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Twins and GroupThink vs Accountability

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#1 John Bonnes

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Posted 24 October 2013 - 10:19 PM

One of the criticisms raised of Ryan, especially after rehiring Gardy and bringing Molitor on board: the Twins are too enamored with GroupThink, too inbred, limit their promotions to internal people and are resistant to external ideas/people. This is one of the debates that came up in the Terry Ryan interview thread, and I think it deserves it's own thread.

There is a balance there, no doubt. But I think it's worth mentioning that there are risks both ways.

One of Ryan's core philosophies - one that is clear over and over in the full TD Offseason Handbook interview - is that there is more to be benefited organization-wide by focusing on rewarding your people or holding them accountable, than by focusing outside of the organization and possibly overlooking them.

If you haven't read the whole thing (personally, I think it's worth the $5 just for it) you come away with the impression that above all, Terry Ryan believes in MANAGING. He believes that if everyone is vested then the scouts scout better, the coaches coach better and the players play better. And I can tell you from people I know within the organization that the perception is that Bill Smith - far more than any decision he made - wasn't able to make sure that the whole organization was doing its job.

And I'll note another place this paradigm makes sense: the seeming disdain for free agents. Free agents get in the way of people within the organization, and they encourage a quick fix mentality that problems can be bought away.

I've stated several times that the Twins reliance on their minor leagues isn't just out of financial necessity - it is a core philosophy. The Twins don't just develop minor leaguers to play at the majors - they play at the majors to develop minor leaguers. It's that important.

But after reading and listening to that interview, I wonder if even that view wasn't too narrow. That philosophy is part of an even larger one, and it extends to people in the front office and the coaching staff and the scouting department. Ryan wants people who really care, because it's impossible to manage that many people who don't. If you care and do a good job, they'll find a place upstairs for you. And they do that by focusing internally.

#2 Shane Wahl

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Posted 24 October 2013 - 10:54 PM

Honestly, that interview tells me that Terry Ryan likes to say things that have no meaning.

And there is *no one* being held accountable for three 96+ loss seasons in a row. No one. Something's got to give somewhere. And it isn't.

#3 Shane Wahl

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Posted 24 October 2013 - 10:56 PM

And by "caring" one might think it implies using every available tool and every available means of evaluating talent. The manager still doesn't understand the value of on base percentage. For the love of god.

#4 jokin

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Posted 25 October 2013 - 12:08 AM

Honestly, that interview tells me that Terry Ryan likes to say things that have no meaning.

And there is *no one* being held accountable for three 96+ loss seasons in a row. No one. Something's got to give somewhere. And it isn't.


Oh c'mon, Jerry White was frogmarched out the door for his "transgressions".

#5 jokin

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Posted 25 October 2013 - 12:10 AM

And by "caring" one might think it implies using every available tool and every available means of evaluating talent. The manager still doesn't understand the value of on base percentage. For the love of god.


Among other things.....

#6 jokin

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Posted 25 October 2013 - 12:14 AM

The Twins don't just develop minor leaguers to play at the majors - they play at the majors to develop minor leaguers. It's that important.


Ahh...so now I understand why Doug Bernier, Sharon Martis and Eric Fryer got their extended call-ups.....Go Red Wings in 2014!

#7 BHtwins

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Posted 25 October 2013 - 02:35 AM

I think its a valid management style for business when talent disparities arent as apparent. In other words, if you get an extra 10% from Bob in accounting because he loves loves loves his company that means something tangible. On the other hand if you get an extra 10% out of Doug Bernier it doesnt turn him into a valuable major leaguer

#8 TheLeviathan

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Posted 25 October 2013 - 04:15 AM

I think its a valid management style for business when talent disparities arent as apparent. In other words, if you get an extra 10% from Bob in accounting because he loves loves loves his company that means something tangible. On the other hand if you get an extra 10% out of Doug Bernier it doesnt turn him into a valuable major leaguer


Exactly. And even if you agree with this philosophy in general, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing too. At some point close knit becomes "shut in".

