Terry Ryan is 61. A successful fight with cancer has left him with failing taste buds and faulty salivary glands. While active and healthy, he is leaner than ever because of the aftereffects of cancer treatments.
Burned out, he retired as the Twins general manager once, only to return and preside over perhaps the most frustrating period in Twins history, four noncompetitive seasons in a beautiful new ballpark.
All of these factors might hint at Ryan eyeing the exit, but conversations with Ryan and a few people close to him indicate that he sees himself as a long-term general manager who is driven to return the Twins to competitiveness.
Ryan puts it simply, saying: “This is a pretty good gig. I’m doing what I love to do. And I feel a responsibility to get this organization back to where it should be.”
Rob Antony, Ryan’s assistant general manager, said: “He doesn’t appear to be looking to leave at all. When we talk, we talk about next year, and two or three years from now, and about long-term projections. He came back because he wanted to get us back on track, and he’s not satisfied.”
Even the demands of the job don’t seem to be an issue. Ryan said he probably traveled more and worked a crazier schedule after retiring as GM than he did while running the club. He has changed his lifestyle to better suit his family, but most of the changes have been subtle.
“I’ve managed it better because of my self-decisions, not because of this job,” he said. “I’m sleeping more. I got to bed instead of staying up for the 11 o’clock ESPN basketball game. I’m a junkie when it comes to football, basketball, baseball. I love to watch bowling, for gosh sakes. But I’ve learned to turn the TV off and get my sleep.”
That Ryan has dual personalities is even more obvious his second time around. He is a workaholic taskmaster. He also owns a Harley-Davidson, listens to U2 and Eminem and can name any song that comes on a ballpark’s loudspeaker within three notes.
He likes watching “The Good Wife” and “The Voice,” and has been hooked on the acting and directing of Robert Redford ever since he first saw his favorite movie, “The Sting.” As a young pitcher in the Twins organization, he wore his hair long and admits he partied too much and was less than diligent about his offseason workouts, which has led him to call many minor leaguers into meetings to instruct them to avoid those pitfalls.
If he were looking to leave the job, he could have avoided making a decision on longtime friend and colleague Ron Gardenhire. Instead, Ryan fired Gardenhire and hired Paul Molitor, the man with the best relationship with the players who are the future of the organization, Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano.
Whether correct or not, there are two prevailing theories within the Twins organization: That last year’s team underachieved, and that the farm system will set up the team for another decade of winning.
“He feels good,” Antony said. “He hasn’t gotten his taste buds back, but he’s strong, he looks good. He’s lean, because he doesn’t have much of an appetite.
“When you go through a health scare like that, I think it helps you appreciate what you’re doing. I don’t think he’s showing any signs of saying, ‘Ah, maybe it’s time to cut back or retire.’ When we’re a winning team, a playoff team, who knows?”
Ryan won’t commit to a timetable.
“I’ve looked into the future,” he said. “I’m not a youngster anymore. I used to be one of the youngest GMs in the game, now I’m one of the oldest. I feel good about myself and the club and our direction. My wife even thinks this is OK. I think I’ve changed my lifestyle enough to please her, which is the important thing.
“I’m going a year at a time, to see how we’re going to do.”