at shortstop. Unfortunately, he didn't play an inning at short to start the 2016 season. Before being called up in July to take over the Twins shortstop role, he started 64 games at second base and two games at third base.
Twins manager Paul Molitor was asked about Polanco's handling during the 2016 campaign. He told the Star Tribune, "I wish I had a better explanation for you. But I think myself, a lot of other people, realized we didn't handle it the right way."
To be clear, this shouldn't be something Molitor has to worry about or apologize for in the press. His job is to run the major league squad on a daily basis. There would be reports coming from the minor league level but a directive for positioning of players would need to come from the front office.
As the Twins were getting close to calling up Polanco, the team was also in the midst of firing general manager Terry Ryan. It was also nearing the trade deadline when the Twins would make multiple moves. Polanco's positioning at Rochester might have gotten lost in the shuffle but this still shouldn't be an excuse for it falling through the cracks.
Polanco isn't a perfect shortstop. There are questions about his arm at the position and whether he has the range to make all the necessary plays. In over 400 MLB innings last year, he committed 11 errors in 189 chances (.942 FLD%). This fielding percentage was 10 points higher than his professional average.
Some of his defensive flaws at shortstop show up in some of the other defensive metrics. Defensive runs saved (DRS) had him at 8 runs below average. Ultimate zone rating (UZR) was even lower as it put him at 10.9 runs below average. These numbers will obviously need to improve for him to stick at shortstop through the coming season.
There are benefits to having infielders who are versatile. However, it also helps for players to get as much experience as possible at the position that could be their ticket to the big leagues. Polanco was in his age-22 season and he lost half a year of development at shortstop.
Polanco's 2016 season might have included an organizational gaffe but spring is a time to turn the page. The Twins might have blundered but he will get every opportunity to prove he can stick at shortstop.
Who's to blame in the Polanco blunder? Should Molitor have been monitoring more of the minor leagues? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
- Feb 20 2017 08:56 PM
- by Cody Christie
Join Twins Daily writers in fighting some terrible diseases by attending the 2017 Diamond Awards. Seth, Jeremy and John will host as many tables as we can of Twins Daily members for this fantastic fundraiser inside Target Field.
First, buy tickets to the 2017 Diamond Awards. It’s awesome, truly a bucket list item for Twins fans; just check out the photos and video. It’s the night before Twins Fest (January 26th), so it’ll be a star-studded affair including an awards dinner celebrating the Diamond Awards winners, including Brian Dozier, Ervin Santana, Byron Buxton, Max Kepler and Terry Ryan.
Tickets are $150 each but the proceeds go to the University of Minnesota to cure some pretty terrible diseases, like ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), ataxia, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, and Parkinson’s disease. It is a great cause and a fantastic time and Seth, Jeremy and I would love to share it with you.
To join us, just write that you want to be at the Twins Daily table in the “comments” box at the end of the signup form. Or, if you’ve already signed up, let me know in the comments below and I’ll work with the organizers to make sure you are seated with us. We would love to get a big group together and talk a lot of baseball or get your thoughts on the site.
This is truly a special opportunity to attend one of the Twins premier annual events that celebrates their team and their fans. Plus, it’s an exceptional cause and a chance to see the best of Target Field on one of the coldest weekends of the year. Let’s recharge our batteries and get ready for a great weekend and a great year together. If you have any questions or concerns, use the comments. But please click the link below and give it a try this year. You won’t regret it.
- Jan 23 2017 09:11 AM
- by John Bonnes
The situations are eerily similar. The year before, the 1984 Twins had a very successful year, raising hopes. In fact, they competed for a postseason spot right until they were swept in their last series of the year.
(P.S. In fact, they lost their last six games, a streak which started when they were just a ½ game from the division lead. That included perhaps the two most heartbreaking losses between the years 1970 and 1992, and they were back-to-back. One was yet another blown lead by Ron Davis and then the Twins blew a 10-0 lead with Frank Viola on the mound. After that game, Gary Gaetti offered his appraisal of his own throwing error that led to a seven-run inning: “It’s hard to throw with both hands around your neck.”)
(P.P.S. “Twins Worst Losses.” How did Twins Daily not produce that series in this year of all years? Apparently, it’s also hard to blog with both hands around your neck.)
The success in 1984 raised hopes, because the team was filled with promising youngsters. Kirby Puckett had debuted that year. Kent Hrbek had been snubbed for the All-Star team. Seven of the nine starters in the lineup were 26 years old or younger.
But 1985 started poorly. After winning their first two games, the team fell into a nine-game losing streak. (Again – sound familiar?) They rebounded with a 10-game winning streak, but on June 20th, they were only 27-35 and in sixth place in the division. Like this year’s team, a change was made, but in their case it was the manager who was fired. Billy Gardner was replaced by Ray Miller, and the team limped to a fourth place finish in the division, fourteen games back.
By then, the new owner, Carl Pohlad, had determined that the organization needed to modernize from the decades-old management structure that Calvin Griffith had in place. But rather than fire team “interim” president Howard Fox, he looked for young blood to help evaluate things first.
That included interviewing the relatively inexperienced MacPhail. MacPhail was probably best known for his father, Lee MacPhail, who built the Orioles powerhouses of the 60s and 70s. Andy didn’t exactly have high hopes about the interview. In Doug Grow’s book “We’re Gonna Win Twins”, MacPhail admitted, “I’d never managed anything. I was flattered they wanted to talk to me. I came in, I met with Carl and Jim, answered a series of questions, and went back to Houston.”
Sure enough, the Twins didn’t get back to MacPhail for months. But in June, they interviewed him again once they got a better feel for how the baseball-side was (or wasn’t) working. In August, MacPhail was hired, but not as General Manager.
MacPhail was the Vice-President of Player Personnel. That position still reported to Fox, but ultimately his position was closer to the one Falvey will inaugurate: examining, organizing and overhauling the ball club with a long-term view, instead of paying attention to the more immediate roster needs.
MacPhail started with the scouting department, and that’s when the Pohlad’s fears were confirmed. Again, in “We’re Gonna Win Twins”, MacPhail recalled his reaction to seeing the Griffith-era scouting reports:
“They had their scouting reports on little 3 x 5 cards,” MacPhail said. “And I don’t mean a 3 x 5 card for each player. Each card was for a whole team. It was just incredible. I don’t mean to put them down. That organization came up with great players over the years. But things were changing in baseball. I think the median age for their scouts was about seventy-three. They had two scouts living in North Dakota, which is not exactly rich in baseball talent. But they didn’t have anybody in Texas.”
To clean up that mess, MacPhail plucked someone from another organization. He tapped the New York Mets midwest scouting supervisor: Terry Ryan. Ryan was also only 32 years old, but that wouldn’t be the most controversial of his younger hires.
Adding New Blood
At the end of the 1986 season, the Twins decided to make another change at manager. Ray Miller had never really worked out and so Fox designated third base coach Tom Kelly to hold down the position for the rest of the year. MacPhail was charged with finding the next manager for the 1987 season.
***To read the rest of this feature and more, be sure to download your FREE Twins Daily Offseason Handbook now.***
- Dec 05 2016 08:41 AM
- by John Bonnes
- Dec 05 2016 02:05 AM
- by John Bonnes
In the last couple of weeks, Derek Falvey and Thad Levine have been busy and things are about to get even busier.
As we discussed yesterday, the Twins have until Friday night to offer arbitration to five players (Hector Santiago, Kyle Gibson, Brandon Kintzler, Ryan Pressly, and Eduardo Escobar). Be sure to stop by throughout the day to find out if any players were not tendered a contract.
Two days after introducing Michael Cuddyer, LaTroy Hawkins and Torii Hunter as new Special Assistants to Baseball Operations, the Twins made official their signing of catcher Jason Castro. The three year, $24.5 million deal is the largest free agent contract handed out to a new Twins position player.
In Wednesday's press conference, Derek Falvey acknowledged that Castro was "identified early on as an important target for us this offseason. He was somebody that we talked about from Day 1."
On Thursday, George King of the New York Post tweeted the following:
Rowson is apparently a very respected hitting man. He comes from the Yankees organization, but he held similar titles recently in the Cubs system too. You can learn more about him in the discussion on this forum.
