At the same time, the Twins’ decision to fire Terry Ryan today feels like it’s been a long time in coming, and happening at the exact wrong moment for a team that is looking to be active at the trade deadline. Now, this feels a lot like looking a gift horse in the mouth, given that I’ve been very vocal in the past about the Twins’ need to change their leadership:
Ultimately, the Twins leadership seems to be out of ideas for how to move forward. Terry Ryan talks about doing something, but doesn't yet know what to do beyond contracting a private shuttle to ferry all the players back and forth between Minnesota and Rochester. With so little innovation coming from the same group who created this problem in the first place, it's clear to me that it's time for the entire Twins management team to be shown the door. Bring me somebody, anybody, with a fresh perspective to run this team going forward. Because, by definition, it can't really get any worse than what we're seeing now.
That’s still mostly true. Ryan’s second tenure with the Minnesota Twins has been an unmitigated disaster, with the club going 318-421 since his return. This year, they’re on pace to have the worst record in club history. Bad signings like Ricky Nolasco, Mike Pelfrey, Kevin Correia, Byung-ho Park, Phil Hughes’s extension, and Kurt Suzuki’s extension have undermined the team’s ability to compete, as have trades that brought in Kevin Jepsen and John Ryan Murphy. Most importantly, under Ryan’s watch, key prospects have struggled to develop as expected. Byron Buxton and Alex Meyer lead the way, but Aaron Hicks, Oswaldo Arcia, Danny Santana, Eddie Rosario, and Kennys Vargas have all struggled to develop as expected.
Under Ryan, the Twins were getting lapped by other organizations. They didn’t have a full time analytics department until a couple years ago, and it was still unclear how much that expertise was getting used by the club’s decision makers. The team suffered from a fundamental lack of fundamentals, suggesting that the minor league instruction players were receiving was lax. And as the organization stressed loyalty over all things, they were exceptionally slow to adapt.
Thankfully, the Twins are not going to wait long to find their new leadership team, according to Jon Morosi:
#Twins will not wait until offseason to begin GM search. They are expected to consider candidates in the coming weeks. @MLB @MLBNetwork— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) July 18, 2016
Still, there’s no way for that new GM to be in place before the deadline, which means that interim GM Rob Antony will be pulling the strings and pushing the big red button on any decisions that have to be made.
While the list of reasons to keep Terry Ryan around for even one more day is an exceptionally short one the timing is inconvenient because this. The Twins, aware they are going nowhere have advertised that they’re open for business, and willing to trade any and all veterans who won’t be in Minnesota the next time the team is competitive. There are important decisions that need to be made in the next two weeks about what to do with Ervin Santana, Eduardo Nunez, Kurt Suzuki, Brian Dozier, and Trevor Plouffe. While these decisions, Dozier aside, aren’t likely to alter the course of the franchise, it does eliminate the possibility that Ryan could pluck a useful player or two out of other organizations, a talent he’s shown in the past while dealing veterans.
Moreover, the man tasked with making those important decisions in the coming weeks, Rob Antony, is not overwhelmingly impressive either. He’s spent a lot of time as Ryan’s assistant, meaning that he’s likely to be philosophically aligned with his former boss, but doesn’t come from a baseball or an analytical background. Ultimately, if he’s trusting his scouting director, he may be no worse than Ryan, but it’s hard to believe he’ll be any better, and the forthcoming search for a new GM (and, dear God, please let this one be from outside the organization) could be just as easily conducted in August and September as in July and August.
It would take an amazing amount of talent to screw up the firing of a GM as incompetent as Ryan has been. But, frankly, I think the Twins might have done it. The decision to let him go now suggests, to me at least, an impulsive decision, especially given that it was done with essentially no warning. (UPDATE: now we know that Ryan was informed a month ago that he would not return for 2017, but was given the chance to craft his exit. This was it. Which, again, suggests that the Twins bungled this from the start.) That there was some kind of disagreement or development that sparked it at this moment, rather than letting the deadline play out first. It’s a risky decision, and one that could hamstring the Twins yet again if Antony fails to capitalize on the assets they want to move before August 1. Indeed, by firing Terry Ryan now, the Twins have laid the groundwork for what, even a couple weeks ago, would have been an impossibility: making me miss Terry Ryan.