#9 Thrylos

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Posted 25 October 2013 - 06:41 AM

One of Ryan's core philosophies - one that is clear over and over in the full TD Offseason Handbook interview - is that there is more to be benefited organization-wide by focusing on rewarding your people or holding them accountable, than by focusing outside of the organization and possibly overlooking them.


The accountability (or lack of) part has been discussed ad neauseum so I am not going to add.

As far as retaining staff and promoting within goes here is my 2 cents (in baseball and in any business in general) :

If you have a sustained success, makes sense to promote within because you have build a culture of success within your organization and you want to keep the staff who made you successful around and reward them, so you continue being successful (See: Cardinals, St. Louis)

If, however, you have not have success for a while (in the Twins' case one can argue it is either 3 years or 22 years, but no one can argue that the Twins have been successful recently) it is time for a turn-around. And you cannot turn around a ball club or a business by keeping, promoting and rewarding the people who got you in that mess. So you go outside the organization and look for people who have proven success in turning around a business like yours or a baseball team.

For the Twins not doing the latter, means one thing: They feel that they have been successful lately and this is a scary thought... (Of course they have been successful financially. Bloomberg has estimated the Twins' 2013 revenue to be $215M - click in the Twins logo icon to see the data in the link).
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#10 Brock Beauchamp

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Posted 25 October 2013 - 06:51 AM

And I can tell you from people I know within the organization that the perception is that Bill Smith - far more than any decision he made - wasn't able to make sure that the whole organization was doing its job.


Interesting comment. Smith was a suit; a guy who should have excelled at managing an organization of this size. That it was one of his biggest faults is pretty damning of his tenure.

#11 Brock Beauchamp

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Posted 25 October 2013 - 06:56 AM

If, however, you have not have success for a while (in the Twins' case one can argue it is either 3 years or 22 years, but no one can argue that the Twins have been successful recently) it is time for a turn-around. And you cannot turn around a ball club or a business by keeping, promoting and rewarding the people who got you in that mess. So you go outside the organization and look for people who have proven success in turning around a business like yours or a baseball team.


I don't believe it's that cut and dry and you're a bit limiting in the definition of "success".

Has the MLB team been a success in the past three years? No, absolutely not. It has been an unmitigated disaster.

On the other hand, the Twins are widely regarded to have the best farm system (or top three, at the very least) in all of baseball.

If the Twins were, say, the White Sox right now, I'd be more inclined to agree. The White Sox have wheedled away at their farm system for years while producing a mediocre on-field product in Chicago. Now that well is completely dry. They are an awful organization from front to back.

If the 2015 Twins are bad, I'm with you. Sweeping changes will need to be made... but not everything the Twins have done in the past 3-4 years has been unsuccessful... In fact, they've done many things right, we're simply not seeing the product in Minnesota yet (and may never see it, but that's an entirely different argument).

#12 jokin

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Posted 25 October 2013 - 07:11 AM

I don't believe it's that cut and dry and you're a bit limiting in the definition of "success".

Has the MLB team been a success in the past three years? No, absolutely not. It has been an unmitigated disaster.

On the other hand, the Twins are widely regarded to have the best farm system (or top three, at the very least) in all of baseball.

If the Twins were, say, the White Sox right now, I'd be more inclined to agree. The White Sox have wheedled away at their farm system for years while producing a mediocre on-field product in Chicago. Now that well is completely dry. They are an awful organization from front to back.

If the 2015 Twins are bad, I'm with you. Sweeping changes will need to be made... but not everything the Twins have done in the past 3-4 years has been unsuccessful... In fact, they've done many things right, we're simply not seeing the product in Minnesota yet (and may never see it, but that's an entirely different argument).


As you pointed out in the other thread, Alex Meyer is the ONLY SP prospect on the immediate horizon to fill a front-end starter role by 2015. It's difficult to envision that the Twins will be much better than "bad" without the, quite necessary, "sweeping changes". I honestly don't see how this management group gets from "here" to "there" in that time frame with what they have to work with and what they're willing to spend to make it happen.

