Had the Twins approached their internal goals this season, Terry Ryan would still be the godfather of Twin Cities sports bosses and Rob Antony would still be his promising aide-de-camp.
With the team headed toward the shoals of a possible 100-loss season, Ryan is adrift and Antony’s job is widely perceived to be lowering lifeboats.
This is further proof that Minnesotans don’t actually want Minnesotans involved with their sports teams.
They want Minnesotans involved with their sports teams who make them feel good.
Antony should be a celebrated Minnesota success story. He played high school baseball, attended the University of Minnesota and jammed his foot in the Twins’ door during the 1987 season, which produced the Twin Cities’ first major professional championship in a mature sport.
He has worked in media relations, the farm system, scouting and the front office, rising from a giddy intern to the point where he is now Twins interim general manager. However tainted it is by the loss column, this remains a remarkable story. It’s just not one that Twins fans seem interested in celebrating.
The notion that Minnesotans embrace all things Minnesota is not evidenced by our sports teams.
Gophers hockey fans were quite happy to have a guy from Austria’s mountain ranges win a title for them instead of a nice boy from the Iron Range.
The Timberwolves’ loyalty to local figures became a punchline when they couldn’t win, and Kevin McHale went from being the most popular figure in Minnesota basketball history to a guy locals didn’t mind seeing in Houston.
In the ’90s the Twins brought back every available Minnesota connection. Jack Morris won a title, then immediately left, briefly angering fans. Dave Winfield, Paul Molitor, Terry Steinbach, even Brent Gates returned to varying degrees of success for a series of bad teams.
Here’s what that hometown parade proved: In baseball, and perhaps in all sports, local ties don’t help if you don’t win. Molitor grew up in St. Paul, attended Minnesota and returned to the Twins to hit .341 at the age of 40 and collect his 3,000th hit, and he played for mostly echoes in the Metrodome.
Now Molitor is the Twins manager. Baseball managers are held far too responsible for results, but Molitor seemed to get the most out of his team last season, and he is the smartest baseball player I ever covered. He is a Hall of Famer and, yes, One Of Us, and the other day someone stopped me in the skyway to accuse Molitor of crimes against the game and humanity.
Conversely, if you are from Chicago, supposedly a rival city, and you win, you are celebrated. Kirby Puckett and Kevin Garnett might have been the two most popular athletes in Minnesota over the past 30 years. And Brett Favre, rumored to be a person of note in Green Bay, became Minnesota’s favorite rent-a-hero for a season.
In December 2013, Ryan called Antony into his office and promoted him to vice president.
He played baseball at Henry High in Minneapolis. Now he was a key figure on the masthead of the Twins as they rebuilt their farm system and appeared headed for better times.
Of his first gig with the Twins, Antony told me three years ago: “I’m not sure I aspired to a lot, right then and there. I was just hoping to graduate, and hoping there would be a full-time job.
“I still can’t say I aspire to anything, or that I aspired to this. I really didn’t envision being in this role 25 years ago. I just hope Terry stays in his role a long time, and I get to stay in this role for a long time and we get better as a team, so they want to keep us around.”
Antony’s would be viewed a classic Minnesota success story, if only the Twins could pitch.