Smith Succeeds Ryan as Twins General Manager
Thursday, September 13, 2007

The Minnesota Twins on September 13 announced a reorganization of the team’s baseball operations highlighted by the promotion of Bill Smith to the position of general manager and the decision of Terry Ryan to step down from that role to the lesser one of senior advisor to the general manager.

In addition, the Twins promoted Mike Radcliff to vice president of player personnel, Rob Antony to assistant general manager, Deron Johnson to scouting director, and Brad Steil to director of baseball operations.

On the field, the Twins responded to the announcement of the departure of Ryan as their general manager by dropping three consecutive games to the Detroit Tigers at the Metrodome.

“I am stepping down,” Ryan said last Thursday, “as the general manager knowing full well that we are in good hands for the immediate and long-term future of this organization. We have capable talented people that will lead us into a new ballpark and give us a chance to return to post-season baseball next season and in many years to follow. Thank you to everyone for a wonderful 13 years as the general manager of a very proud franchise. Through good times and bad, we never wavered on how we went about our business. We tried to do it the right way.”

Twins president Dave St. Peter indicated that during his 13-year run, Ryan was “the best general manager in the game,” displaying “class, integrity, and accessibility.”

Ryan indicated that the unspectacular 2007 season was wearing on him. “The defeats were getting tough to take.” He admitted that he “wasn’t having much fun” at work. He recalled a

“couple of instances” when he lost his temper with media members. “I didn’t like that. I had to get out.” Overall, he noted that “it’s been a good ride here.”

Ryan said he will not miss dealing with player agents. “I am sure the agents are pleased to see me go.”

Bill Smith, a member of the Minnesota organization since 1986, becomes the fifth general manager in Twins history, if one includes team owner Calvin Griffith. The others were Howard Fox, Andy MacPhail, and Ryan.

“I am deeply grateful for being entrusted with this special opportunity,” Smith said. “There is a tremendous foundation in place here thanks to Tom Kelly and Ron Gardenhire, and to my mentors and immediate predecessors, Andy MacPhail and Terry Ryan. We are ready to seize tremendous opportunities.”

Smith is a graduate of Hamilton College in Clinton, New York. After graduating from Hamilton with a degree in French, Smith became one of the first participants in Major League Baseball’s executive development program.

Smith then began his career in baseball with the White Sox as the GM for the club’s Class A affiliate in Appleton, Wisconsin. He spent a total of five seasons in the White Sox organization before joining the Twins in March 1986, as the assistant director of minor leagues and scouting.

In 1989, Smith was named the director of baseball administration and helped oversee the construction of the Twins’ Spring Training facility in Fort Myers, Fla., over the next two years. He then moved on to his role as an assistant GM, in which he assisted in negotiating contracts and actively participated in the day-to-day operations of the team.

It’s Smith’s tenure in the Twins organization in a variety of positions, along with a renowned work ethic, that Ryan feels makes him “perfect” for his new role. “He’s been ready way, way before now,” Ryan said. “There is not a thing he has not done. If owners [of other major league teams] had come in and talked to him, he’d have blown them away.”

“Everybody, when you get into baseball, aspires to be a general manager,” Smith said. “But over the years, I loved my job with the Twins. I loved working for Terry. I didn’t have any interest in leaving this organization.”

The job of Twins GM is now his, but the task ahead of Smith is not without its challenges. First up is figuring out exactly how the club will approach its numerous contract concerns this off-season. Top priorities might include signing Torii Hunter and Johan Santana. The Twins also still have yet to sign Justin Morneau and Michael Cuddyer to long-term deals.

“We’ve got a lot of big decisions ahead of us, certainly,” Smith said. “Torii Hunter is a big issue, Carlos Silva is a big issue and the rest of our impending free agents. We have got some holes to fill. So we’ll spend the next couple of weeks getting people together and starting to evaluate what’s ahead for us.” Ryan is has been perceived to be leaving Smith in a bit of a difficult situation.

“We’ve got contracts, we’ve got issues and we’ve got free agents,” Ryan said. “But it’s going to be no different in 2009, as it will be in 2008, as it will be in 2007. It has no impact. Obviously, I’d like to have a few of these guys signed. The fact of the matter is, we’re in the baseball industry, and you’re going to have those things crop up every year.”

Having Ryan hang around in the organization should help ease some of the issues as Smith transitions into his new role. Smith acknowledges that taking over for the second-longest tenured GM in the game—especially one that brought as much success to the organization in recent years as Ryan did—won’t be easy.

“They are huge shoes to fill,” Smith said. “But the best news is that he’s not far away when I need help. We’ve got a group of people that are going to bring some fresh ideas, try to maintain the things that we’ve done well and try to improve some of the other things,” Smith said. “We can always get better.”

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