Terry Ryan is a scout at heart. While many baseball general managers can't be found before games, Ryan almost always is in his booth at the Metrodome, charting opposing players during batting practice, his stopwatch nearby.
After 13 years of meetings, going home after tough losses and negotiating with agents, Ryan has decided to return to his roots.
Ryan, second in tenure among major league GMs to Atlanta's John Schuerholz, announced Thursday that he's stepping aside at the end of the season and will become a senior adviser to new GM Bill Smith, Ryan's longtime assistant. The new role takes Ryan away from the grind and back to his baseball beginnings as a scout and talent evaluator.
"I look like I'm 75 but I'm 53, and I'd probably be better served out in the field and out there on the diamond instead of behind that desk," said Ryan, who choked back tears during Thursday's news conference at the Dome.
Ryan joined the Twins in 1986 as scouting director and was named the GM exactly 13 years ago Thursday. He led the Twins from embarrassment in the mid-to-late 1990s, through contraction fears in 2001 and to four AL Central titles between 2002 and 2006. His best moves included getting two-time Cy Young award winner Johan Santana in 1999 during a Rule 5 draft-day deal and landing reliever Joe Nathan, flamethrower Francisco Liriano and pitching prospect Boof Bonser for controversial catcher A.J. Pierzynski in 2003 -- a trade that also cleared the way for Joe Mauer to assume Pierzynski's spot.
"I would not be sitting here now if not for Terry Ryan," said Cincinnati GM and former Twins assistant GM Wayne Krivsky, who was floored by the news when Ryan called to tell him. "Terry wrote the textbook on how to run an organization. That why so many people use them as a model."
Twins players Michael Cuddyer and Nick Punto, manager Ron Gardenhire and owner Carl Pohlad were in the packed Halsey Hall Room crowd as the Twins made the unexpected announcement. Twins center fielder Torii Hunter said in a telephone conversation from the Dallas area that he was stunned by the news.
"For what he's done for the organization, this is big," Hunter said. "I don't understand why he stepped down. Terry is one of my buddies."
Ryan's departure led to a reshuffling of the team's baseball department. Ryan in essence had been GM and director of player personnel. Because Smith is primarily an administrator, the club promoted Mike Radcliff from scouting director to vice president/player personnel.
Smith, 49, and one of Ryan's confidants through the years, becomes the fifth GM in club history. Smith, who lives in Bloomington with his wife, Becky, and three daughters, is well-versed in baseball rules and is a stickler for details and finances.
Smith watched practically every brick get put into place in the Twins' year-round facility in Fort Myers, Fla. He was the club's point man during its expansion into Latin American development. And he embraces aspects of the job that Ryan didn't enjoy. Ryan said Smith might have a better touch at negotiations than he does, an interesting admission considering the club wants to re-sign Hunter and extend the contract of Santana after the season.
"The game has changed since I've entered," Ryan said. "It's for bright, energetic negotiators, moreso than anything I possess."
Front office changes
Ryan's decision also sent ripples of change through the baseball operations department beyond Smith's rise to power.
Radcliff had been the director of scouting since 1993. Rob Antony, formerly the director of baseball operations, is now the assistant GM and will take on most contract negotiations. Deron Johnson, the West Coast scouting supervisor, is replacing Radcliff as scouting director.
"Really, I think -- and not to offend Terry Ryan -- but I think you could make a case that this could be an even better organization [with the new structure]," said Twins CEO Jim Pohlad, Carl Pohlad's son. "Terry is going to be doing what he likes to do, Billy is going to be doing what he does best, and maybe bring some new ideas, and he'll have Terry to consult with. Knock on wood, we're hopeful."
The decision came after months of self-deliberation and weeks of talks with the most trusted members of the organization. Ryan had noticed a change in how the business of baseball affected him. He felt worse after losses than usual. He was worn out after the trade deadline after working the phones to try to swing a deal. The winter meetings of recent years took a lot out of him.
"I'm as healthy as a horse," Ryan said Thursday. "I know that's short-lived if I kept up this pace."