Getting to Know TERRY RYAN
The Twins GM Discusses a Variety of Subjects
There simply aren't too many people like Twins General Manager
Terry Ryan in professional sports today. While many GMs prefer smooth talk and evasive answers, Ryan is straight to the point
and completely sincere. He takes time to answer each question carefully, it doesn't matter if it's a reporter from ESPN or
a fan he meets at a restaurant - Terry Ryan gives everyone equal attention. I caught up with the architect of the Twins at
"Twinsfest" in early February.
Ryan's Twins are coming off one of the most hectic off seasons in history. First their
long time manager, Tom Kelly, retired and then the well documented contraction fiasco unfolded which caused the team to spend
months in limbo. Through it all Terry Ryan remains focused, "It's been awkward to say the least," he said, "there are a lot
of things that are going on in this organization this winter that are awkward, but it's also gratifying to see people come
out to Twinsfest - we anticipate having a good ball club this year. It (all the rumors, etc.) made the winter go a lot quicker
than maybe it had a right to go. If we stay healthy this team is going to be pretty decent."
At the time the time
the contraction plans were announced, Ryan was caught completely off guard. "I went through the whole month of October talking
to managerial candidates and contraction never came up," he commented. "All of the sudden we got to November 6th, and the
issue was right at hand. It really did blind side us, and it is very disappointing frankly because we had a lot of positive
things coming into the off season. We were looking for a new manager at that time - we had enough to deal without contraction,
it wasn't an issue I particularly wanted to address. Between the stadium, ownership, and contraction there are a lot of this
going on this winter that you would just as soon do without."
Since the Twins' low payroll severely limits their ability
to compete in the free agent market, Ryan has been committed to building from within. "The organization likes to promote from
within - and the good clubs do that. They make good evaluations and personnel decisions and you end up supplementing it with
some free agents and trades," he said. "I am very proud of the fact that most of the players on this ball club are promoted
and home grown. Between (Brad) Radke, (Eddie) Guardado, (Denny) Hocking, (Corey) Koskie, and (Doug) Mientkiewicz - they are
people that we have drafted, promoted, and developed - a lot of people respect the Twins just for that fact, that we seem
to develop our own."
"The main thing about bringing up your own (is that) you have to have a good scouting department,
you have to have good minor league development," Ryan went on to say. "But then when you do get them up here and they do produce,
you've got to keep them. We don't want to be designated as a minor league club for the other major league franchises. It's
one of those situations - when you have a Radke or a Knoblauch, a Puckett or a Hrbek - when they become experienced enough
to become a free agent, our owner has shown the where-with-all to at least step up and sign them. We are happy about that
Ryan seems very eager to put all of the distractions behind him and get on with the game. He is focused
and expects the same from his team. "One thing that we can't afford to do is worry about the outside influences," he said,
"we need to worry about playing the game and getting prepared. That's part of my job and the manager's job to make sure that
we focus on the game. When we get to spring training we're going to leave contraction and labor (issues) behind us. We do
have a good club now and we're experienced enough now to overcome some of these things that maybe a younger club wouldn't.
So I am optimistic that this team can compete next year."
While there are several factors
that must take place for a team to win consistently, Ryan pointed out two players that he is looking to see more production
from in 2002. "I hope that we can keep David Ortiz healthy enough that we can get him 600 plate appearances," he explained.
"Another guy that I would like to see bounce back a little bit, not that he had a bad year, but he can do a lot better is
Jacque Jones. He certainly has got a high ceiling. He's got to get a little better versus left handed pitching, but he's a
very good defensive player. I would say Ortiz and Jones certainly could help our cause here."
After years of developing
players and losing games, Terry Ryan's hard work finally began to pay off in 2001. Although he has always been shackled by
payroll constraints, Ryan has never been one to make excuses. He had his philosophy of building from within, and stayed the
course despite criticism from many impatient observers. Today the Twins roster is stocked with promising young players, and
their farm systems ranks among baseball's best. The future in Minnesota looks bright, but only if the commissioner's office
can stay out of the way.
Simply Baseball Notebook
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