And sadly, the pathetic White Sox looked like the far superior organization in the last 2 series with the Twins. Much better pitching overall, and through their 2012-13 salary purge, multiple aquisitions of young players that appear to be ready to contribute as a part of the solution on a more accelerated time frame than the Twins. And Abreu may be just their first big off-season move in their bid to get back to relevance.

#13 mike wants wins

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Posted 25 October 2013 - 07:27 AM

I still don't get the whole "short cut" thing. In every business on the planet, if you can bring in excellent talent, you do it. If today Kershaw came here and said, "I'll play for you for $1", would the Twins say "no" because of their organizational philosophy? I doubt it. Also, how is trading for Alex Meyer any different than signing a free agent. Isn't he getting in the way of all their awesome draft picks? How is that different, philosophically? Did Ryan think Shannon Stewart was getting in the way of some OFer in the minors? How, exactly, would bringing in a good FA pitcher this year hurt anyone in the minors? Wouldn't it actually help some of the young fielders, to play with other good players? And, actually, problems can be bought away. This belief that somehow fixing your team easily is evil/bad/wrong is baffling. If you have the money, and there is a player there, what is the harm? Describe to me the actual harm done to the team if they were to bring in a good pitcher this year (if one was available). And, explain how making a trade is ok, but signing a FA is not.

As for groupthink, anyone who has spent any time in MBA school, or in the real world in big business, knows it is a real phenomenon. To deny its existence is to deny decades of scientific research on what happens in companies when they don't bring in any outside voices. Decades of research.

What I just typed is probably an opinion, not a fact. I mean, I'm usually right, so you should maybe assume it is or will be a fact soon, but that's up to you. :)


#14 Brock Beauchamp

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Posted 25 October 2013 - 07:30 AM

As you pointed out in the other thread, Alex Meyer is the ONLY SP prospect on the immediate horizon to fill a front-end starter role by 2015. It's difficult to envision that the Twins will be much better than "bad" without the, quite necessary, "sweeping changes". I honestly don't see how this management group gets from "here" to "there" in that time frame with what they have to work with and what they're willing to spend to make it happen.

And sadly, the pathetic White Sox looked like the far superior organization in the last 2 series with the Twins. Much better pitching overall, and through their 2012-13 salary purge, multiple aquisitions of young players that appear to be ready to contribute as a part of the solution on a more accelerated time frame than the Twins. And Abreu may be just their first big off-season move in their bid to get back to relevance.


The White Sox have one of the worst farm systems in baseball and the MLB team had the third-worst record in MLB. There's no hope for them any time soon. They're old (minus a few arms), they have no MiLB depth, and Abreu, while a nice pickup, is not going to change that. They're going to be bad for quite some time and two September series against the also-bad Twins doesn't make their future look any better.

Rebuilding an MLB franchise isn't a two-season affair. Yeah, the Twins are seriously lacking in starting pitching depth in the upper minors... But we've all known that for ages, which is why most of us are clamoring for a high-upside FA signing, whether that be a Ubaldo or a Hughes. That helps bridge the next few years until guys like Berrios, Stewart, and Thorpe (hopefully) mature into quality MLB pitchers.

But if things go well for the Twins, they don't need an ace pitcher to succeed (to an extent, anyway). Some people seem to be banking on November ticker-tape parades in 2015 but that's more than a little optimistic. If Meyer turns into a good #2, some of the rest of the group (Mays, Gibson) turn into quality #3s, and then a couple more (Eades, Wimmers, Deduno, Hendriks) turn into #4s, that's the foundation of a decent, though unspectacular, staff. Couple it with a good bullpen and a solid offense and you're looking at a fringe contender.

Will it happen? I have no idea. Would Phil Hughes or Ubaldo Jimenez or Josh Johnson help? Almost certainly.

But to write off this team as hopeless is more than a little short-sighted. They have two of best five prospects in all of baseball, two guys that will be on the MLB squad in no more than 18 months from now.

#15 Winston Smith

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Posted 25 October 2013 - 07:36 AM

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
Albert Einstein

May all our prospects be All Stars and the beer be free.