Now all the Twins need is a first base coach. They will likely want someone who can also work with outfielders, or the catchers.
That said, news came out in the last couple of days that former Twins GM Terry Ryan has accepted a job as a Special Assignment scout with the Philadelphia Phillies. Ryan, of course, has been in the organization going back to 1986, 30 years.
Likewise, former GM Bill Smith, who also has given over 30 years of service time to the Twins organization, was informed recently that his job with the Twins will be over in January when his contract is complete.
The Winter Meetings officially start on Monday in Washington, DC, but teams will start arriving there on Sunday afternoon. As always, there will be a ton of rumors, this GM talking to that GM or that agent, and we’ll hear a bunch of them. However, it’s always a good reminder that these meetings are actually designed to have many meetings set up, official meetings, to discuss the business of baseball. College students will be there, hoping to get an interview and latch on with an organization. Big league, minor league (affiliated or independent) will be there. But it’s those side meetings that will garner the most attention.
Brian Dozier will certainly be Topic #1 for the Twins rumor mill over the coming week. Will Falvey-Levine find a taker for the second baseman who hit 42 home runs a year ago? Will there actually be a trade?
And, if Dozier is traded, does that mean that Jorge Polanco moves to second base? Would the Twins then be in the market for a shortstop at the Winter Meetings?
But then, it all comes down to pitching. What will the new regime’s strategy be to bring in high-end pitching? How much can they get for Brian Dozier, but also will they be active in other trades? WIll they be active in free agency? Are there even starters to find in free agency?
What about the bullpen? Will they look to add more bullpen arms? Will they choose to push some of the young flame-throwers?
It’s going to be an interesting week, and I would venture to guess that with their new roles, Derek Falvey and Thad Levine will be among the most popular COB/GM combos for agents and executives alike to talk to.
What if the Twins don’t actually make a Dozier trade or other moves during the Winter Meetings? I mean, this is one week in early December and there will be plenty of talent available next week, or the week after, or into January. So, it’s not a big deal. But the Winter Meetings provide the opportunity for in-person meetings to set the tone for deals, now, or in the near future.
Also, next Thursday, the final day of the Winter Meetings, will be the Rule 5 draft. The Twins will have the first pick. With the Castro signing, they are currently at 40 men on their 40-man roster. They will either have to make a move next week to make room, or DFA someone to make room, if they want to make a pick.
Maybe the best, big picture news this week was that there was a new Collective Bargaining Agreement finalized a day before the old one expired. There is a lot in our forums about the new CBA, so be sure to read more if you are interested.
Here are a few more topics from our forums that you may enjoy contributing to:
- News came out last weekend that lefty Pat Dean, who the Twins DFAd last month, has signed with the KIA Tigers in Korea. He recently returned from Korea where he signed the deal.
- Adam Brett Walker, who was removed from the 40 man roster two weeks ago and claimed by his hometown Milwaukee Brewers, was DFAd by the Brewers this week. It will be interesting to see if he clears and stays in the Brewers organization, or if he is claimed by yet another team. The DFA/Limbo cycle can really stink.
- Logan Schafer signed a minor league deal with the Orioles. Chris Parmelee signed with the Oakland A’s. Dan Runzler signed with the Pirates.
- Brandon Warne gave report cards to all 40 members of the Twins 40-man roster in 2016. Find them all here.
- In the last week or so, we have had Q&As with several Twins minor leaguers including Travis Blankenhorn, Shane Carrier, and Jordan Balazovic. We’ve got more lined up as well.
- It’s never too early to start thinking about next year’s #1 overall pick in the draft. Baseball America released its Top 100 High School kids this week. Sam Carlson, a 6-4 right-hander from Burnsville who is committed to Florida is on the list.
- Be sure to check out our sister sites, Vikings Journal and Wild Xtra as well.
Feel free to discuss anything in the comments below, and check out our forums for many more topics.
- Dec 02 2016 09:58 AM
- by Seth Stohs
Derek Falvey was officially announced as the Twins Chief Baseball Officer last month. However, due to an agreement between Minnesota, Cleveland and MLB, he remained with Cleveland through the World Series. However, in that time, he was able to hire his choice for Twins General Manager, and he chose long-time assistant GM of the Texas Rangers, Thad Levine.
In addition, interim GM Rob Antony told reporters that his new title would be essentially be his old title, Assistant General Manager.
To summarize, the messages shared from the mouths of both Falvey and Levine included a lot of collaborations and synergy at every level. From scouting, to player development, to the Major League club, the goal will be to share a common system of beliefs and structure. As you will find with many companies, they will focus on People, Process and Culture. Good people who are interested in communication and continuous improvement will work within some established processes to develop a culture. Hopefully that culture involves winning, and a lot of it.
According to Falvey, the goal is “long-term, sustainable, championship-caliber” success for the organization he had earlier described as “one of the most proud, resilient franchises in baseball.”
Getting to that level will require a lot of work. And that work starts right away. Tonight, Falvey, Levine and Antony fly to Scottsdale, Arizona, for the GM Meetings. According to Falvey, they will “dive underneath the hood of this team here.” He added, “We would expect that we’ll go through player personnel decisions and evaluations over the next 72 hours aggressively and work forward from there.”
As we all know, part of the arrangement with a restructured front office was that Paul Molitor was to remain the team’s manager. That came directly from owner Jim Pohlad.
Falvey and Molitor have met a few times and it sounds like the discussions have been good. “He and I share the same vision which is building a winning organization and a winning Major League team.”
On Molitor, Levine added, “My opinion is that the healthiest franchises in the game have strong synergies between ownership, front office, business and the clubhouse. So when we walk in the door having inherited a manager of the caliber of Paul Molitor, we feel like we’ve got a partner in this process, someone we can invest in the future with, so we view it as a prominent positive.”
The team isn’t starting from scratch. As Falvey noted, “There are some building blocks here. There are some good young players. There’s talent in this organization. I think that’s a credit to Terry Ryan and the staff that came before us and built a good foundation, particularly on the position player side. It’s something I’ve always admired from a distance.”
Falvey wasn’t willing to say how good this team is or how good they can be in 2017. “I don’t want to put restraints on teams. I want to go into the year with the hope that we are a competitive team that continues to build and gets better every single day.”
The big question, of course, is how to go about adding pitching, something the Twins are greatly in need of. For Falvey, he said it’s the same philosophy for hitters or pitchers.
“We’re trying to seek and find the best possible talent that exists out there, and then align that talent with a development plan that will maximize those strengths.”
It’s a system that worked with Cleveland. They were able to bring together scouting, development and major league operations to bring the best results. He talked about working with other departments such as medical and strength and conditioning, and potentially some departments that currently do not exist.
The new staff will attempt to bring balance to the organization. They will communicate internally. It is a sound strategy.
Listen, the reality is that Falvey and Levine have their work cut out for them. Aside from some of the specifics as it relates to analytics, the message was the same you would have heard from Ryan and his group, or any new collection being brought in. Falvey and Levine use bigger words and speak very well. They do bring knowledge and experience from outside the current Twins system, but they also know that it isn’t 100 percent about analytics.
I was impressed with Levine noting that the opinions of former players like Michael Young and Darren Oliver, who are senior advisers in the Rangers’ front office, were helpful in the evaluation as well. Corey Koskie, Joe Mauer and Glen Perkins were in attendance.
Falvey talked about being a “data-driven organization.”
Levine thinks that data needs to be “married up with the scouting acumen of your field staff. The talent evaluators are really the difference-makers in the game. I subscribe to the theory that the competitive advantage is that whoever has the best talent evaluators... who then has it married up with an ownership group who will support you to acquire that talent, is probably going to win a lot of games.”
Levine also noted that relationship building, the human side, is just as important. Working with the media. Building relationships with agents. All in an attempt to be able to bring in the best talent. Young talent. Talented veterans. Leaders. It all fits into the equation. So while the theme most Twins fans want to hear are words like “analytics” and “advanced stats,” it’s good to hear that these new leaders will always understand the human element as well.
Things are changing in the front office of the Minnesota Twins. The goals remain the same. Build a winner. Build a team that can win in the short and long terms. It is certainly going to be a challenge.
