Terry Ryan has served as the Twins general manager for 13 years, but has been with the team's front office for nearly 25 years. During his tenure as GM, the Twins won four American League Central Division titles and he was twice named the Sporting News Executive of the Year.
Ryan will remain with the team in an advisory position. He will not, however, be part of the day-in-day-out work of the front office.
Ryan says his decision to step down was not because of the team's lackluster season this year. Instead he says a few months ago his enthusiasm for the job began to change.
"It started to get to the point where I knew I've got to step aside and let somebody come in -- fresh and new ideas, new spokesman and all that stuff. If we won 100 games or lost 100 games this year, this was going to happen," he said.
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Ryan said his successor, Bill Smith, is a capable replacement. Smith has served under Ryan as the assistant GM for the last 13 years. Ryan says Smith's main strength is as an administrator. The main job of a GM is to hire, fire and trade players, and negotiate player contracts. Ryan says Smith is well suited for that task, too, because he's got a cooler temperament.
"This is a good thing for me. My health's intact. My marriage is intact. That's a difficult thing to do in baseball."
"He'll do a better job with me out of the way," he said. "There's another faction that may glad to see me go: agents. So when I get out of the way... Bill may have a fighting chance."
Two of Smith's biggest challenges will be signing centerfielder Torii Hunter, who becomes a free agent after this season. And two-time Cy Young Award-winning pitcher Johan Santana's contract expires after next season.
Santana's agent, Peter Greenberg says Ryan's departure will likely not affect his talks with the Twins. In fact, Greenberg says he's developed a working relationship with Bill Smith.
"We deal a lot with latin American players in Venezuela," says Greenberg, who also represents Twins pitcher Carlos Silva. "Bill's always been very involved with going to Venezuela and scouting the players personally and overseeing their academy there and they've had a lot of success with that. So we've always crossed paths down in Venezuela and whenever we're down there for spring training we make a point to go see Bill."
Smith says his experience working under Ryan for over a decade will help him. Plus, if he needs it, Ryan's counsel will only be a phone call away. Smith says for the most part, he's going to stick to the personnel model the Twins have followed throughout the organization's history.
"The current major league roster includes 24 players who were originally signed and developed in this organization and that will continue. From Torii Hunter, Michael Cuddyer and Joe Mauer drafted in the first round, to Nick Blackburn in the 29th - Tommy Watkins in the 38th. Success in this organization has always come through scouting and development," Smith said.
The Twins have stuck to their philosophy of hiring from within. They announced several promotions of employees who'd been with the club for many years including the promotion of Rob Antony to assistant general manager. Antony started as an intern in the Twins communications office 20 years ago.