The Twins announced today that GM Bill Smith has been fired effective immediately and that former GM Terry Ryan has taken back the GM role on an interim basis that he had previously served in from 1994 to 2007 . Smith had taken over as the Twins general manager back in 2007 when Terry Ryan had resigned. Since Ryan resigned the GM role in 2007 he has been a special assistant in the Twins executive offices serving primarily in a scouting capacity. Ryan who has been with the Twins for over 28 years has always been in the middle of the action so he should be able to take back the GM role without skipping a beat.
During Smith’s four years as the general manager, the Twins have finished second once, first twice, losing in the first round of the playoffs each time and then came the horrendous last place finish this past season when the wheels came totally off. During Smith’s tenure, the Twins had a 332-318 record and played .511 baseball. According to reports, Bill Smith has been offered another position with the Twins organization but Smith has decided to take some time to think through his situation.
I first heard the news about the Bill Smith firing this afternoon when I started out on my daily walk and I have to admit, I was shocked and my one hour walk gave me time to think and I have more questions than answers. I don’t see the Twins as an organization that makes knee jerk reactions and the wheels of change turn slowly in Twins Territory while second chances are a way of life here in Minnesota. I know that the Twins were just plain terrible this season and they did lose 99 games but still, I did not expect this from the Twins. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that Bill Smith should not have been fired, I am just saying that this has not been how the Twins have operated under the Pohlad flag to this point.
So why is Smith out and Ryan back in? I heard some reports that indicated that the Twins have been working on this change for the last week or so. The Twins I believe stated philosophical differences caused them to make a change. Boy, I would have loved to been a fly on that wall listening to what went on during those meetings.
Now that the Twins aren’t considered small market any longer does Twins ownership have higher expectations? With their 99 losses this season the Twins were just a game away from being only the second team in history to lose 100 games with a $100 million payroll. I think I heard that Twins season ticket renewals are running about 85%, does that play a roll? Or is it simply the fact that the Twins brain trust did not believe in Bill Smith’s long term plans for the team. I heard GM Smith say many times that injuries were the cause of the Twins poor play and maybe Smith was thinking that the only changes the Twins needed to make were minor tweaks and that a healthy 2012 team could once again compete in the AL Central? Or was he going in the other direction thinking that a complete rebuilding process was needed and the rest of the organization didn’t see things his way.
Bill Smith was never able to become the GM that Twins fans had hoped for. Who knows why, he got off to a quick start with his trade with Tampa for Delmon Young but that trade and numerous others just have not panned out in the long run and his handling of potential Twins free agents has been questioned on numerous fronts. Last year he lost most of his bullpen and his handeling of the Joe Mauer injury fiasco this year did not put the Twins in a good light.
I think the Bill Smith firing was not about a single event but a cumulative number of decisions that have finally caused Twins ownership and senior management to say enough is enough and that a change was needed before things really got out of hand. I also believe that this is a “shot across the bow” for manager Gardenhire, his coaching staff and any Twins players that are thinking that they can just sit back and enjoy their past successes. The Twins are a business and if they want to continue to pack Target Field they need to put a winning team on the field, or at least send out a team that shows the fans that they care about winning, something that was often not the case this past season. Here it is only November 7, it looks to me like it will be an exciting off-season in Twinsville this winter.