Press conferences are an opportunity to meet the new guys. We had the opportunity to listen to them speak and see some personality. It’s hard to lose in an introductory press conference. But for the most part, I feel like it was a successful unveiling of the new direction. Falvey and Levine are both very well spoken and articulate. They flash business acumen, but they have also been in great organizations that have won. They are very convincing and appear to be strong leaders. Levine showed a sense of humor and hinted humility with a few of his remarks.
Of course now the work begins. Coming off of a 59-win season, much work needs to be done to make the team more competitive. It feels like the Twins have made some strong choices. Now the fun of the offseason begins.
We know that those reading this on the pages of Twins Daily will be watching closely to see what will happen!
- Nov 07 2016 09:34 PM
- by Seth Stohs
Putting trust in a young, unproven leader worked for the Twins in the late-1980's. Now Twins fans hope that history will repeat itself.
Sources point to the Twins hiring 33-year-old Derek Falvey from the Cleveland Indians as their new president of baseball operations. Minnesota wanted a new voice at the front of their baseball operations and Falvey is half as old as former GM Terry Ryan. To put this in more perspective, Falvey is the same age as current Twins player Joe Mauer.
Falvey has moved swiftly through the Indians organization as he started as his baseball career as an intern in 2007. In less than a decade, he moved up to assistant general manager. During the last calendar year, he will have moved from director of baseball operations to assistant GM and now to president of baseball operations.
As I mentioned at the end of last week, Falvey's young age and rapid rise in the Indians organization could all help his cause. The Twins don't switch front office personnel very often so a young, passionate person could hold down the spot for years. It's going to take a massive shift to move Minnesota from the bottom of the standings and a lot will be riding on the shoulders of Mr. Falvey.
MacPhail has gone on to work as the Preisdent and CEO of the Cubs, the President of Baseball Operations in Baltimore, and he currently serves as the President of the Philadelphia Phillies. Even with all of these stops, one of his biggest accomplishments might have been rebuilding the Twins pitching staff leading into 1987 and overhauling the rotation going into 1991.
Frank Viola, Bert Blyleven and Les Straker led the 1987 rotation with Jeff Reardon in the closer role. Jack Morris, Scott Erickson, and Kevin Tapani were the top three starters in 1991 with Rick Aguilera as the closer. "We had to turn the entire pitching staff over in a four-year period, which was no easy feat," MacPhail said. He went on to say it took "a little bit of everything" to turn the pitching staff around.
Now Falvey is tasked with a similar challenge including turning around a pitching staff with an AL's worst ERA. Falvey's current team, the Indians, are on their way to winning the AL Central and their pitchers have the AL's best ERA. Falvey currently oversees the Indians' whole pitching program and that might be one of the main reasons he is ending up in the Twins front office.
Only time will tell if Falvey can find some of the same magic that surround MacPhail and the Twins two World Series rosters. Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano, and Jose Berrios could end up following in the footsteps of Kirby Puckett, Kent Hrbek, and Scott Erickson.
Those days seem a long ways off but Falvey provides some hope for a better tomorrow even if a World Series title seems years away.
What can Falvey do to overhaul the rotation? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
- Sep 26 2016 09:20 PM
- by Cody Christie
So who is Alex Anthopoulos? What do Twins fans need to know about this potential candidate? He could be shaping the future of this organization for years to come and fans are hungry to see a winning team back on the field.
Blue Jays Rising
Anthopoulos served as the general manager and senior vice president of baseball operations with the Toronto Blue Jays from 2010-2015. Last season, he helped the Blue Jays end a 22-year playoff drought but he decided to leave after some changes to the team's front office. Mark Shapiro was brought in as president and CEO and it sounds like the Jays wanted to cut costs and stop trading away prospects. He currently works as the vice president of baseball operations for the Los Angeles Dodgers which seems like a springboard job to other positions in the baseball.
Wheeling and Dealing
During his time in Toronto, the 39-year old Anthopoulos was not afraid to make moves. Some of his biggest trades included:
- Acquiring 2015 AL MVP Josh Donaldson from Oakland for Brett Lawrie
- Sending Noah Syndergaard to the Mets for RA Dickey
- Pushing to get Troy Tulowitzki from the Rockies for Jose Reyes and other prospects
- Dealing a trio of left-handed pitchers to Detroit for David Price
Anthopoulos has a background in scouting and he made major additions to the scouting department in Toronto. He created regional cross-checker positions and nearly doubled the size of the scouting team from 28 to 54. In doing so, he was able to shrink each scout's coverage area so they could spend less time traveling and more time working. "We get to see players more often -- more innings pitched, more at-bats, Anthopoulos said. "We've added layers we didn't have before." It seems likely that he would do some major shake-ups throughout the Twins' scouting team including bringing in some scouts who have previously worked with him.
When the Twins let Terry Ryan go, they made it clear that they would like to have someone hired by season's end. The Dodgers are four games up in the NL West and posed to make a playoff run. This could mean Anthopoulos continues to work in his current position until deep into October. When the Dodgers hired him, they had to know he was destined to get other opportunities. Maybe they would be willing to let him out of his current position so he can start finding Minnesota's next general manager.
There're plenty of changes that still need to happen and hiring Anthopoulos might be just the first step.
What are your thoughts on Anthopoulos? Is he the right fit for the Twins organization? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
- Sep 07 2016 09:46 PM
- by Cody Christie
Terry Ryan, the Twins recently fired GM, was no stranger to this adage. Entering the 2012 season, Glen Perkins had been dominant in relief the year before but he was hesitant to give him the closer role. "He doesn't have any experience in that role," said Ryan. "I think you're wise to ultimately see if you can find a guy with experience." Perkins would serve as closer that season and he has been a three-time All-Star since 2012.
Flash-forward to the 2016 season and the Twins have shuffled through multiple players at the back-end of the bullpen. Glen Perkins began the year with the closer title but he was limited to two appearances before requiring season-ending shoulder surgery. Kevin Jepsen was fantastic at the end of 2015 so he stepped back into the closer role. However, he posted a 6.16 ERA and was recently released by the club.
Enter Brandon Kintzler, a 31-year old who the Brewers organization didn't want in the off-season. Since earning his first save on June 8, Kintzler has posted a 1.69 ERA and a 10 to 2 strikeout to walk ratio in 17 appearances. Opponents are slashing .238/.262/.317 and he has yet to blow a save.
There's been a shift with the former 40th-round draft pick this season. In previous season's he stayed in the low to mid 90's but this season he has hit over 95 multiple times. Another significant change in 2016 has been his use of his sinking fastball. For his career, he has used this pitch 52.8% of the time but this season he has bumped that total up to 83.4%.
Kintzler's sinking fastball has also resulted in 15 strikeouts this season which is 75% of all of his strikeouts this season. Over the course of his career, this pitch has been the out pitch in 53.2% of his strikeouts. He ranks third in the American League in ground ball percentage. This pitch has also been effective because he has hit nearly 96 mph with it but he can also drop it all the way down to 87.6 mph.
The myth of the "proven closer" might still be out there in some baseball organizations. Kintzler has been good and hopefully someone would like to pay for Kintzler and his new closer title as the trade deadline approaches.
Because he seems to have "proven" himself.
- Jul 26 2016 12:01 PM
- by Cody Christie
Given that the Twins have had only three GMs over their last thirty or so years, the same number of managers over that period and numerous other front office staff and scouts who have served in the organization for dozens of years, the firing of Terry Ryan made national waves.
It’s uncommon to turn on MLB Network or MLB Network Radio and hear the Twins getting more than just passing attention, but it was different Monday and Tuesday. Speculation about who could be considered as Terry Ryan’s replacement was a main talking point.
The thing is… it doesn’t seem to add up.
Earlier this season, Jim Pohlad talked about a “total system failure” but also gave both Terry Ryan and Paul Molitor a 100% vote of confidence. Two months later, one of them has been shown the door.
Not that it’s extremely rare in sports to have a coach/manager/GM get a vote of confidence followed quickly by a pink slip. But we’re talking about the Twins and all of these waters are unchartered.
Since Ryan’s dismissal, Molitor has been given another vote of confidence and the national radio shows continue to focus on the “next GM.”
