|Bill Smith: Still part of|
the front office, but
not the man in charge.
And it has. This series ran away from me. This will be the 23rd post in the series, and more than half of them were about trades. That explicitly wasn't my intent. As I said in the introductory post, trades are a prominent part of a general manager's job, but there are many other facets. And even the visible part of the trading game -- the trades that are made -- may be dwarfed by the hidden part -- the trades that aren't made.
Smith is not a popular figure with the fans. But after reviewing his tenure, I come away believing that in at least one crucial aspect, the organization improved during his reign.
Smith inherited the job at a time -- after the 2007 season -- when the minor league system was becoming exhausted. The Twins had been drafting in the bottom half for more than five years. They had been unwilling/unable to compete for talent in the hotbeds of foreign baseball, and unwilling/unable to "break slot" for talented players in the draft who fell because of their bonus demands. And with the team continually in contention, the trades of veterans for young talent had largely dried up.
The upper levels provided a few useful pieces early in Smith's reign -- Denard Span, Nick Blackburn -- but the lower levels were relatively barren.
That problem is being felt now. The Twins' Triple A affiliate, Rochester, is coming off back-to-back seasons of more then 90 losses, and it is not graduating impact players to the big club. That failure is rooted in the final years of Terry Ryan's first tenure.
And yet we can see a new foundation rising through the bottom rungs of the organization. Miguel Sano. Eddie Rosario. Oswaldo Arcia. Levi Michael. Kyle Gibson is more advanced, and sidelined by injury, but he fits the pattern too -- he fell in the draft, the Twins took him and went over slot to get him signed.
Player development is like an aircraft carrier; it doesn't turn on a dime. But if/when the Twins infield consists of Rosario at second, Sano at third and Michael at short, it should be remembered that Smith was the man at the helm when they came on board.
And, to be sure, that Ryan was back in charge when they were turned from prospects to players. Reading between the lines, it appears that Ryan is more effective than Smith at setting and enforcing standards.