The firing of Twins GM Terry Ryan on Monday caught many people off-guard — primarily because it just isn’t the kind of thing the organization traditionally has done. While it’s easy to argue the move was justified based on results, it was surprising nonetheless.
As the dust settles and we’ve had a couple of days to digest the impact, though, it’s clear there are a lot of lingering questions. Let’s unpack them here — not in an attempt to provide clear answers, which in most cases is not possible, but more to assess the situation and try to understand it better.
1) Why did Terry Ryan decide that now was the time to do this?
According to Twins owner Jim Pohlad, he decided a month ago that Ryan wasn’t going to be back in 2017 — news he communicated with Ryan, while leaving it up to Ryan as to how he wanted to handle the transition. Ryan neither walked away immediately, nor did he stick it out to the end of the season — instead opting to let the process unfold in the middle of the season, right after the All-Star break, with the trade deadline looming.
The timing struck some as odd, as did the notion that Ryan was allowed to choose his own exit strategy. Without hearing from Ryan, it’s hard to know exactly why he decided now was the time. One guess: he wanted to give his assistants, most notably interim GM Rob Antony, a chance to prove themselves in order to receive consideration for keeping their jobs (or in Antony’s case being promoted to full-time GM).
2) What will interim GM Rob Antony do at the trade deadline?
Ryan had been adamant in recent weeks — even after finding out he was not going to be retained — that the Twins would be active at the nonwaiver trade deadline coming up at the end of July. That’s less than two weeks away, and with plenty of interesting decisions on players like Brian Dozier, Trevor Plouffe and Ervin Santana — solid contributors on a bad team who could fetch decent returns in various trades — Antony is suddenly in the spotlight.
In a recent interview with La Velle E. Neal, Antony shed some light on how he will proceed:
“The only thing I can do is try to do the right things,” he said. “I’m not going to make a radical move or fire somebody to show the owner that I’m willing to do something if it’s not the right thing. It’s not going to be a charade. I’m going to do things the way I would as we move forward.”
3) How much of an impact will owner Jim Pohlad saying manager Paul Molitor is safe for the 2017 season have on the search for a permanent GM?
Columnist Chip Scoggins delved into this question off of Monday’s news, wondering if Pohlad has limited the search already with his assertion that the new GM can replace Molitor “in the future if they want. But for 2017, Paul will be our manager.”
Again, we won’t really know until the process plays out. That said, it’s hard to imagine a top-flight candidate ceding control over who his or her manager will be, even if it’s just for one season. That’s not how the sports world operates — at least not big-time sports.
4) What kind of candidate are the Twins looking for in searching for a permanent hire?
Ryan was known for his scouting-based approach as opposed to a numbers-based approach. Translation: the Twins under Ryan were widely viewed as “old-school,” while other organizations have embraced a management team that is more focused on analytics.
The Twins have used analytics to a degree in the past, but going with a more data-driven approach would be a shift. Will the Twins continue down the same path and either hire from within (with someone like Antony) or a more traditional GM like Kevin Towers … or will they shake things up with a younger, newer-school type of GM? Virtually all of their fans would prefer the latter, but that guarantees nothing.
5) How will we ultimately remember Ryan’s two-part tenure with the Twins?
It’s hard to think about legacy questions just 48 hours after someone has been fired, but it is fair to wonder: will we ultimately remember Ryan for being the architect of the Twins’ success in the 2000s — through shrewd trades and good drafts — or for appearing at times that the game had passed him by after he returned for the 2012 season?
Ultimately, it will probably be a mixed bag. But the lack of playoff success even during the good times combined with just how spectacular the flameout has been in recent years along with the bias that comes from the bad times being the most recent could inform how a lot of fans remember Ryan.