But what if there’s more to it? Since Monday it’s come out that Terry Ryan was told a month ago that he would not be returning as the team’s GM in 2017. He was given some time to consider his own exit and decided late last week that he should “get out of the way” before ultimately being fired.
What if he’s not the only one?
If Terry Ryan had the option to stay for the remainder of the season, who’s to say that other front office members weren’t given the same choice, but chose to stay? What if, specifically, Dave St. Peter, the team president, was told the same thing? It seems ridiculous, given that every indication is that he’ll be involved in the hiring process.
This is an organization that - when you really look at it - only reassigns people. Bill Smith? You’re fired… but we’ll put you in a different position. Ron Gardenhire? You’re fired… but let us know when you want to work again. Terry Ryan? Who knows.
So what could happen next? It’s all purely speculative, but what if Dave St. Peter is reassigned too? There’s no reason to believe he wouldn’t do well with a title of President of Business Operations. (edit: not Baseball Operations.) There are already a number of people under that umbrella that he’s currently in charge of. St. Peter claims to have very little to do with the on-field product. So why tie up a “baseball position” with a non-baseball mind?
That would leave two voids at the very top of the baseball side of things - President of Baseball Operations and General Manager.
Looking at only the AL Central, the White Sox (Kenny Williams, Executive VP and Rick Hahn, Sr. VP/GM) and Indians (Chris Antonetti, President, Baseball Ops and Mike Chernoff, GM) have two baseball minds in both of those position. The Tigers have Al Avila in both the president role and the GM chair, but have a separate position for business operations. Same for the Royals and Dayton Moore.
Obviously a lot of that only has to do with “titles” and it’s likely that across baseball 30 teams have 30 different titles for the same job getting done.
Is this something the Twins would do? A week ago I’d have said, “No way!” But times are changing now.
Is Ben Cherington looking to get back into baseball? Would Alex Anthopoulos be interested in climbing back into a GM chair?
Will Kim Ng get a fair shot? She’s more than deserving of running a baseball club, offering more background in analytics than the team has ever had, but not the scouting background. Could the Twins lure De Jon Watson from Arizona to serve as their President of Baseball Operations? The duo worked together for the Dodgers and Ng and Watson currently work under Joe Torre and Tony La Russa, respectively.
Who better to have as mentors?
It goes without saying that these would be only a two ways to make a splash. And the character of the Twins as a baseball franchise is the antonym of “splashy.” But - right or wrong - the Twins were willing to make a franchise-altering change and that’s a big step in a different - and hopefully right - direction.
- Jul 20 2016 08:42 PM
- by Jeremy Nygaard
Ryan took a small market team and made them into a consistent playoff contender through much of the 2000s.
Billy Beane constructed the Oakland Athletics into a playoff contender on a small budget. He receives more praise for it. Mainly because of a book.
During the same time Beane was constructing his roster, Ryan was doing it at Minnesota.
The Twins trades in the late 90s led to contributors like Joe Mays, Cristian Guzman and a left-hander with a Bugs Bunny change-up named Johan Santana.
These types of moves set up a roster that averaged nearly 89 wins a season from 2001-2010. An average better than Oakland's over that time period.
He also relied plenty on talent from within the organization. Torii Hunter. Justin Morneau. Joe Mauer.
During a time where teams with big budgets were trying their hardest to outspend the rest of the world, the Twins thrived on shrewd moves and home-grown players.
Of course, it was a team that only won one playoff series between 2001-2010 despite making the playoffs six times in that time span. That's not necessarily on him. Neither is the fact that his predecessor, Bill Smith, couldn't build off what Ryan had put together when he took over in 2007.
It got so bad that Ryan came back on an interim, eventually full-time, in late 2011. He couldn't bring back the magic over the next few years despite having a one of the deepest minor league systems in all of baseball.
Change can be good and in this case change was needed for the organization.
It had to be Ryan. A guy who has lost favor with much of the fan base but a guy that I will always remember as the one who put together all those fun seasons in the 2000s.
- Jul 19 2016 02:55 AM
- by PintoWF
Before we get to the questions, I’m going to take a moment to share some thoughts on Terry Ryan. As you’ve noticed, most people who know Ryan or have worked in any capacity start discussions today with what a terrific person that he is. Then they go on to, typically, state that despite that, the Twins needed to make a change. It’s hard to argue with any of that. Terry Ryan has always treated me with the utmost respect and been upfront and as honest as he can be. He has been very helpful to me and accepting of Twins Daily. I have always enjoyed each opportunity and I have had to converse with Ryan and feel like I learn something each time whether or not we’re even talking about baseball.
For me, Terry Ryan was always someone I admired. I look at what he did in the late 90s to set up the success the Twins had for most of the decade of 2000. Signing veterans and then trading them to acquire more young talent. Building a farm system and building a winner on a budget. As a blogger who started in 2003, I enjoyed seeing the transactions and trying to figure out what Ryan was doing. I recall seemingly any time I wrote something about the Twins being out of it, they would find a way to get themselves back into contention.
Unfortunately, since his return, the Twins have had many low moments, and there have been fewer positive turn-arounds.
When Ryan reclaimed the GM position, I sent him a quick note. He responded relatively quickly and noted “we won’t take any shortcuts.”
He set out to help re-establish and repopulate the Twins minor league system. And you know what… he did just that. The last few years, the Twins have been one of the top three minor league organizations by most who rank those types of things. In the last couple of seasons, we have begun to see some of the talented players who have helped the Twins to those rankings. And the farm system is still stacked with terrific talent.
Think about it for a moment. Ryan made the focus of the organization development of the minor league system. Miguel Sano, Byron Buxton, Max Kepler, and Jorge Polanco all have a lot of room to grow as players. Jose Berrios will take off at some point, and within the next two or three years the likes of Kohl Stewart, Stephen Gonsalves, Tyler Jay, Felix Jorge, Fernando Romero and some others have a chance to round out a solid rotation. Taylor Rogers, Trevor May, Michael Tonkin and Ryan Pressly are developing this year and will lead the way as JT Chargois, Nick Burdi, Mason Melotakis and Trevor Hildenberger are on their way. In some ways, I think that whoever takes over as the next Twins general manager is going to look pretty smart when so many of these young, talented players reach their potential.
Will Terry Ryan get credit when this team takes off thanks to the core of young players that developed under his watch?
That’s one question I have, and here are some more questions I have after today.
What’s up with the timing of this decision?
My first organizational thought after my initial surprise at the Twins move was, why did they make this decision less than two weeks from this year’s August 1st trade deadline? That certainly puts Rob Antony, who was named the interim GM, in a tough position. Then again, he will be supported by the Twins current front office, scouts and player personnel staff.
Will Rob Antony get a legitimate shot to have the interim-label removed?
All indications from Monday’s discussions seem to indicate that the Twins will look to hire someone from outside the organization. However, the track record of the organization would certainly indicate that he will be given an opportunity. How he handled the trade deadline and, frankly, how the team performs may be his interview for the job. Maybe that is why Terry Ryan resigned when he did, to give Antony an opportunity to show what he can do, his style, etc.
Should Rob Antony get a legitimate shot at the full-time GM job?
Among Twins fans, the general sentiment seems to be that they have to go outside the organization to change the culture. When Antony’s name comes up, fans like to bring up the spring training when Antony took over the reigns when Ryan was working through his cancer treatments and recovery. They like to bring up the decision to keep Jason Kubel and Jason Bartlett on the Opening Day roster. First, that’s a very small sample size. All other reports indicate that Antony has done a nice job as Ryan’s assistant GM. He is well respected among players and scouts for his negotiations in arbitration and free agencies. He’s being given a lot of credit, by Eduardo Nunez, for bringing him to the Twins. And yes, he has been involved in the current ‘regime,’ but that doesn’t mean that things would be exactly the same under Antony’s leadership. Maybe they would be, but my assumption is that Antony would be willing to do some things differently. In general, I just don’t like the idea that it has to be someone from outside the organization.
Should the Twins go outside the organization for their GM hire?
To appease the fan base, it is probably a good idea to hire someone from outside. While the Twins have implemented many more systems throughout the minor leagues and added more statistical analysis, it is never a bad idea to look elsewhere for new and fresh ideas. If nothing else, the Twins ownership group needs to take time to consider what is happening in other organizations and reassess their own expectations for a GM or other roles in the organization.
