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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.”
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