Monday, November 07, 2011

Twins Dismiss GM Bill Smith

After using this space for a couple negative posts about the now-former Twins GM, I finally post about what I believe is a sensible move made by Bill Smith. He gets fired three days later.

On the most basic level, this move can't be described as shocking. With all due respect to the Red Sox and Braves, the Twins were 2011's most disappointing team. Harboring playoff hopes in spring training, they lost 99 games. When a team has a 31-game dropoff, management has to be seen as accountable, right? However, most of the narrative regarding the Twins' season seemed to revolve around the injury problems to Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau, while ignoring the dreadful trade history that led them to be so dependent on those two. Even the senseless dump of Delmon Young didn't seem to get much attention, even when Young was hitting home runs for a division rival in the playoffs. Long story short - while there were a lot of reasons to be blaming Bill Smith for the the terrible season the Twins were having, it didn't seem like many of the major news outlets were. 

Perhaps that's because the idea of the Twins firing their GM never occurred to anyone. If that's the case it's for good reason. (If you need to read this sentence twice, that's ok - I didn't believe it either.) The Minnesota Twins had never fired a General Manager before. I repeat. The. Minnesota. Twins. Had. Never. Fired. A. General. Manager. Calvin Griffith was owner and GM when he moved the team to Minnesota from Washington in 1961. He remained in that position until selling the Twins in 1984. Howard Fox was the interim GM until owner Carl Pohlad hired Andy McPhail to the position permanently. McPhail stayed on until 1994, when he resigned to take the Chicago Cubs job. Terry Ryan was hired to replace him, and Ryan stayed until 2007, when he resigned, citing burnout. So Bill Smith is the first Minnesota Twins GM to ever be fired. Ever the model of stability, Twins ownership has handed the reins back to Terry Ryan, at least on an interim basis.

While Smith had garnered great accolades as a talent evaluator before taking the GM job, his inability to properly assess value seems to have been his undoing. His failure wasn't necessarily trading the wrong players, just that he always seemed to trade players at the point when their value had cratered. Assessing the skill of a player is different from assessing the value of a player, and for all the renown Smith garnered in the Twins organization for the former, he never did seem to get a handle on the latter.

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