#16 Brock Beauchamp

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Posted 25 October 2013 - 07:38 AM

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
Albert Einstein


First, you're not really bringing anything to the conversation with trite quotations.

Second, one could make the argument that the Twins are doing exactly the same thing that brought them a decade of sustained success in the 2000s. Focus on the draft, focus on the international market, and bring players slowly but steadily through the system.

I think they should be doing more by exploring the free agent market but it's pretty hard to call them insane when you look at their farm system.

#17 jokin

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Posted 25 October 2013 - 07:46 AM

Will it happen? I have no idea. Would Phil Hughes or Ubaldo Jimenez or Josh Johnson help? Almost certainly.

But to write off this team as hopeless is more than a little short-sighted. They have two of best five prospects in all of baseball, two guys that will be on the MLB squad in no more than 18 months from now.


I would strongly argue, that, notwithstanding the possibility, but not probability, of both Sano and Buxton in the opening day lineup, April 2015...... without the signing of at least one high-impact pitcher signing such as those that you suggest, the prospect of Meyer and whatever construction you can construe from the other 6 names on your list still results in a team still as likely to lose 90 games as not.

I'm not writing them and their 2015 prospects off, at all, it's certainly do-able with an organization willing to go all-in. I'm just saying, with 20-20 far-sighted foresight, that there's a significant mountain to climb, and the recent past suggests the FO lacks the physical and intellectual vigor to complete the climb.

Edited by jokin, 25 October 2013 - 07:48 AM.


#18 Brock Beauchamp

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Posted 25 October 2013 - 07:52 AM

I would strongly argue, that, notwithstanding the possibility, but not probability, of both Sano and Buxton in the opening day lineup, April 2015...... without the signing of at least one high-impact pitcher signing such as those that you suggest, the prospect of Meyer and whatever construction you can construe from the other 6 names on your list still results in a team still as likely to lose 90 games as not.

I'm not writing them and their 2015 prospects off, at all, it's certainly do-able with an organization willing to go all-in. I'm just saying, with 20-20 far-sighted foresight, that there's a significant mountain to climb, and the recent past suggests the FO lacks the physical and intellectual vigor to complete the climb.


We'll just have to disagree. If Buxton, Meyer, and Sano develop, I don't see how this team loses 90 games in 2015. You're looking at a roster with four potential 3+ WAR players (Mauer, Buxton, Sano, Meyer) and possibly a few more 2+ WAR players (Arcia, Dozier, Mays, Gibson). That's the foundation of a decent team maybe even if it isn't a "true contender".

#19 nicksaviking

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Posted 25 October 2013 - 08:06 AM

Yeah, Mike's got a good point contradicting the implied "earned promotions." Why is trading for Alex Meyer, who surely is a roadblock for another minor league, a move to be proud of where as signing free agents is so shameful? Most major companies hire from outside the organization and not only to discourage group think, but because there are talented would-be employees outside of your world. The oranization acts and talks as though they are a family, thus this practice is basically nepotism, which is not admirable.

As for holding employees accountable, it may be done, but it does not seem to result in termination. Bill Smith is still there after all.

#20 Brock Beauchamp

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Posted 25 October 2013 - 08:20 AM

As for holding employees accountable, it may be done, but it does not seem to result in termination. Bill Smith is still there after all.


I have no issues with Smith being in the org. He proved himself to be a capable employee at his position, enough for ownership to promote him to General Manager.

You don't punish the person for going beyond his Peter Principle position. You put him back into a role where he can succeed and ownership gets the blame for promoting him in the first place.

#21 Guest_USAFChief_*

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Posted 25 October 2013 - 08:32 AM

The White Sox have one of the worst farm systems in baseball and the MLB team had the third-worst record in MLB. There's no hope for them any time soon. They're old (minus a few arms), they have no MiLB depth, and Abreu, while a nice pickup, is not going to change that. They're going to be bad for quite some time and two September series against the also-bad Twins doesn't make their future look any better.

