Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Further thoughts on the return of Terry Ryan

Terry Ryan reportedly asked for the "interim" tag
on his title, but his superiors are hoping he's back for years.
One of the initial takes Monday on the return of Terry Ryan as the Twins general manager was the sense of 'We're bringing the band back together." Not only is Ryan back atop the baseball hierarchy, but Wayne Krivsky, who had been Ryan's No. 2, is returning to the organization.

It's not precisely the same bunch in the same jobs as a decade ago, when the Twins began a long stretch as the dominant franchise in their division, but it's close.

And the needs and status of the club have changed. Target Field has lifted the Twins to baseball's middle class. Ryan indicated that the 2012 payroll will be around $100 million, which is (a) considerably more than he had to play with in his first go-around as GM and (b) some $15 million less than Bill Smith had for a payroll in 2011.

A whopping chunk of that $100 million is dedicated to Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau, and the Twins have about $82 million already committed. Having $18 million available to fill out the roster almost certainly means Michael Cuddyer, Joe Nathan and Jason Kubel will get more lucrative offers elsewhere. That may prove, in the long haul, to be a blessing, but in the short term it makes the job of improving the team more difficult.

I've said repeatedly that the first key to 2012 is the health of Mauer and Morneau. If the M&M Boys are as unproductive as they were in 2011, nothing else matters. The front office shuffle doesn't change that fact. It may bring change to how conditioning, rehab and treatment are handled.

Smith was publicly protective of the medical staff, at times oddly so, even as projected returns for injured players were consistently erroneous and even as that staff seemed sometimes to go out of its way to make players, Mauer in particular, look bad. Ryan on Monday took note of the problem getting injured players back on the field. Recognizing the problem is the first step in fixing it.

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