Tom Kelly was 51 when he resigned as Twins manager on Oct. 12, 2001. The media and the sporting public were looking for a deeper motive beyond Kelly's stated reason that he felt "worn out" at times during the season and wanted a different, less strenuous role.
There was speculation that Kelly was clearing the way to join his former boss, Andy MacPhail, in Chicago with the Cubs, or he was waiting for a chance to take over the big-spending Red Sox or Dodgers.
Six years later, all Twins followers know that we should have taken at face value what Kelly said at his resignation news conference in the Halsey Hall Room at the Metrodome.
He was quitting because he decided 15-plus years was enough as a manager.
Kelly was back in a jammed Halsey Hall Room on Thursday to attend a news conference in which Terry Ryan, 54 next month, resigned as Twins general manager.
This information surfaced first on startribune.com at 11 a.m. Immediately, Twins followers were convincing themselves this was a case of Ryan being frustrated with the team's payroll restrictions. He was going to reunite with MacPhail, now in Baltimore, or perhaps take over in Houston, where the Astros have a generous payroll.
"It's just a different job," Ryan said after the media session. "I'm not going anywhere. I'm going to be here as long as they'll have me."
Kelly said it was time for him to make a change in the fall of '01, and we wanted to read more into it. Ryan said it was time for him to make a change Thursday, and we want to find a deeper reason.
It was a futile pursuit with Kelly, and it's the same with Ryan. These two Irishmen are worlds apart in upbringing -- from the concrete of New Jersey to the heart of Badger country -- but they have this amazing trait in common:
They ascended to the most coveted positions for baseball men, to field manager and GM in the big leagues, and if they had their druthers, they would have been allowed to perform these tasks with no attention.
The instant analysis from the national baseball media will be that this is a terrible blow to the Twins. And when this team fails to contend in 2008, these analysts will be offering "I-told-you-sos."
This will be a knee-jerk reaction with no validity. The fact is that winning is cyclical for middle-market spenders in baseball, and the Twins are playing out the schedule in the first year of a down cycle.
The Twins were a team without a chance in the 1990s, and then they finally found a group of players in 2001 that enabled them to ride the high side of the cycle.
This lasted for six years excluding the humdrum play of 2005 and now it's over.
It makes no difference if the Twins commit $60 to $75 million to Torii Hunter and thus have him back for 2008 and beyond. Even with Torii, there will be too many holes in the lineup and pitching staff for the Twins to be looked at as anything more than also-rans when they arrive in southwest Florida in February.
There are no position prospects ready to make an impact next season. The young starters who were supposed to be ready by the middle of this summer Matt Garza, Kevin Slowey and Glen Perkins still need much improvement. The bullpen in front of closer Joe Nathan is a mess.
Ryan said Thursday his decision would have been the same if the Twins of '07 were on the way to 100 victories or 100 defeats. The actual numbers will be around 80-82, making it a gentle start to an unavoidable down cycle for a midmarket team.
Six winning seasons in a row was a good run for Ryan. And now Bill Smith, Ryan's successor, has the main responsibility for trying to keep the down cycle to three or four years, rather than the eight consecutive losing seasons this franchise endured in the '90s.
Meantime, folks, as you gnash teeth over the pending departure of Hunter, you should realize this about the Twins of the immediate future:
They won't win with Torii, and they won't win without him.
Patrick Reusse can be heard weekdays on AM-1500 KSTP at 6:45 and 7:45 a.m. and 4:40 p.m. firstname.lastname@example.org