Rebuilding an MLB franchise isn't a two-season affair. Yeah, the Twins are seriously lacking in starting pitching depth in the upper minors... But we've all known that for ages, which is why most of us are clamoring for a high-upside FA signing, whether that be a Ubaldo or a Hughes. That helps bridge the next few years until guys like Berrios, Stewart, and Thorpe (hopefully) mature into quality MLB pitchers.

But if things go well for the Twins, they don't need an ace pitcher to succeed (to an extent, anyway). Some people seem to be banking on November ticker-tape parades in 2015 but that's more than a little optimistic. If Meyer turns into a good #2, some of the rest of the group (Mays, Gibson) turn into quality #3s, and then a couple more (Eades, Wimmers, Deduno, Hendriks) turn into #4s, that's the foundation of a decent, though unspectacular, staff. Couple it with a good bullpen and a solid offense and you're looking at a fringe contender.

Will it happen? I have no idea. Would Phil Hughes or Ubaldo Jimenez or Josh Johnson help? Almost certainly.

But to write off this team as hopeless is more than a little short-sighted. They have two of best five prospects in all of baseball, two guys that will be on the MLB squad in no more than 18 months from now.

I could be wrong, but it seems you're defending Ryan (and his apparent belief that signing free agents is somehow wrong...a "quick fix"-- and/or demotivating to internal assets) while at the same time admitting the Twins can't succeed without signing free agents.

#22 Kwak

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Posted 25 October 2013 - 08:39 AM

Interesting comment. Smith was a suit; a guy who should have excelled at managing an organization of this size. That it was one of his biggest faults is pretty damning of his tenure.


I find it damning that the organization tries to fix the entire blame on Bill Smith. The Twins, an organization that professes group-think, yet when things went South, it is one guy that gets all of the blame. Recently I read a claim that the problems of today were caused by the bad trades Smith made! Not only does this ignore the group-think of the Twins but also those responsible for new player drafting and developing. I'm not trying to defend Smith, but it is clear to me that there is considerable animosity toward him (or is it just plain-old scapegoating?--blame he who isn't here) as if he challenged "the established order".

Another comment that disturbs me is the animosity toward a free agent because he "is blocking somebody". This smacks of favoring longevity over performance--"it's not how well you have performed, but how long you have been here". That attitude will doom an organization.

#23 Winston Smith

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Posted 25 October 2013 - 08:47 AM

First, you're not really bringing anything to the conversation with trite quotations.

Second, one could make the argument that the Twins are doing exactly the same thing that brought them a decade of sustained success in the 2000s. Focus on the draft, focus on the international market, and bring players slowly but steadily through the system.

I think they should be doing more by exploring the free agent market but it's pretty hard to call them insane when you look at their farm system.


To your point nobody is calling anyone insane and that's not what he said.

Life and business evolve and grow over time. If you live in a bubble and don't expand your thinking you will be left behind. Doing what you did 10 years ago likely doesn't work any more. That's why every top MBA school has lines of businesses recruiting the grads as they walk out the door. They want that young energy and fresh look at things.
John said: "the Twins are too enamored with GroupThink, too inbred, limit their promotions to internal people and are resistant to external ideas/people." IMO that quote agrees with with what John said.

May all our prospects be All Stars and the beer be free.


#24 Brock Beauchamp

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Posted 25 October 2013 - 08:49 AM

I could be wrong, but it seems you're defending Ryan (and his apparent belief that signing free agents is somehow wrong...a "quick fix"-- and/or demotivating to internal assets) while at the same time admitting the Twins can't succeed without signing free agents.


No, I'm simply arguing that Ryan does many things right and that "sweeping changes" may not be necessary to achieve success.

Ryan isn't perfect, far from it. His apparent refusal to pay market price for free agents is maddening.

But if you're going to give me a guy who can corral and build a powerful farm system but is averse to free agent signings, I'll take him all day over the guy who does the opposite. I don't have to like everything Ryan does to believe he's a better GM than most in the game and if you fire everybody in the organization (which many here seem to advocate on a daily basis), there's a damned good chance you're going to fill those vacancies with people worse at their job, not better.

#25 Brock Beauchamp

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Posted 25 October 2013 - 08:51 AM

I find it damning that the organization tries to fix the entire blame on Bill Smith.


