The Minnesota Twins hope a change in the front office will mean a much better season in 2012.
After four seasons, the team fired general manager Bill Smith. Following a dismal 2011 season of 63 wins and 99 losses, the Twins replaced Smith with his predecessor, Terry Ryan.
Minnesota Twins President Dave St. Peter and owner Jim Pohlad were in a somber mood when making the announcement, Monday, Nov. 7. When the injury-plagued 2011 season sputtered to a close in late September, Pohlad indicated that Smith would stay on as general manager. But at a news conference, Pohlad said it wasn't easy to change his mind so publicly.
"There's no question I said that. And when I said it, I meant it," Pohlad said. "It's hard to sit here now at this table and do what we're doing after having said that. But we did also say at the time we want to get better in 2012, and we're going to see what the plan is."
Neither Pohlad nor St. Peter would discuss specifically what led them to the change, but they said it was not in reaction to fans. St. Peter said only that they had philosophical differences with Smith and wanted a different approach to the game.
"I don't think there's a lot of value in getting into the specifics. We have a lot of discussions about a lot of different things that impact the organization," St. Peter said. "I'm going to leave those discussions between Jim and Bill and myself."
Compounding the Twins' difficult season was that it was also their most expensive, with a payroll of about $115 million. The team also hit a streak of bad luck with key players, such as catcher Joe Mauer, getting hurt and spending time on the disabled list.
Team management opted for a known quantity in Ryan. He spent 13 years as Twins general manager beginning in 1994. In 2007, Ryan resigned. By his own admission, he was burnt out. Now, Ryan says he's ready to take back the reins.
"I didn't want Bill Smith's job. He knows it, and it just happened. I don't like the way it happened," Ryan said. "But unfortunately here we are, and I'm willing to take this on. And I think I can do the job for this organization. I know I certainly have enough experience."
During his previous stint as GM, Ryan was credited with helping the team win four AL Central titles. He didn't offer a specific plan to make 2012 a winning season, but he said all aspects of the Twins' game need improvement. He also plans discussions with the team's medical staff about the lengthy recovery time some injured players endured before they were back on the field.
Smith took the Twins to two American League Central Division titles, and the organization said they're talking with him about staying on in a different role. However. Smith told ESPN Radio that he's not sure what he'll be doing next.
(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)