So, who will make the hire? Who will sit in on the interviews?
From various interviews, it does appear that the Twins could use a search firm to develop a list or candidates or even make a recommendation. However, it will be Jim Pohlad and Dave St. Peter who will have the final say. St. Peter even said that he would likely talk about candidates with Tom Kelly.
I’m not a huge fan of search firms, but I don’t know that Pohlad and St. Peter are necessarily the right people to make the decision on the next General Manager. I have my doubts.
More important, what are these two looking for in a GM?
In May, I wrote up many of the roles, responsibilities and requirements for a GM. I would hope that the owner and president would provide a search firm a very, very detailed list of exactly what they are looking for in the next GM.
Will Rob Antony be given full rein to do as he sees best for the Twins organization during this trade deadline?
We are being told that he will not be limited. We are told that they have complete confidence in Antony to do what is best for the organization. This is such a big trade deadline with some very difficult decisions to make. Which players will or should be traded? How will he do in terms of negotiating prospect returns? The tough part of this is that those trades really can’t be graded for several years.
The unfortunate thing for Antony is that he will be trading veterans and getting back non-big name prospects. Most fans will respond to any Twins trade returns with “Who is that?” Some will say, “That’s all Antony was able to get for (insert Nunez, Kintzler, Abad, Escobar, Santana, Nolasco here)?” He could trade Brian Dozier for a bigger return and make a bigger splash, but then critics will question that decision as well. It’s a tough situation for Antony to be thrust into, but again it’s probably the only option to give him some experience to add to his resume.
Should the Twins wait until after the season to decide?
Well, Pohlad has said that they are going to start their search right away and would like to name their new GM even before the season ends. Is this wise? There are only 30 MLB General Manager jobs available. Each year, maybe one, possibly two GM jobs are available (if that many), so these jobs don’t come around real often. By starting this process and making a decision early, they will get a headstart on other GM jobs that may open up in the offseason (if any).
The downside is that there may be playoff-contending teams that won’t let their employees apply or interview for this job until after their seasons. In other words, it’s possible that a couple of potential candidates may not be available for this reason.
Is the Twins General Manager a desirable position that candidates should seek?
It absolutely should be a job that people would want. As I wrote earlier, the talent accumulated by Ryan and Company will make the next GM look really smart over the next couple of years. There is a lot of talent. Secondly, as I mentioned earlier, there are only 30 Major League GM jobs available. These jobs don’t come along, so there should be plenty of strong options for Pohlad and St. Peter to consider. Finally, if the team has any form of success with the GM, the organization is very loyal. It’s a job that could come with a lot of leeway.
How does this affect the rest of the Twins front office?
For the short-term, it doesn’t. Rob Antony takes over as interim GM. They continue in their roles, supporting Antony. But if someone else is chosen as the General Manager, you would think that he (or she) would come with some of his own personnel. I personally hope that the new GM would be open to keeping at least some of the current staff. Would a new GM expand upon Jack Goin’s current analytical group, or would he bring in his own people? How will Mike Radcliff, the Twins director of player personnel and long-time employee who, like Ryan, has given up several opportunities to be with other organizations, fit into the organization? Does Deron Johnson remain the team’s scouting director? Does Brad Steil remain the Twins minor league director? I don’t think we know.
Pohlad has said that Paul Molitor will be the Twins manager in 2017 regardless of who the GM is. Why would he do that? How does it affect the on-field coaching staff?
I have no idea why Pohlad would say that a GM can't make decide on his own manager 2017, year one of his or her tenure. Look at any sport and a new GM will almost always want to insert his own choice for manager or coach. Often, he will allow the current coach to stick around, but he is basically a lame duck and it doesn’t take long for a new coaching staff to be brought in. For the remainder of 2016, the coaching staff is most likely safe. The manager appears safe for at least the start of 2017, but beyond that I can’t imagine the coaching staff has a lot of job security.
Will the Twins bring back Terry Ryan in some capacity sometime in the future?
It is certainly possible that Ryan will come back to the Twins in some capacity, similar to Ron Gardenhire or Bill Smith? Obviously there is no way to know that answer right now. Pohlad and St. Peter indicate that they believe Ryan will seek a job elsewhere at this time. And he should. He is likely to have several offers to be a scout down the stretch for a winning team, or maybe a scouting director for a team as we go forward.
I get that there is a strong percentage of fandom that hates that they would bring back the likes of Smith or Gardenhire. I’m certainly on the complete opposite end of that spectrum. Bill Smith was a very good employee for the Twins for 20-25 years before his stint as the GM. He had a lot of strong qualities. Why would an organization not take advantage of those qualities. Since his return, he has been used in roles away from the baseball operations group. He has been very instrumental in the renovations at Hammond Stadium, the player academy in Ft. Myers, and will be key in the development of the new academy in the Dominican Republic. Gardenhire had a lot of success as a coach and a manager in the organization. He has a lot of knowledge to share, or can be an ear for minor league managers to talk to. After taking some time off, his return has been appreciated throughout the system. I don’t know why an organization wouldn’t want smart baseball people involved in the organization if they are still interested. And, for me, I would want to work in a culture where people like that are welcomed back. To me, it says a lot (positively) about the Twins culture brought about through the leadership of Terry Ryan.
If Ryan would ever be willing to come back in an advisory role in the scouting department, I’d certainly be willing to bring him back. I don’t know that he would want that though.
That is a bunch of questions after the dismissal of Terry Ryan. And you may have more in mind. Please feel free to ask more questions or answer some of these in the Comments below.
- Jul 19 2016 06:12 AM
- by Seth Stohs
The stunning announcement comes just two weeks ahead of a pivotal trade deadline, meaning that a different leader will oversee this critical opportunity to support and reinforce Minnesota's rebuilding process.
Antony has been working in the organization for nearly 30 years, first in the PR and media relations departments before moving into baseball operations and eventually becoming a high-ranking front office executive. He has briefly handled GM duties in the past, when Ryan was absent while battling skin cancer in 2014.
It isn't entirely surprising that the Twins decided to part ways with their long-time GM, given the disastrous way that things have played out on the field this year, but the timing is striking. Is Antony auditioning for a permanent gig based on how he handles the deadline and the remainder of the season? Or does the franchise have plans in place for a more comprehensive and competitive successor search during the offseason? (NOTE: According MLB Network's Jon Morosi, the Twins plan to launch an extensive GM search within the coming weeks.)
We'll keep you updated with new details as they emerge. But for now, here's what we know: Terry Ryan, who has largely been the enduring face of Twins baseball since first taking the GM gig back in 1994, is out.
- Jul 18 2016 10:49 AM
- by Nick Nelson
Twins general manager Terry Ryan was a little cryptic when talking to the local media before Saturday's game. When asked about Sano returning to the outfield, Ryan said,"I'm not sure exactly how it's going to play itself out here quite yet."
Ryan's tune had changed by Sunday morning as he was asked again about Sano coming back from injury. During a radio appearance, Ryan said that Sano won't play right field when he returns from his current hamstring injury. When asked about Sano's future, Ryan said, "No question, it's third base."
This is a much different tune than the Twins had during the offseason. Twins manager Paul Molitor was pretty clear that Sano wasn't expected to see any time at third base this season unless Trevor Plouffe was injured and the team needed to shuffle around some players. Of course this situation did occur as Sano started his first game at third when Plouffe and Danny Santana were both on the disabled list.
So far this season, Sano has played 38 games in right field, seven at designated hitter, and five at third base. In his limited time at third base, Sano has been worth one defensive run saved. The outfield has been a different story as his -9 defensive run saved is tied for third worst total among American League outfielders. SABR's Defensive Index, one of the databases used for selecting the Gold Glove winners, has Sano as the second worst right fielder in the American League.
Minnesota's 2016 roster was created with Sano set to be in the outfield. Byung Ho Park has struggled as the team's regular DH. When healthy, Trevor Plouffe has played at third base even with some offensive struggles. Now Max Kepler looks like he has settled into right field nicely in the absence of Sano. Park and Plouffe seem like the likely candidates to lose playing time when Sano returns since he won't be playing in the outfield.
