Thursday, September 13, 2007

Twins GM Terry Ryan steps down.

Minnesota Twins general manager Terry Ryan is stepping down from that position after 12 years at the helm.

It was reported that vice president/assistant general manager Bill Smith will take over Ryan's position.

Ryan, who is expected to stay within the organization as a senior adviser, has engineered the Twins to winning the American League Central Division title in four of the last six seasons and won The Sporting News Executive of the Year in 2006.

Ryan’s baseball legacy will be that of a guy who made a lot out of a little. Without the resources of a New York or a Boston, the Twins have had six straight winning seasons, reaching the playoffs four times. The Twins got as far as the American League Championship once, losing to the Anaheim Angels 4 games to 1 in 2002.

Ryan has also been known for making lopsided trades that have catapulted the Twins in the standings.

After the 2003 All-Star break, Ryan traded young outfielder Bobby Kielty to the Toronto Blue Jays for veteran OF Shannon Stewart. That move helped the Twins go 46-23 in the second half of that season as well as gaining a second straight division title.

Who could forget the biggest highway robbery of them all? After the ’03 season, Ryan traded catcher A.J. Pierzynski to the San Francisco Giants for pitchers Joe Nathan, Francisco Liriano and Boof Bonser. Nathan has been one of the elite closers in baseball over the past four years, averaging nearly forty saves per season. Liriano dazzled all of baseball last season with 13 wins in only 3 ½ months as a starter before being shelved with an elbow ailment. And Bonser won four big games in September of last year to help the Twins win the division.

Aside from his baseball prowess, I believe Ryan should be remembered for the class, humility and loyalty he showed the Twins organization during his tenure.

In November 2001, the Twins were faced with contraction. Baseball Owners’ puppet Commissioner Bud Selig determined that baseball should shrink from 30 teams to 28. The determination was that the Twins and Montreal Expos would be eliminated after the 2002 season. Twins owner Carl Pohlad even agreed to a multi-million dollar payout to allow Major League Baseball to effectively kill his franchise. With the franchise status in limbo, Ryan had opportunities to take his services elsewhere. Certainly no one would have held him culpable for moving on. Nonetheless, Ryan chose to decline all suitors and stay with the Twins, despite the real possibility of the franchise not existing within a year.

Another example of Ryan’s class and commitment was on display in September 2003. The Twins were in Chicago to take on the White Sox in a four-game series. With the two teams tied atop the AL Central division, the Sox took the first two games to gain a 2-game advantage in the division. Shortly before game three, third base coach Al Newman suffered an aneurysm and had to be rushed to a local hospital. It was Ryan himself who stayed at the Chicago hospital by Newman’s bedside. With the Twins in the midst of their most important series of the year, Ryan could have easily sent another front office employee to tend to Newman. But with a tremendous amount of humility (and very little fanfare), Ryan stayed behind even after the Twins left Chicago.

With that kind of service rendered over the past twelve years, the Twins and their fans should feel fortunate to have Ryan remain in any capacity.


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