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Twins' season culminating with GM's departure

9/14/2007 - Minnesota Twins

MINNEAPOLIS -- Terry Ryan became one of baseball's most
revered general managers this decade by doing more with less. He
didn't wear a uniform, but he was a major player in Minnesota's recent success.

The demands of the job began to bother him, though, and Ryan
became ready for a different role. After 13 years as GM of the
Twins, which included four postseason appearances, Ryan announced
his resignation Thursday -- effective at the end of the month.

Assistant general manager Bill Smith will replace him, and Ryan
will be his senior adviser.

"He's one of the best administrators in the game," a rival GM told ESPN The Magazine's Buster Olney of Smith. "I don't know what kind of evaluator he is, but he is one solid individual, one of the best executives. He'll rely on his people."

The 53-year-old Ryan, who said he's as "healthy as a horse,''
built a reputation as one of the game's most savvy executives for
putting a winning team on the field with a modest amount of money
for player salaries.

"I felt a lot of elation when we won and sorrow when we lost,''
Ryan said at a news conference to discuss the reorganized front
office. "Now all of a sudden, the defeats are getting a little
harder to take, and the wins aren't as much fun. That's not a good
thing to experience as a general manager.''

The Twins won the American League Central last season for the
fourth time in five years, but they're two games under .500 this
season and well out of the playoff chase.

"If we won 100 games this year or lost 100 games, this was
going to happen,'' Ryan said.

At the beginning of this season, the Twins
were 19th in the majors with a payroll of about $71 million. The
New York Yankees were tops with more than $195 million.

"I've always been on his side. For what he has and the
limitations he has with payroll, he's done a great job,'' All-Star
center fielder Torii Hunter said. "You give this guy a Yankee
payroll, and I promise you he will do 10 times better than any GM
out there.''

Always stoic and close-to-the-vest, Ryan choked up at the end of
a long list of thank-yous when he mentioned his wife, Karilyn; his
19-year-old son, Tim; and his 16-year-old daughter, Kathleen.

After composing himself, Ryan looked at 92-year-old owner Carl
Pohlad -- whose tight budget has drawn plenty of ire from fans and
analysts -- and praised him for his loyalty. Though it always
appeared Ryan could have created a stronger roster with a few more
dollars to work with, he was steadfast in his support for team
ownership.

"You're a good man. You take all the bullets in this
organization, but you never get any of the accolades,'' Ryan told
Pohlad.

Hunter will be a free agent in the fall, and two-time AL Cy
Young Award winner Johan Santana's contract expires after the 2008
season. The Twins don't move into their new ballpark until 2010,
and Pohlad's son, Jim, said the family won't go much higher than
the general guideline of spending 50 percent of team revenue on
player salaries.

"That's what got baseball in trouble during all those years,
those dark days of contraction and all that,'' Jim Pohlad said.

That means the Twins will find it nearly impossible to keep all
their stars while they're still in the Metrodome. First baseman
Justin Morneau, closer Joe Nathan and right fielder Michael Cuddyer
are among the others in line for contract extensions.

Ryan said those issues had nothing to do with his resignation.

"Those decisions are going to be here, whether I'm here or
not,'' Ryan said.

He also said criticism he took at the trade deadline for dealing
second baseman Luis Castillo and not acquiring another hitter for a
sagging offense was irrelevant to his choice.

"Any general manager in a chair has better be prepared to have
some things written and said about you that aren't very
complimentary,'' Ryan said.

Ryan took over for Andy MacPhail at the end of the 1994 season,
and it wasn't until the 2001 turnaround when the Twins ended a
streak of eight straight losing years. But after many mistakes
early in his tenure, he led the organization's commitment to
drafting and developing players -- a necessity given the payroll
constraint -- and helped form a model franchise that fellow general
managers often marveled at.

When young players were poised for significant raises, Ryan
signed most of the ones he wanted to keep and traded others at the
right time. The greatest heist was his deal with San Francisco that
sent catcher A.J. Pierzynski to the Giants when Joe Mauer was ready
to move behind the plate, bringing Nathan and pitchers Boof Bonser
and Francisco Liriano in return.

More recently, a farm system that annually produces top pitching
prospects has failed to yield players at key positions -- prompting
Ryan to sign relatively inexpensive veterans to fill holes. Most of
them have been busts, like left fielder and designated hitter
Rondell White who is hitting .152 in 92 at-bats this season on his
second one-year contract.

Ryan's background and strength is as a scout, and he'll refocus
on that. Smith, who was promoted to assistant general manager two
days after Ryan started as GM, is better at the administrative
parts of the job. He also, Ryan said, will have more patience with
agents when contract talks heat up.

The Twins have always held a promote-from-within philosophy, so
Smith's appointment was not a surprise.

"This isn't broken,'' he said. "We've got so many positives.''

A native of Wisconsin, Ryan's minor league career with the Twins
was cut short by arm trouble. He was a scout for the New York Mets
until he was hired as Minnesota's scouting director in 1986.

"This is a good thing for me. My health's intact. My marriage
is intact. That's a difficult thing to do in baseball," Ryan said.

There were several dark years, and Ryan's hold on his job was
tenuous until 2001. A group of young players, most
of them scouted and drafted by Ryan's department, came together
that year and set the stage for a successful decade.

The Twins won a weak AL Central in 2002, 2003 and 2004, and in a
suddenly deep, difficult division they made a stunning turnaround
in 2006 from a 25-33 start to finish 96-66 and take their fourth
Central title in the past five years.


"They should name the [new] ballpark after him," the rival GM told Olney.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.