MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The Minnesota Twins fired general manager Bill Smith on Monday and returned Terry Ryan to the role on an interim basis.

Smith was Ryan’s top assistant when he stepped down four years ago, citing burnout.

Ryan served as GM from 1994-07. His moves helped turn the Twins from one of the worst teams in baseball in the mid-90s to one of the best the next decade. They won four division titles over Ryan’s last five full seasons.

Smith’s decisions haven’t turned out as well, trading Johan Santana, Matt Garza, J.J. Hardy and Delmon Young for little production in return.

“No one in the Twins’ organization wants to win any more than Bill,” Twins owner Jim Pohlad said in a statement. “He is unquestionably loyal, committed and talented. The Twins’ goal is to get better in 2012 and beyond. Bill was equally motivated to achieve that goal, but we differed in the scope and approach that was required.”

Pohlad added that the Twins will speak with Smith about “an ongoing role within the organization.” Smith has been with the club since 1986.

The Twins were AL Central champions under his watch in 2009 and 2010, with Ryan, assistant general manager Rob Antony and director of player personnel Mike Radcliff also serving as key officials around Smith.

But this season was a 99-loss mess. Injuries didn’t help, but the most expensive team in Twins history — an opening-day payroll of more than $112 million — prompted Pohlad and the rest of the front office to take a hard look at an organization that was frequently lauded as one of the finest in the game over the past decade for making the most out of a medium-range payroll.

Smith acknowledged when he took the job he’s been more of an administrator and operations-type guy who didn’t play the game or scout it like Ryan did. He worked heavily with the team’s development academies in Venezuela and the Dominican Republic, and he played a large role in the plans to design Target Field, which opened in 2010.

Smith, in a statement distributed by the Twins, called his time with the team “the greatest professional privilege I could have ever imagined” and thanked everyone from the Pohlad family to the athletic trainers for their working relationship.

“It gives me great pleasure to hand this baton back to the best baseball man I have ever known, Terry Ryan,” Smith said.

In addition to the usual general manager duties, the Twins said Ryan will be responsible for succession planning within the baseball department “to identify future leadership candidates.” The 58-year-old Ryan, who pitched in the Twins’ minor league system, joined the organization as the scouting director in 1986 and has been here since. He served as a special assistant since resigning from the GM role.

The Twins scheduled a news conference for later Monday with Ryan and team president Dave St. Peter.

“As we move ahead, I’m looking forward to the challenge of improving this club for 2012 and beyond,” Ryan said in a statement. “We have many assets in place including a strong front office, manager, coaching staff and returning core of players. We have a lot of work to do in relation to development of our roster, but I’m optimistic in our collective abilities to ensure the future on-field success of this franchise.”

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Comments (14)
  1. Johnny Rain Cloud says:

    This is the best news for the Twins! Bill Smith was a horrible GM!

    1. Giffy Pop says:

      Now get rid of gardenhoser and the owners and you might be able to build something.

  2. j speedbag 64 says:

    didn’t think they had the nuts to make a move like this,now lets get back to winning with terry ryan again,this is good news now get rid of joe vavra

    1. Jack Noff says:

      ok speedbump.

  3. Next! says:

    What are we waiting for? Time for gardenhoser to go too. Cantankerous buzzard.

  4. Mayhem says:

    yaaaaaaaaaa…..more division titles!!!!

    whoot whoot!!!!!!!!!!!

  5. J.J. Bugs says:

    Here’s a timeline of terrible moves made by Bill Smith. Welcome back Terry Ryan! http://bit.ly/uA97EG

  6. Murph says:

    With the first pick in 2012 mlb draft : The Twins take catcher Mark Zunino!

  7. Peter says:

    You can’t list Delmon Young and Matt Garza as bad trades when we traded Garza for Delmon Young. That makes no sense. The Garza deal was bad, Delmon Young is worthless and happened have one decent year and then went back to his old way this years. The sucky part is that Smith was willing to spend more money, now we are back to the cheap ways of the past where we signed guys like Ruben Sierra,Jose Offerman and Brett Boone 20 years after their prime. The Johan Santana trade was pretty much a wash because he hasn’t done anything special for the Mets since leaving Minnesota. J.J Hardy was garbage. Bill Smith is just the scape goat for a much deeper issue, lack of health and bad coaching. Gardenhire is not a manager. He makes some of the worst in game decisions I have ever seen. We don’t need a new GM, we need a new coach, and new owners for that matter.

  8. Mitch says:

    Thanks to the Polad’s for “pulling the right trigger” & bringing Terry Ryan back as GM……now it’s time to get excited again !!!!!! GREAT NEWS !!

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