DETROIT – No music played in the Twins clubhouse before their game against the Tigers on Monday. Manager Paul Molitor had just addressed the club about the firing of longtime General Manager Terry Ryan, and the mood just wasn’t right.
“A lot of people are stunned and kind of shocked,” first baseman Joe Mauer said. “We lost a good guy and a good man.”
Ryan and the Twins officially parted ways over the weekend. Owner Jim Pohlad said he previously informed Ryan he was going to be out at the end of the season, and Ryan opted for the process to take place sooner than that. The decision came after the two, during discussions a few weeks ago, disagreed on how to improve the club, according to people with knowledge of those talks.
Assistant GM Rob Antony will take over on an interim basis. As the club searches inside and outside the organization for a replacement, Antony is being thrust into his first trade-deadline period as a general manager.
“I was kind of blindsided by it,” second baseman Brian Dozier said. “I’m just trying to soak it all in right now. Obviously, I’m very, very close with Terry. I hate it, but I understand the business part of it. At the same time, I felt blindsided.”
It’s just the latest development in a season that has gone haywire for a club that was expected to compete for a playoff spot. The Twins began the season 0-9 and the problems just kept coming. Top prospect Byron Buxton had to return to the minors. Pitching coach Neil Allen was arrested under suspicion of drunken driving. Both Glen Perkins and Phil Hughes were lost for the season due to injuries.
Now, as the Twins maintain pace for 100-plus losses, Ryan’s run with the Twins — one that goes back to 1972 — has ended.
Antony and other in-house candidates will be considered, but the club is open to bringing in an outsider for the first time since Andy MacPhail joined the organization in 1986. That could lead to an unprecedented shakeup of the baseball department.
Ryan was the glue that held the department together, holding a staff that preferred to stay with the Twins instead of joining other clubs. Wayne Krivsky left to become Reds general manager from 2006 to ’08 — but he eventually returned to become Ryan’s special assistant in 2012.
Looking outside for a GM, possibly adding to the trend of bringing in younger executives with fresh ideas and strong backgrounds in analytics, could lead to a breakup of the band.
“Who it is and when it is, it certainly could be tough for some of us,” said Mike Radcliff, Twins vice president in charge of player personnel. “That’s a fact. But it’s too early to make any speculation about that.”
Pohlad said that any shakeup will not include Molitor. When Pohlad informed Molitor on Sunday on the decision to fire Ryan, Pohlad also told the manager he wanted him back for 2017, the final year of his three-year deal. It’s a signal Twins ownership was more concerned with what Molitor had to work with rather than how he worked with what he had.
“I was grateful because I want to keep doing this,” Molitor said, “and I want to be part of the solution of our team getting better and finding a way to do some things we haven’t been able to do here for quite a while.”
As he spoke to the team before the game, Molitor pointed out that Ryan had a hand in all of them being there. And then players quietly prepared to face Detroit.
“I wanted to honor him a little bit in terms of what he’s done here and how he’s helped people in that room, including myself,” Molitor said, “and use it as a reminder of just how precious every day around the major leagues can be.”