Jim Pohlad sounded like a guy who woke up from a long slumber and discovered that his house is crumbling around him.
The Twins owner fired General Manager Terry Ryan essentially one month after telling me in his infamous “Total System Failure” interview that Ryan has his 100 percent support because he’s “the right guy.”
“Maybe the light should have gone earlier,” Pohlad said Monday.
Remarkably, that wasn’t the strangest admission from Pohlad in a roundtable meeting with reporters at Target Field.
Pohlad said the person he hires to run his baseball operation can consider any and all changes except when it comes to manager Paul Molitor. Apparently, his job is safe no matter what for the 2017 season.
Pohlad told Molitor that in a meeting after Sunday’s game. He said he will tell his next GM or president of baseball operations that same thing during the interview process.
And that makes zero sense. Why hamstring the hiring process by telling a prospective GM that he can’t hire a manager of his choice?
“They can do that in the future if they want,” Pohlad said. “But for 2017, Paul will be our manager.”
Twins President Dave St. Peter interjected at that point.
“We don’t believe it’s going to limit the talent pool,” he said.
Maybe. Maybe not.
The point is, why risk damaging that talent pool with an unnecessary barrier that might create skepticism among candidates about how much control they will have over key personnel decisions?
A new GM might love Molitor and want to retain him. But Molitor hasn’t established himself enough as a manager to warrant an untouchable designation at the beginning of this process.
Whoever replaces Ryan should have the freedom to make changes — any changes — that will help clean up the mess at Target Field. Every option should be on the table.
Pohlad dropped another gem when I asked if he has studied other teams’ organizational structures and how they do things. Here is his response verbatim:
“Yes I have. I’ve gone through all the media guides and looked at titles and structures and the emerging trends of president of baseball operations or whatever. Yes, I’ve studied that.”
That’s like saying watching the movie “Moneyball” gives someone insight into how to run a major league team.
Pohlad admitted his stunning decision to buck the Twins Way and fire Ryan midseason doesn’t come without trepidation. This qualifies as a radical move for an organization that prides itself on status quo and loyalty.
“Well, I’m certainly not cocky about it or overconfident,” Pohlad said. “Yes, I would say nervous.”
Here’s my suggestion to Pohlad: Hire an outside search firm to guide the process and hire someone with no ties to the organization.
Follow the model of their downtown neighbors, the Timberwolves, and bring in an entirely new regime with a fresh perspective.
A good and decent man losing his job should never be cause for celebration, but Ryan’s dismissal gives the Twins an opportunity for change. Real change. A sea change.
Pohlad’s about-face on Ryan should represent Step 1 in a thorough cleansing that results in a brand-new Twins Way.
Pohlad reiterated several times Monday that his organizational preference is to promote from within. Loyalty is an admirable trait, but not at the expense of success.
Wholesale changes are necessary after years of losing with an approach best described as same old, same old.
“That could be an outcome here, but that’s not a prescribed path,” Pohlad said of sweeping changes. “Nor would the person that comes in — wherever they come from — in any way have a mandate to blow up the baseball operation because we don’t see that that needs to happen.”
What needs to happen is an honest self-examination of every component of the baseball operation to determine how to get out of their rut. That’s everything — scouting, development, analytics, coaching, payroll.
Pohlad finally demonstrated organizational accountability in firing Ryan. Allowing interim GM Rob Antony to keep the job beyond the balance of this season — or promoting someone else from within the organization — will be a missed opportunity and greeted harshly by the team’s dwindling fan base.
Pohlad made a bold move Monday. He needs to continue to think that way. Forcing the next general manager to keep his hand-picked field manager is not a good start to the process.
Chip Scoggins firstname.lastname@example.org