In the summer of 1982, Dave Dombrowski sent Bill Smith to pick up Ken Williams. Today, the three are the general managers of the relevant teams in the AL Central.
In '82, Dombrowski was the assistant general manager of the Chicago White Sox. Bill Smith was the club's assistant director of minor leagues and scouting. Williams, an outfielder from Stanford, was a third-round draft pick.
"I was with the White Sox when we assigned Ken to the Gulf Coast League White Sox," Smith said. "I remember Dave Dombrowski telling me to go pick him up at the airport, and saying, 'Make sure you're there.' I said, 'Or what?' He said, 'If you miss this one ...'"
Today it is the French major from Hamilton College, not the esteemed general manager or flamboyant former player, whose team has claimed first place, and who has presided over the smartest moves in the division during the past 13 months.
Smith has collected closers the way the Timberwolves collect mediocre point guards.
Last summer, he traded Kevin Mulvey for Jon Rauch, who helped the Twins win the division in 2009, and amassed 21 saves as a temporary closer this season.
In the past month, Smith has added two All-Star closers -- Matt Capps and Brian Fuentes. Capps cost the Twins a valued prospect, catcher Wilson Ramos. Fuentes cost about $1.9 million on his pro-rated contract.
Last summer, Smith traded for Carl Pavano, Orlando Cabrera and Ron Mahay. This summer, he's added Randy Flores, Capps and Fuentes, giving the Twins perhaps the deepest bullpen in baseball.
Smith was once known throughout the Twins organization as "Mr. No." Has he become "Dr. What-The-Heck?"
"It's funny, a lot of people say that it's a new operation over here," Smith said as he sat in a suite overlooking Target Field. "It really isn't. The Pohlad family, for 25 years, has asked us to operate responsibly, given the revenues we had coming in. At the other ballpark, we didn't have the revenues to do it. This year, Target Field has been wonderful for everyone.
"Jim Pohlad has continued his father's philosophies. It's not like Jim has come in spending freely. It's just there is more of a pot to work with. We've been able to draw 55 sellouts in a row, and we've been able to generate enough revenues that I think these were easy choices."
Can we conclude that beer sales at Target Field landed Fuentes? "Oh, don't go there," Smith said. "Really, if you go back in time, we kept Puckett, Hrbek, Aguilera, Radke. We did the best we could under those circumstances. We just have more to work with now."
It's fitting that this summer, the White Sox and Twins have remained true to form. The White Sox claimed Manny Ramirez, a big-money, big-name player attached to a question mark (a tradition that includes Roberto Alomar, Carl Everett, Ken Griffey and Jake Peavy), and the Twins claimed another arm.
"You know the old saying, that you can't have too much pitching," Smith said. "It is really exciting to look at that bullpen. From the right side, we've got Capps and Matt Guerrier and Jesse Crain, and from the left side we've got Randy Flores and Fuentes and we're going to get Jose Mijares back.
"If you consider Capps the closer, then it gives us three lefties and three righties to get to the closer."
The French major from Hamilton College is a career-long administrator, not a born-and-bred scout. He relies on the Twins' baseball-operations braintrust -- Terry Ryan, Mike Radcliff, Rob Antony, Vern Followell, and, in Fuentes' case, AL West Division scout Ken Compton. He also relies on manager Ron Gardenhire, pitching coach Rick Anderson and current players for scouting reports and inside information.
Smith doesn't pretend to be a scout. He has done the job the way he promised he would -- by acting as point man for a talented group of talent evaluators.
"I'm the one who has the final say," Smith said. "And that gives you a clear sign that we rely on consensus."
Jim Souhan can be heard at 10-noon Sunday on 1500ESPN. His Twitter name is SouhanStrib. firstname.lastname@example.org