Driven for success
Hard work puts Twins general manager in a league of his own
By Dave Campbell
On a recent sleepy Florida Sunday, Terry Ryan sat behind the receptionist's desk in the lobby of Minnesota's modest spring training offices and talked about the team he has helped craft into a three-time division winner.
The phone rang, interrupting the conversation with a visitor, and Ryan picked up.
"Minnesota Twins ...
"I'm going to have to transfer you ...
"What do you need ...
"Well, who do you want to talk to ...
"Well, this IS Terry Ryan ...
The caller was surely startled, since the switchboard number for most major league teams doesn't bring a direct line to the general manager. Ryan, of course, doesn't regularly answer phones for the Twins, but he's known for his willingness to lend hard work to just about any area of the franchise.
"Terry spends more time in the minor leagues in his organization than probably any other general manager -- probably than any other two general managers," said Chicago Cubs president Andy MacPhail, whose departure from Minnesota in 1994 allowed Ryan to replace him as the Twins' GM.
"He leads by example. It's hard for people in the organization to put in a day of work when the general manager is putting in a day-and-a-half."
Deferring the credit
Ryan is hesitant to accept accolades, preferring to make sure everyone else around him is properly recognized for their talent and hard work. Thanks to a hardworking front office and a rich farm system, Twins have been a contender since the century turned. Baseball America magazine named Minnesota the Organization of the Year and Ryan its Executive of the Year last winter.
The New York Yankees are paying their players a total of more than $200 million this season, but the Twins -- who came close to beating them in the first round of last year's playoffs -- have never had a payroll surpass the $60 million mark.
"Terry Ryan doesn't have the money," center fielder Torii Hunter said. "He has to kind of spread it out and work with it."
Given the Twins' annual payroll constraints, there could be potential for tension between the front office and field staff as popular players are let go for financial reasons.
But that's not the case here.
"He trusts me that I'm doing my job down here and getting them ready as best I can, and I definitely trust the way he's going to handle situations," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He's not going to ever probably step out of his boundaries and do something rash for this organization. That's just not like him."
Ryan has a few regrets -- contract negotiations that could've been handled better, players who shouldn't have been signed, players he shouldn't have traded for. He's not shy about admitting there have been more losing seasons (six) than winning seasons (four) under his watch, either.
"Our success didn't come until about seven years down the road," said Ryan. "That's a heck of a learning curve."