The news is about to become official, if it hasn't already, that Terry Ryan is stepping down from the General Manager spot for the Twins.
This took even the beat writers for the local papers by surprise, which is a little worrying on its own. The Star Trib is reporting this is taking people in the organization by surprise, which is more worrying. Regardless of how this thing was rolled out, it is extremely nerve-wracking because of what Ryan represents, and what the Twins have in front of them.
Ryan is one of the finest GM's in the league, with a thankless job. Balancing the desires of the often close-fisted financial approach of Twins ownership with the need to put a winner out on the field has never been easy. And if the Twins don't win, they don't have one of those nice parks that people will still come to in September just to be outside. The Twins have to be good to get anyone into that damned, can-get-gone-quick-enough Metrodome. Ryan managed to put together a good roster, good enough to win the Central Division year after year after year. He's used a great scouting department, unbelievably savvy trades, and an ability to squeeze just a few extra dollars here and there to do it. Does anyone in the Twins organization have the bag of tricks this guy does? There aren't too many in the MLB who do, so it seems unlikely.
The Twins have a tricky offseason to deal with now, too. Possibly one of their trickiest in recent memory. Sign or trade Torii Hunter? Sign or trade Johan Santana? Can this team, with a payroll right in the $70 million area, actually afford even coming close to signing increasing discontent Santana, with what will most likely be more than a $20m/year deal? How will they sign Maurer, Cuddyer and Mourneau, while still fixing the gaping hole in offense at the 3rd base, left field, and DH spots?
This team, which has always managed to brand itself as a plucky group of overachievers, with help of Used Coffin Salesman Bud Selig, is finishing up its first undeniably disappointing season in recent memory. Ryan has always managed to trade cows for magic beans, and it is very difficult to imagine indeed that someone else can just pick up that formula for winning on a budget.
Good luck, Twins and longtime assistant (new GM) Bill Smith. You are going to need it.