I've never heard anyone in the organization publicly say anything negative about Smith.

Hell, the guy still works for the organization. Obviously, they don't hate him that much.

#26 nicksaviking

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Posted 25 October 2013 - 08:58 AM

You don't punish the person for going beyond his Peter Principle position. You put him back into a role where he can succeed and ownership gets the blame for promoting him in the first place.


That makes the situation even worse in my opinion. That would imply that Ryan stepped aside and Smith didn't even apply for the job, St. Peter just told Smith, "Ready or not, you've been promoted, good luck."

Why wasn't there a search for a new GM? When Smith failed and got relieved of his duties, why wasn't there ANOTHER search for a new GM? This is like a Monarchy, inbred heirs take the throne regardless of skill, there is no search for a new candidate, there is no voting commitee, everything stays within the family regardless if new blood could oversee the kingdom with better results.

There aren't many functional monarchies left in the world, and for good reason. I always said the Twins were stuck with '80's baseball ideologies. Maybe I meant 1680's.

#27 Nick Nelson

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Posted 25 October 2013 - 09:15 AM

Life and business evolve and grow over time. If you live in a bubble and don't expand your thinking you will be left behind. Doing what you did 10 years ago likely doesn't work any more.

I think this is what bothers me most. The Twins continue to say things like "We were a model organization during the last decade, we need to get back to doing the things we were doing then." Well, the game has changed since then. The Twins no longer have a steady pipeline of pitching talent (it's tough to see them having a truly strong rotation any time before 2016 if they don't sign or trade for at least one high-end talent). The division is no longer the cream puff it once was. And there is (or at least there should be) more money to spend.

One of the most baffling statements in the TR interview was toward the end when he said he doesn't operate any differently now than he did in the Dome days, with the exception of not needing to unload players. The availability of extra cash doesn't mean you should start making stupid decisions, but you should certainly be more willing to take some financial risks. Ryan pointed multiple times at Cleveland as an example of a team that turned it around quickly, but Cleveland has proven willing to take bold risks -- trading for Jimenez, trading for Bauer, signing major free agents. The Twins continue to give no indication that they're willing to do so, because those would apparently be defined as "shortcuts."

#28 Boom Boom

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Posted 25 October 2013 - 09:17 AM

Why wasn't there a search for a new GM? When Smith failed and got relieved of his duties, why wasn't there ANOTHER search for a new GM? This is like a Monarchy, inbred heirs take the throne regardless of skill, there is no search for a new candidate, there is no voting commitee, everything stays within the family regardless if new blood could oversee the kingdom with better results.


This is a solid point. When TR stepped down, the organization was so focused internally that it promoted one of "their guys" to a position he couldn't handle rather than taking a look outside to find someone more qualified. I suppose it's possible they could have done worse than Smith, but I doubt it. Who was in the room when that decision was made? And why was Smith the only one to take a fall?

#29 JB_Iowa

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Posted 25 October 2013 - 09:19 AM

To me it comes down to blending in new personalities -- whether it be players through trades and free agency or front-office staff through new hires from outside the organization. Not wholesale changes but a willingness to blend in new talent and ideas.

I'm dealing with the same issues in another part of my life right now. A governmental body where its members have become long-term and entrenched. They have developed an arrogance about what they are doing that causes them to no longer discuss anything publicly, to have votes that are always 5-0, to bully anyone in the public who dares to question any behavior. And you know what, the public has just basically shut down because fighting it gets so difficult.

To me it appears that the Twins' group think is so deeply entrenched that it would take a series of new hires for any of their ideas or philosophies to begin to percolate. Of course people should feel like they have the chance to move up in an organization -- but there should also be some among them who desire to grow enough to be hired elsewhere as well. We don't see that. We don't see new hires in. But we also don't see much of people leaving for better positions elsewhere. This has gone beyond stability into a slow death.

#30 Brock Beauchamp

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Posted 25 October 2013 - 09:20 AM

Who was in the room when that decision was made? And why was Smith the only one to take a fall?


My guess to that question is "you can't fire ownership".