Souhan: Old-school Ryan stays relevant in 'Moneyball' world

  • Article by: JIM SOUHAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 9, 2011 - 9:41 AM

Terry Ryan, back in charge as the Twins general manager, wants his team to return to the days of when the little details mattered.

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Twins interim general manager Terry Ryan

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He can't take his eyes off the board. Never could. Whether during the Twins' dark seasons of the 1990s, or when he was winning awards in the 2000s, Terry Ryan couldn't keep his gaze from drifting toward the tote board on his office wall that holds the names of every major league player.

The board dominated his smaller office in the Metrodome, during his first stint as Twins general manager. Tuesday, on his first full day in the more spacious GM's office at Target Field, Ryan's eyes kept flicking to his right, to the row of names that define his team and his competition.

He does not seem pleased.

"We need to get back to some of that stuff that made us famous, and made us good, and made us the kind of team that people used to really talk about," Ryan said. "People used to say, 'They play all nine innings and they don't beat themselves. They don't screw up.'

"We can do all of that. That's a change we can certainly make."

Ryan wore a red, patterned shirt, no tie, and khakis. He was never one for fancy clothes or phrases, and he hasn't changed much. The job has.

When Ryan resigned in 2007, Twitter was a rumor, and deep statistical analysis was more a subject of debate than reverence. Ryan grew up in baseball as the kind of behind-the-backstop scout ridiculed in the book and movie "Moneyball."

As he begins the work of restoring the Twins' good name at the age of 58, Ryan could be called "old school" by those who want to praise, or bury, him.

"It certainly wouldn't be an insult," he said. "I'm not even sure what the definition of that would be anymore, because people constantly have to adjust in this industry.

"I believe in certain things. I believe in talking. I believe in communicating with people. If that's old school, then I'm old school. But I don't think that's old school."

Baseball's new school teaches statistical analysis that can make your head spin. "We've been into statistics for a long time," Ryan said. "We certainly don't talk about it much, but back in the mid-to-late '80s, we began digging in pretty good. Statistics are a part of every decision we make."

Just not all statistics.

"Defense is a difficult thing to quantify," he said. "And sometimes, what the statistic says about range, your eyes don't agree with. We believe in statistics, just not all statistics."

Even before Bill Smith was fired, the Twins were trying to add talent evaluators to their front office. Smith had just hired Wayne Krivsky, the former Reds general manager.

With Ryan running the team and Krivsky in the fold, the Twins front office no longer lacks accomplished decision-makers. Ryan said he's looking to pour more expertise into the team's intellectual reservoir.

"Every scout we have is responsible for statistical analysis," Ryan said. "And we're in the process of expanding our operations in that area. We're much deeper into it than we were two years ago, and very much deeper into it than we used to be 10 years ago. So is everybody in the industry."

Ryan promises to keep pace with the evolution of baseball, but he's back in the big chair, facing the tote board, because he's the same guy whose common sense and hard work resurrected the Twins more than a decade ago.

Tuesday, with Ryan in charge, the Twins front office felt more familiar than altered.

"I think one of the things I was proudest of, when I did this job, was that people around baseball used to say, 'Man, we'd like to do things the way the Twins do them,'" Ryan said. "People knew we didn't take short cuts. We were competitive for a long time, and then I suffered right along with Billy with what we went through last year.

"That's probably as good as you can hope, that you're in the race every year, and we were for about 10 years. That's what we need to get back to."

Jim Souhan can be heard Sundays from 10 a.m. to noon and weekdays at 2 p.m. on 1500ESPN. His Twitter name is Souhanstrib. • jsouhan@startribune.com