Another option for the team might be trading Trevor Plouffe. There is some value in him since he is still under team control for the 2017 season but he has struggled at the plate so far this year. His OPS is down over 100 points compared to last season and he's getting on base less than 27% of the time. Minnesota won't rush into a trade but a contending team could be looking for some help at third base.
Sano is never going to be known for his defensive prowess and there won't be any Gold Gloves in his future. He's in the Twins line-up for one reason... to hit the ball as far as he can. It doesn't matter what defensive position Sano plays as long as he finds a way to make his offensive numbers exceed what he costs the team on the defensive side of the ball.
With a man of Sano's size, tracking down balls in the outfield was only going to lead to more injuries. By shifting back to a more natural position, the hope is to keep Sano in the line-up and off the disabled list. Twins fans can breathe a sigh of relief. Sano won't be heading back to the outfield... at least for right now.
- Jun 20 2016 06:43 PM
- by Cody Christie
I’m not sure what he envisioned his life would be like as the manager of the Minnesota Twins when he signed on for the gig after Ron Gardenhire was let go following the 2014 season, but I’d bet every cent I have that he wasn’t expecting this. After all, his Twins are on pace to finish with one of the worst records in major league baseball history. Not Twins history, not franchise history, not American League history, but in all of MLB history.
This is taking place after a season, in 2015, that many people thought saw the Twins, under Molitor in his first season as a manager at any level, take a significant step forward in terms of competitiveness.
Sure, everyone knew there were candidates for regression on the club’s roster and nobody knew what to expect of their imported Korean designated hitter, but there were also players that we felt had reasonable chances to improve their performance levels over what we saw in 2015. Even the most pessimistic among us could not have reasonably expected this to happen.
But it has happened. The Twins are 15-37 as they return home to face the Tampa Bay Rays, themselves sitting at the bottom of the American League East standings at the moment.
There has been plenty written in the Twins community about what’s gone wrong and what should be done about it. Some of the suggestions have been reasonable, many have not.
You can’t trade players for whom there is no market and you can’t really flat out release most of them, either.
Most teams won’t fire their manager and/or their general manager during the first two months of the season, especially when that manager is only in his second season at the helm and the general manager has been around forever and is credited with rebuilding a farm system that is acknowledged to be among the best in the game.
Typically, you give the guys you left spring training with a couple of months to come around before you go about making significant changes. Your options are limited in April and May, anyway, because few teams are going to be interested in adding noteworthy pieces to their rosters that early, even if you are ready to turn the page sooner than that.
But we’re into June now and while most teams still won’t be prepared to make many deals at least until later in the month, it’s time to start initiating those discussions.
It is also time to start looking at what you want your roster to look like on Opening Day 2017. If there’s a silver lining to a miserable start like this, it’s that you don’t have to wait until spring training next March to start evaluating your options. You don’t even have to wait until the traditional “September call up” portion of the season. You’ve got a full four months to look at what you’ve got before you have to make decisions about which positions you will need to fill from outside your organization during the offseason.
The Twins are likely to lose over 100 games this season. It could be more. It could be a few less, but not a lot less.
It’s time to turn the page.
Listen, I like Trevor Plouffe. He has, in my view, turned himself into a more-than-adequate third baseman after nearly playing himself out of baseball at shortstop. He also hits enough that there’s nothing wrong with him being a regular in a Major League lineup.
I like Brian Dozier even more. He came to Cedar Rapids in January, 2013, with the first Twins Caravan after the Twins announced they would be affiliating with the local Kernels Class A team and did a great job on the dais. With the personality he showed that night, it came as no surprise to me that he eventually became a fan favorite in the Twin Cities. Like Plouffe, he turned out not to be the answer for the Twins at shortstop, but he transitioned to second base where he has done an excellent job.
When Joe Nathan departed, many of us were nervous about whether the Twins would find someone capable of holding down the closer role out of the bullpen. Enter Glen Perkins and the problem was solved.
Joe Mauer’s situation would command a full article itself, but his contract and no-trade rights make it a waste of time to even discuss his future with the team for the next couple of seasons.
These players, along with a few others perhaps, have had good rides as members of the Twins and they have earned every bit of fan loyalty they get. But the hard truth is that few, if any, of them are going to be part of the next run of winning seasons at Target Field.
Already this season, injuries have created opportunities to look at some young players. In most cases, those opportunities were wasted as players like Jorge Polanco and Max Kepler rode the pine during their time filling in for banged up regulars.
As Ted over at Off the Baggy pointed out this week, with Kepler being promoted again (this time to fill in for the injured Miguel Sano), it’s time to plug Kepler and the also-recently-recalled Byron Buxton into the lineup and let them run.
Sano’s hamstring will eventually heal and he’ll return. I find myself agreeing with Howard Sinker of the Star-Tribune who tweeted earlier this week, “Friends, I was less skeptical on it than most of you, but it's time for the Sano-in-right field thing to end. Make something work, #MNTwins.”
I really had no issue with putting Sano in the outfield. He’s athletic enough that he should be able to play a passable right field and he has improved out there. But I’ve pulled a hamstring before and I know that, once you do that, it’s pretty easy to do it again. I don’t think putting him back out there when he comes back makes a lot of sense when it’s pretty obvious that it is not going to be his position long-term (and by long-term, we are probably now including 2017).
The Twins need to decide where they envision Sano fitting in. Wherever that is, whether it’s third base, first base or simply as their full-time designated hitter, I would just plug him in there when he gets back and move on to the next decision.
Bouncing Buxton, Kepler and Polanco up and down between Minneapolis and Rochester should end. Buxton is your center fielder, Kepler is in a corner and Polanco is in the middle of your infield somewhere.
I’ve seen others opine that Byung Ho Park should be sent down to Rochester, perhaps to make room for Sano when he comes back. I disagree, unless the Twins are prematurely giving up on him. He will hit AAA pitching, just as he hit Korean pro ball pitching. He needs to learn to hit MLB pitching and if the Twins plan on keeping him, he should stay in the Twins’ lineup until he proves that he can (or can’t).
I don’t know if Oswaldo Arcia will be in the Twins outfield for the next few years, but I know Danny Santana and Eduardo Nunez won’t, so Arcia should get more time out there with Buxton and Kepler (unless the Twins decide someone like Adam Bret Walker should get a long look).
The same situation exists behind the plate. Kurt Suzuki’s time with the Twins is nearing an end. I don’t know who will take over, but now is the time for the Twins to get extended looks at their internal candidates.
You could make similar cases for an overhaul of the pitching staff, but I’d be more patient with promoting the young pitchers, unless you get good offers for some of your existing staff members. I just see less urgency there.
Finally, there’s the Molitor question and that is tethered to the Terry Ryan question. Will either, or both, be back in 2017 and beyond?
Molitor will be entering the final year of his existing contract in 2017. Typically, no manager likes being a “lame duck” manager. He wants an extension in place before the start of the final year of his deal or he risks losing his clubhouse as players begin to tune his message out as they assume he won’t be around long.
Say what you will about the infamous Jim Pohlad patience with his front office, but I think Ryan would have a tough time convincing even Pohlad that Molitor should be rewarded for his work in 2016 with an extension.
Of course, that assumes that Ryan will even be around to make that pitch to Pohlad.
It’s almost impossible for me to envision Pohlad announcing publicly that he has dismissed Terry Ryan. It is not difficult at all, however, for me to envision an announcement that Terry Ryan has decided that, as the person responsible for assembling the roster, he is ultimately responsible for the results and that he is holding himself accountable and stepping down as GM of the Twins.
That public announcement would be identical, by the way, regardless of whether the decision truly is Ryan’s or whether Pohlad makes the decision that it’s time for a change. If you're looking for public executions, you're going to be disappointed.
If Ryan is contemplating that this may be his last season in the GM chair, he’s not likely to make a managerial change during the season. If he’s planning on being around a while longer, then yes, he could (and should) be considering whether there’s someone besides Molitor in the organization that he now believes would be a better fit to manage the new group of young players coming up.
If indeed Ryan is replaced as the General Manager, it would be much more likely that Molitor also would be replaced following the end of this season. The new GM would want, and should get, his own man to run the team he assembles.
