Sid Hartman: Months ago, Ryan told team of his plan

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 14, 2007 - 12:47 PM

Jim Pohlad said upcoming contract issues didn’t factor in Terry Ryan’s decision — and that the Twins will make every effort to keep their stars.

Twins President Dave St. Peter said Thursday that it was several months ago when Terry Ryan approached Twins Sports Inc. CEO Jim Pohlad, Twins Sports Inc. President Jerry Bell and St. Peter and informed them of his decision to give up the general manager job at the end of the season. All three tried to talk Ryan out of his decision, but he stood by it.

With a big challenge facing Ryan — including Torii Hunter's upcoming free agency and contract concerns for Johan Santana, Joe Nathan and Justin Morneau in following years — Pohlad was asked if Ryan quit because the job of putting a winning team on the field was going to be impossible, given the team's budget restraints.

Pohlad made it clear that this subject never came up and that every effort will be made by the Twins to keep all their productive players.

"I know for a fact that Terry's been thinking about this for probably a little bit longer than he acknowledged up here today. So, I don't think that had anything to do with it," Pohlad said. "I don't want to betray Terry's confidence, but I think he's been thinking about it, like he said, months. It's probably been more than just a few months.

"Well, maybe, but it was tough this season. It was tough in [2005], it could be tougher this year, but not by that significant of a degree."

Pohlad said Bill Smith was a clear choice to be Ryan's successor. "There was no doubt in our mind," Pohlad said. "We listened to what Terry had to say, we listened to what Dave had to say, and what Jerry Bell had to say, and it was pretty much unanimous."

There is no doubt the Twins will do everything they can to bring back Hunter. Pohlad said that there will be a strong effort to keep all the Twins' top talent.

"We've already made some effort [to sign Hunter], but the decision must wait until the end of the season now," Pohlad said. "We'll make an effort again at the end of the season.

"I think probably that Torii's right about that. Maybe during the season is not the right time to talk about that. He's a valuable player. I'm sure he wants to get a feel for the market, as I would. We don't begrudge a player trying to get as much as they possibly are worth."

Pohlad said the additional income from the new stadium will make it easier to sign the players compared to what the revenue is at the Metrodome.

"Clearly, having the additional revenue from the new stadium on the horizon, we're committed to spending in the range ... [of] 50-52 percent of revenue, and with the increase in revenue from the new stadium, there's going to be ample dollars to pay players. It will make a huge difference," he said.

"We go to the major league meetings, we see the statistics. We know what teams in our market size can do. As long as they are willing to spend the money ... and keep it within that percentage of revenue, they can compete."

Pohlad said there isn't any consideration on his family's part to sell the team.

"Absolutely not," he said. "We definitely want to keep baseball here, and we're excited the new stadium is underway and hopefully the little issues that are going on on the side can get resolved."

Kelly not surprised

Tom Kelly, the longtime Twins manager who surprised everybody in 2001 when he decided to quit at the young age of 51, wasn't too surprised Ryan decided to end his run as GM after 13 years.

"I had some inkling that he was maybe thinking that it was time to move along and maybe try something else, and again, you're always a little shocked when somebody finally does that," Kelly said.

"I can't say too much, because I did basically the same thing that he's doing, so if he's happy, then that's all that's important."

Asked what went into the thought process for leaving, Kelly replied, "I can't speak for Terry, but I can only speak for my own self, where I just felt it was time to move along."

Kelly managed seven seasons with Ryan as his GM. "He was good, a solid man, he looks you in the eye and he tells you what he thinks and you tell him what you think, and you go about your business: you do your job and he's going to do his," Kelly said. "He's done nothing but good here and made this a good, sound organization."

Ryan wasn't the type of boss to scrutinize the manager over the day-to-day operations of the team, unlike some GMs.

"I understand that stuff happens. We've been very fortunate. I speak for myself, and I think Ronny [Gardenhire] as well," Kelly said. "Whatever I basically wanted to do, I was able to do, and I think Ronny's pretty much in the same boat. So, we've been pretty fortunate here in the last 20 some years to have Andy McPhail and Terry Ryan, and hopefully all that will continue with Bill Smith."

Jottings

Asked for his analysis of the Twins this season, Kelly said: "I think the club was picked to win about 80-some games, 82, 84 games, by the people that know, and that looks just like where we're going to be, or have a chance to be — right at close to that number, and that's just not good enough to get it done this year. ... I think we need a few players, and that maybe some didn't have the years that they had previous. A few had a little better years, but overall, I don't think we had the consistency that we needed to be successful for a long period of time."

St. Peter said he expects the Twins to draw 2.3 million fans, and that total will be enough for the team to make its budget.

The Twins hope to award a contract to sell concessions at the new ballpark very soon. Bill Lester, who runs the Metrodome, said the Twins are close to a new deal that will keep them in the Dome until the new stadium is set to open in 2010.

Vikings coach Brad Childress was asked to describe quarterback Kelly Holcomb, whom the team acquired from the Eagles during the preseason: "He's a scrappy guy and he has been to handling school — I mean, he's been in four different systems and he knows how to get the ball out of his hand, he's not going to stand back there and nurse it. He knows where to go with it, he's seen everything that the NFL can give you in terms of defense, and really, he's been calling these [West Coast offense] plays at Philadelphia here for the last eight months."

Gophers athletic director Joel Maturi said he still hasn't been successful in getting an opponent for the opening of the new football stadium in 2009.

Taylor Grant, son of Eden Prairie football coach Mike Grant and grandson of former Vikings coach Bud Grant, is a 6-4, 225-pounder who starts at quarterback for the sophomore team and is a reserve tight end for the varsity.

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Podcast twice a week at www.startribune.com/sidcast. shartman@startribune.com

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