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Toronto - WP: D. Hutchison 2
Detroit - LP: M. Scherzer 3 FINAL
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St. Louis - LP: J. Masterson 1
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Milwaukee 0 Top 8th Inning
San Francisco 3
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LA Angels 2
Washington 3 Bottom 8th Inning
Seattle 0
Green Bay 9/4/14 7:30 PM
Seattle
BYU 35 FINAL
Connecticut 10
(6) Jacksonville St 7 FINAL
(8) Michigan State 45
Bowling Green 31 FINAL
Western Ky 59
TX-San Antonio 27 FINAL
Houston 7
Colorado State 31 FINAL
Colorado 17
UNLV 13 FINAL
Arizona 58
Penn State 26 FINAL
UCF 24
Troy 10 FINAL
UAB 48
(7) UCLA 28 FINAL
Virginia 20
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Purdue 43
(5) Ohio State 34 FINAL
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Appalachian St 14 FINAL
Michigan 52
Ga Southern 23 FINAL
NC State 24
Boston College 30 FINAL
Massachusetts 7
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(2) Alabama 33
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(17) Notre Dame 48
(10) South Dakota St 18 FINAL
(24) Missouri 38
Fla Atlantic 7 FINAL
(22) Nebraska 55
California 31 FINAL
Northwestern 24
Marshall 42 FINAL
Miami-Ohio 27
UC Davis 0 FINAL
(11) Stanford 45
Arkansas 21 FINAL
(6) Auburn 45
(16) Clemson 21 FINAL
(12) Georgia 45
Liberty 29 FINAL
(23) North Carolina 56
Ohio U 17 FINAL
Kent State 14
Louisiana Tech 16 FINAL
(4) Oklahoma 48
Stephen F Austin 16 FINAL
(20) Kansas State 55
Fresno State 13 FINAL
(15) USC 52
Southern Miss 0 FINAL
Miss State 49
Texas-El Paso 31 FINAL
New Mexico 24
North Texas 7 FINAL
Texas 38
(1) Florida State 37 4th Qtr 1:55
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(14) Wisconsin 24 3rd Qtr 7:41
(13) LSU 10
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Florida 0
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(3) Oregon 21
(25) Washington 14 2nd Qtr 11:19
Hawaii 10
Utah State 8/31/14 6:00 PM
Tennessee
SMU 8/31/14 6:30 PM
(10) Baylor
Miami-Florida 9/1/14 7:00 PM
Louisville
Arizona 9/4/14 7:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Pittsburgh 9/5/14 6:00 PM
Boston College
Washington St 9/5/14 9:30 PM
Nevada
SMU 9/6/14 11:00 AM
North Texas
Fla Atlantic 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(2) Alabama
Buffalo 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Army
(24) Missouri 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Toledo
Arkansas State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Tennessee
(8) McNeese State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(22) Nebraska
Central Mich 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
Akron 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
Western Ill 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(14) Wisconsin
(20) Kansas State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Iowa State
(4) Oklahoma 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Tulsa
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Illinois
SC State 9/6/14 11:30 AM
(16) Clemson
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Temple
UAB 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Miss State
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Kent State
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Georgia State
Colorado 9/6/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
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Utah
(1) Eastern Wash 9/6/14 2:00 PM
(25) Washington
(15) USC 9/6/14 2:30 PM
(11) Stanford
Ohio U 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Kentucky
Middle Tennessee 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Minnesota
Northern Ill 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Northwestern
Missouri State 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Ball State 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Iowa
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So Florida
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Florida
Georgia Tech 9/6/14 3:00 PM
Tulane
(18) Ole Miss 9/6/14 3:30 PM
Vanderbilt
Old Dominion 9/6/14 5:00 PM
NC State
(8) Michigan State 9/6/14 5:30 PM
(3) Oregon
(19) Arizona State 9/6/14 6:00 PM
New Mexico
Louisiana Tech 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Louisiana
San Jose St 9/6/14 6:00 PM
(6) Auburn
East Carolina 9/6/14 6:00 PM
(9) So Carolina
Duke 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Troy
Idaho 9/6/14 6:00 PM
ULM
(17) Sam Houston St 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(13) LSU
Michigan 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(17) Notre Dame
Lamar 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(21) Texas A&M
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(10) Baylor
BYU 9/6/14 6:30 PM
Texas
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(23) North Carolina
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(7) UCLA
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Boise State
Air Force 9/6/14 9:15 PM
Wyoming
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Hawaii
Texas Tech 9/6/14 10:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Colorado 0 FINAL
Seattle 1
New England 3 FINAL
Toronto FC 0
Columbus 0 FINAL
Montreal 2
FC Dallas 0 FINAL
Chicago 1
Real Salt Lake 1 2nd Half
San Jose 1
Portland 0 2nd Half
Vancouver FC 0
Ottawa 10 FINAL
Montreal 20
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Saskatchewan
Toronto 9/1/14 12:00 PM
Hamilton
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Ottawa
Calgary 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Edmonton
Hamilton 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Montreal
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Winnipeg
Chicago 70 FINAL
Indiana 77
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