Whether these changes in management are made or not should depend solely on whether ownership envisions the current leadership being the right people to guide the team through the next era of competitiveness.
Regardless, it is time to begin turning the page. Some of the changes can wait as things play out over the rest of this season and the subsequent offseason, but seeing names like Buxton, Kepler and Polanco consistently in the Twins’ lineup should start now.
(This article originally was posted at Knuckleballsblog.com)
- Jun 02 2016 03:42 PM
- by SD Buhr
The Twins weren't the only team to give up on Ortiz before he reached his full potential. Around Thanksgiving in 1992, Ortiz was signed as an amateur free agent by the Seattle Mariners. He'd play three seasons in the Mariners system and he hit 18 home runs in the Midwest League as a 20-year old.
Minnesota liked what they saw in Ortiz and he was dealt from Seattle as a player to be named later in a trade for Dave Hollins. He would fly through Minnesota's three highest minor league levels during the next season and he even made his debut by season's end. In 140 minor league games, he cracked 31 home runs, drove in 124, and posted a .940 OPS. He's was only 21-years old and it looked like he might be one of the players to help turn around Minnesota's losing ways.
Prior to the 1998 season, Baseball America ranked him as the 84th best prospect in the game. It was the only time he would be featured on their prospect list. During that season, he was limited to 97 games but 86 of those games came at the big league level. He combined to hit .277/.371/.446 with 29 extra-base hits but he struck out in over a 25% of his at-bats.
Minnesota couldn't find a place for Ortiz in the 1999 line-up as he played all but 10 games at the Triple-A level. Keep in mind, the 1998 Twins were on their way to finishing with a 63-97 record and their leading home run hitter was Ron Coomer. Meanwhile at Triple-A, Ortiz slugged 30 home runs and 35 double while posting a .315/.412/.590 batting line.
As the calendar turned to a new century, Ortiz was given his first full season of MLB action. He posted a .810 OPS with 47 extra-base hits. He finished second on the team in doubles, third in OPS, and he was one of four Twins to hit double-digit home runs.
Things started changing in 2001. Ortiz was hurt again for a chunk of the season as he was limited to 89 games. Even with the limited number of games, he was able to hit 18 home runs and 17 doubles. However, the Twins were looking for Ortiz to have a breakout season and he hadn't been able to do that up to that point.
2002 would be the final season for Ortiz in Minnesota. He put up very respectable numbers as he collected 20 home runs for the first time in his career and hit .272/.339/.500. The Twins won 94 games and made it all the way to the ALCS before falling to the eventual World Series champions, the Angels. Ortiz hit .313 in that ALCS with a pair of RBIs but it wasn't enough.
Minnesota entered the off-season at an interesting point in their franchise. They were on the brink of a string of six division titles in nine seasons. Ortiz was eligible for arbitration and would likely get a bump in pay to around $2 million. Matt LeCroy, a former first-round pick, was a much cheaper option at designated hitter. The club also had Doug Mientkiewicz at first base and budding first base prospect Justin Morneau. Oritz was getting pushed out by the other options.
The Twins still needed to be conscious of how they were spending their money and Ortiz was getting expensive. He had yet to produce a breakout season at the big league level and there had been some injury concerns in the past. It was the cheap choice but that's where the Twins were in the Metrodome era.
Boston signed Ortiz for $1.25 million, a figure that was almost half of what he would have made in arbitration. The Red Sox took a flyer on him and it was a franchise altering move. He has gone on to win multiple World Series rings and was a vital reason the Red Sox were able to break their championship drought. After nine All-Star Game appearances and six Silver Slugger Awards, Ortiz is a legend.
It was a mistake and you'd be tough pressed to find anyone who didn't come to the same conclusion. Every team has skeletons in their closet but the Ortiz decision will live on in Twins Territory for years to come.
- May 30 2016 07:15 PM
- by Cody Christie
So, for the sake of important, meaningful discussion, let’s limit this discussion to the general manager role. Today, I’m going to post several qualifications of an MLB general manager. Feel free to discuss the qualifications in the comments, but mostly, use this article to start thinking about who you would like to see replace Terry Ryan (if that were to happen). We may not know the names of specific examples, but think about which qualities are most important to you, and how a candidate stacks up in those categories. Whether the Twins stay inside the system for a replacement or look elsewhere, the same questions need to be asked.
Do the Twins need hire someone with experience as a big league GM? If so, does it need to be a GM who has put together World Series champions, or could you consider a candidate who wasn’t good in his first GM job but meets many other requirements? Do you prefer a candidate who has been second-in-command in a winning organization? Can the candidate be a former player, or would the negate him as a possibility for you? While we probably couldn’t officially ask, does age factor into the decision?
The draft is less than three weeks away. Scouting is a big part of the draft. What would you want a GM to have as a draft philosophy? Would it be simply best player available? Would you focus on college or high school players? Would you use high picks on pitchers or hitters? How involved do you expect the GM to be in the draft process? Should the GM be very involved in the specific names, or should the GM simply have a plan with the director of scouting and develop a plan that is expected to be followed?
How do you feel about signing players from around the world? Do you spend more money on scouting in the Caribbean? How do you feel about signing players from Cuba? What should the strategy be on spending slot, going over slot, or even trading draft picks for international slot money?
The Twins send scouts to watch the teams that they will play next. Should that process continue, or should they just hire a stats company to provide all scouting data
This is one that people think that the Twins are so far behind on. I don’t think we really know. However, if there were a change, and you were in charge, how much focus would you put on it?
Do you need a group of 30+ statheads or could much of the same work be done with a group of six to eight?
How much voice do you give the analytics group compared to the scouting group? Are they on equal group or should it be all about the past numbers?
What are your philosophies on the minor leagues and player development? How do you strategize areas of focus, and development of individual development plans?
What should the role of a minor league manager be?
What role should player discipline be for various issues?
What should the role be of a minor league hitting coach or pitching coach?
What should the culture look like in your ideal world? Is it about winning? Solely about developing the top prospects?
What is the responsibility of the GM and the big league team relative to the organization’s affiliates?
What are the expectations for each player in the offseason? Should coaches meet individually with each player throughout the offseason?
How much time should the GM spend with each of the affiliates during spring training, and during the season, if any?
The GM is also in charge of the media relations department, including the press releases. Ideally, transactions and news would come through the PR department and to the media via press release. How do you feel about information leaks?
And, as a GM, how much should you be telling the media or a listening audience? Do you want them to be an open book, or do you want the information on what is going on to be kept close to the vest?
Do you, like Terry Ryan, spend time before each game meeting with the media and answering what he can?
What is important for you in a GM as it relates to hiring the following:
What are the expectations for the hiring of an assistant GM?
What are the expectations for the director of player personnel?
What philosophies are important for a minor league director?
How do you feel about keeping Twins “royalty and historical figures” around? Should Tony Oliva, Rod Carew, Torii Hunter, LaTroy Hawkins, Tom Kelly, Ron Gardenhire, Kent Hrbek and the like be involved in the organization, and how so?
Of the current group, who stays and who goes?
THE ON-FIELD STAFF
What is important for you in hiring a GM in terms of his or her philosophy on the role and/or selection of a manager?
How much say do you let a manager have in player decisions, if any?
How much say should a GM have in managerial duties such as lineup construction and in-game decisions, if any?
What are the keys when selecting the coaching staff?
THE CURRENT SITUATION
That’s all the behind-the-scenes stuff (probably not ALL, but a good portion of it) that a GM has to be responsible for, but now this candidate must step into the current roster and make some decisions.
Do you want a manager who makes a bunch of moves on day 1? Do you want a manager who steps in the door and says that he needs to evaluate a few things before making decisions.
How do you figure out the outfield situation? Should Miguel Sano be in the outfield, moved back to third base, or DHd. Should Brian Dozier be sent to AAA, keep playing or be traded? Should you trade the likes of Trevor Plouffe, Brian Dozier, Kurt Suzuki, Phil Hughes, Rick Nolasco and Kevin Jepsen for pennies on the dollar? Or, if you can’t trade some of them, are you willing to just explain to ownership why releasing them is the right thing?
