Thursday, September 13, 2007

The Impact of Terry Ryan

Make no mistake - this is bad. How bad? As bad as losing Torii Hunter or Johan Santana?

I suspect a statistical study could show it is. In fact, I've read just such a study. Several years ago a reader sent me a statistical analysis that compared win totals to payroll. Using regression analysis he derived a formula that turned dollars into wins, and then he compared how teams had performed to how they should have performed given their payroll.

His conclusion? That Ryan was worth about $45M over his time as GM. And that number has undoubtedly increased.

This year Ryan has come under unprecedented criticism, the majority of it misdirected. Critics focus on the number of players that haven't worked out, citing names like Bret Boone or Tony Batista, as if these players were ever anything more than low-cost gambles or role players.

We cannont forget that money is always the biggest consideration and limitation with this franchise. It has to be. That was a truth that Ryan publicly denied but embraced with every trade and minor league promotion. He might have believed promotion from within and a productive farm system was the best way to build a team regardless of payroll restrictions, but it's not like he really had a choice.

So don't kid yourself - this not a good thing.

How bad it is remains to be seen. Ryan was quick to minimize his role and credit others and there is ample evidence that he leaves behind a strong organization. Critics might point to a lack of major league ready hitters, but you can’t ignore the pitching that has been prepared, or the hitters that the engine has already produced. When looking holistically at the organization – the scouting, the farm system, the coaching and the players – the Twins aren’t in a much worse place moving forward then they were two days ago.

And, to be fair, the trade deadline fiasco might have been an indication that the “lack of enthusiasm” that Ryan mentioned numerous times yesterday might have been spilling over into his work. The Twins needed to move decisively in a direction that week, and instead wound up choosing a middle path that looks like the worst possible one.

Finally, all indication are that the Twins have chosen a suitable successor in Bill Smith. Face it – a nationwide search of ex-GMs wasn’t going to turn up an ideal candidate to lead a low-payroll team. Suggestions that Steve Phillips, the former GM of the Mets, would somehow be more credible to lead a team with the Twins payroll constraints than Ryan’s assistant GM are ludicrous. For better or worse, the Twins next GM needed to be a second-in-command from a successful small market team, which means it was either Smith or some guy from the A’s. Why not Smith?

Given his replacement, the organization, and some signs of decline, losing Ryan may not be as bad as losing a big name star. But nobody, not Hunter or Santana or Mauer or Morneau, has had the positive impact on this franchise that Ryan has over the last ten years. That should be his legacy.

And Now For Something Completely Different

You may have noticed I haven't been writing much for the last week, and that's because I wanted to try something I've had in the back of my mind for about 20 years. That's how long I've gotten together with friends to watch sports, which invariably turns into a conversation about sports and life. So last weekend for the Vikes home opener, we set up some mics, recorded it, and this week I've been battling audacity to try and turn it into something listenable. You can find it at:

It's about 15 mintues long and our conversation focuses on lot on Joey Harrington and razor blades, strangely enough. On the one hand, I find it pretty entertaining and funny. On the other hand, it's pretty clear I need a LOT more practice with Audacity, the mixer and the mics we got. Just keep the volume knob on your MP3 player handy. Trust me.

I'd appreciate any feedback you have. I liked doing it, and think it could get a lot better, but it is a lot more work than I thought, and I'm going to need to evaluate just how committed to it I want to be.


Anonymous said...

Well said, John. Ryan made some mistakes, but who among us has not made some mistakes in our own lines of work? Overall, Ryan did an excellent job.

Undoubtedly, Bill Smith will bring his own style of management to the GM position, but I am optimisitic that Ryan has done a good job mentoring him.

Unknown said...

I am curious how much ryan might still be involved. From what I read it sounded like he was going to stay on in some sort of advisory role. Hopefully we can continue to take advantage of some of his insight. Because the way I see it he has been the difference between us and the royals over his tenure.

Unknown said...

Waitwaitwait. Who said that Steve Phillips would be a good GM for the Twins? And is he a White Sox fan? Seriously. The man ruined the Mets, a team with like triple our payroll. WTF, exactly, would the posittives of such a move be?

Jack Ungerleider said...

I'll preface my comment with this: regardless of what people think of Gardy on a daily basis (we all know it changes with what happened in the last game), he still turned out to be a good choice to succeed Tom Kelly. While the styles are different the underlying ideas, "the plan" if you will, is basically the same.

We can hope that this change is along those lines. A change in style, with little change in substance. My hope is that Mr. Ryan goes back to his roots. That he becomes a super scout evaluating amateur talent and other teams prospects to feed the front office with good possibilities during draft preparations and when looking for trading partners.

Kal said...

On the Pod Cast:

Clearly you boys haven't seen this:

- 5 blades
- AAA battery
- a microchip
- ..and it vibrates (micro-pulses)