What should a GM's philosophy be on trading veterans? Whose opinion counts most when it comes to prospects you are getting in return: scouts, minor league coaching staffs, or number crunchers? How does that same GM feel about acquiring an elite talent and being willing to deal prospects?
Four years ago, the Twins needed to go from a terrible pitching staff to just a mediocre pitching staff, so Ryan went out and spent money to acquire some solid, mediocre veteran starters. Results have been mixed.
Understanding the Twins current starting and relieve staffs, should the Twins have gone after the $150-200 million starters? Should they have stayed away from the $10-13 million starters and focused more on the $5-8 million variety. What is the value of a strong bullpen and quality, reliable relievers. How long is too long for a contract, or how much is too much?
What is your philosophy on signing minor league veterans to contract? Good idea, you never know who will develop later, or never sign them and push players excessively rapidly?
Have them define “Success” in their job? What do you want their answer to be?
What should the clubhouse atmosphere be like?
What should the atmosphere of the front office personnel be?
How does the GM candidate feel about building from within.?
How does that GM candidate create a culture of accountability?
Which current major league and minor league coaches would be let go, and who would you bring back? (I do find it interesting that a lot of people who want to clear house would like to see Doug Mientkiewicz as the next Twins manager, but anywho…)
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
All right, now it’s your turn? What are the most important qualities that a GM can bring to an organization? I brought up a lot of topics, and how do you go about acquiring those kinds of players?
Again, I will not call for Terry Ryan to be fired. I wouldn’t be surprised if he steps down again, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he sticks around and says, “I helped make this mess, how are we going to make it better?”
You are in the shoes of the Twins owner. You need to decide if you want Terry Ryan to make the July and August trades and then let him go after the season. Or, you need to decide that it needs to happen right now so that a replacement can be established before the draft and before any trades are made so that the new GM’s footprint can be made on those decisions.
Again, I appreciate this thread not turning into yet another negative, bashing thread, but instead, let’s be productive and each of us jot down our thoughts on what makes a good GM, and what type of candidate we would support the Twins signing.
- May 24 2016 06:13 AM
- by Seth Stohs
For years fans of this club have engaged in endless discussion about who the clubhouse leader is with Hunter not on the roster. Joe Mauer's quiet demeanor doesn't demand everyone's attention. Some players might react better to more subtle leadership compared to Hunter's boisterous attitude. Players like Brian Dozier and Glen Perkins have taken on leadership roles but it's not quite the same as with Hunter.
This isn't the first team to struggle a year after Hunter left. There's been an interesting trend in regard to teams Hunter has been on and the clubs' results in the season following his departure.
Los Angeles Angels Era (2008-2012)
The Angels were a playoff team the year before Hunter signed with them as a free agent but they were easily swept out of the first round by Boston. In Hunter's first LA season, the team improved from 94 wins to 100 wins, the only team in franchise history to reach the century mark. The Angeles lost to the Red Sox again in 2008 before making the ALCS in 2009 and losing to the Yankees. That was the last year Los Angeles won a playoff series. Hunter's last year in LA was 2012 when the club went 89-73 and finished five games out of first place. The season after he left was even worse as the club dropped to 78-84. The Angels finished 18 games out of first which was their worst mark since 2003.
Detroit Tigers Time (2013-2014)
Hunter moved on from Los Angeles and came back to the AL Central in 2013. The Tigers were coming off a World Series sweep the year prior to signing Hunter. Detroit jumped from 88 wins in 2012 to 93 wins with Hunter in the line-up. That club made it to the ALCS before falling to the Red Sox in six games. Detroit's 90 wins topped the AL Central again in 2014 but they were swept by Baltimore in the ALDS. The club took a big step backward during their first year without Hunter and finished 74-87 (20.5 games behind Kansas City).
Minnesota Twins Homecoming (2015)
Minnesota brought Hunter back last year on the heels of four straight 90-loss seasons. Some questioned the move since it didn't seem like the Twins were in a position to start winning now. The Twins proved plenty of doubters wrong as the team wasn't eliminated from playoff contention until the final weekend of the season. Minnesota also improved from 70 wins in 2014 to 83 wins. His play on the field wasn't leading to wins but his off the field leadership might have kept morale a little higher. It's hard to argue with results as the Twins have struggled to get to double-digits wins by the middle of May.
All three of Hunter's clubs have struggled in the year after he left. Los Angeles won 11 fewer games, Detroit fell by 16 games, and Minnesota seems destined for another 90 losses. Can one player make that much of a difference?
There's no way to quantify what a player's off-field contributions are to a team. A lot of this leadership happens behind closed doors and out of the earshot of local media members. From dance parties to firing guys up in the clubhouse, Hunter made his mark on this franchise but he certainly couldn't get the current squad into playoff contention by himself.
Hunter has been the heart and soul of this organization during his two Minnesota stints but there isn't a simple solution to fix the 2016 Twins because there are plenty of other things wrong with this team. Pitchers need to pitch better and batters need to break out of their slumps. Baseball is a game of adjustments and this club hasn't made the right adjustments yet.
No number of dance parties is going to fix those issues.
- May 16 2016 08:25 PM
- by Cody Christie
- May 15 2016 06:06 PM
- by John Bonnes
Pohlad has faith in Ryan. This much is obvious, and always has been. When you step back from the lens of a Twins fan who is frustrated with the woeful state of the big-league team, it isn’t all that hard to see why.
Ryan has been a GM for two decades, and has been involved with the game professionally twice as long. He has seen everything there is to see. He has relationships with everyone in baseball. He receives effusive praise from his colleagues and peers. His passion and investment could never be questioned.
With that being said, it's certainly reasonable to cast doubt on his adequacy for the head role at this point, given the way many of his key decisions are now playing out on the field. The fact that he’s a “baseball man” and oversaw the construction of a team that contended for many years at the turn of the century doesn’t mean that he’s the best person for the job in 2016.
From this perspective, the bitterness stirred up by ownership’s deferment to Ryan in the face of major organizational turmoil is understandable. But it ignores the fact that Ryan’s tenure may be reaching an end in the relatively near future regardless.
At 62, Ryan is approaching the standard retirement age. He’s the second-oldest general manager in baseball, behind Sandy Alderson of the Mets. He initially stepped aside following a losing 2007 season that took a toll and wore him down; this 2016 campaign is shaping up to be more tumultuous and gut-wrenching than that one in all regards.
Even if it’s his call, how much longer is he really going to wait to make it?
Focus turns to a line of succession, which presently looks quite insular. This is where it becomes problematic that the Twins have done so little to add fresh blood to their front office structure. Ryan’s right-hand men are longtime fixtures like Rob Antony, Mike Radcliff and Wayne Krivsky.
If things continue down the path they’re going, I don’t think anyone would feel too inspired by Ryan’s replacement being promoted from within the current braintrust.
It’s awfully hard to envision the Twins looking outside though, isn’t it? This is a franchise that hasn’t hired externally for a manager or general manager opening in my 30 years of life.
The Twins’ decision to re-hire Ron Gardenhire last month as a special assistant to the GM was met with a few scoffs and snide jokes for obvious reasons, but it highlights a very real issue that is becoming magnified. Why are these kinds of positions being used to give jobs to old friends rather than grooming potential GM candidates that aren’t completely ingrained in the existing culture?
I know many, if not most, will disagree, but I’m not all that bothered by the owner’s aversion to firing Ryan. The man is an MLB institution. Even amidst his rougher patches – and this is clearly one of them – I have faith in his competence and qualification.
I can’t necessarily say the same for anyone who would be in line to take over internally, nor can I express any real confidence in the organization’s top decision-makers to comb all available avenues for a fitting successor. They’ve never done it before and they continually show minimal interest in bringing outside influences or ideas to the baseball operations department. The last time Ryan stepped down his job was handed to his second-in-command, and we got the underwhelming Bill Smith years.
It's not upsetting that the Twins aren't considering firing their GM in May. That would be reactive and likely unproductive. It's upsetting that they aren't being proactive in laying out a roadmap for after he's gone. That lack of proactiveness could leave them in a very tough spot when their aging GM decides, again, that he doesn't have the heart for it anymore.
- May 10 2016 08:16 PM
- by Nick Nelson