When the Twins announced the firing of Bill Smith, the reason given was philosophical differences, that great catch-all phrase similar to “wanting to spend more time with the family” as a reason for resignations.
During this off-season one of the on-going themes will be trying to discern just what philosophical differences there might actually be between Smith and Ryan. Each statement or action of Terry Ryan will be more fodder for the feeding frenzy of the bloggers and other sports journalists.
One thread of evidence that has been present more than once in Ryan’s comments is the idea of the need for better communication. In one respect, that by itself may be the primary philosophical difference. Apparently Smith was not good at nor terribly interested in open communication. Already there are stories of efforts made by Ryan to communicate more.
Based on what we have seen so far, Ryan is likely to be more clear about his expectations with everyone than Smith was. There are reports he already has told Gardenhire and the coaches, the players and their agents, and the staff including the medical and training staff exactly what he expects.
A few comments by Gardenhire last season now have more meaning. He referred to having to communicate with injured players, particularly pre-spring training but also when they were on the disabled list, by having to go through the player’s agent. My guess is that will not happen this year.
More evidence: Ryan made direct contact with each of the players who became free agents after the 2011 season. No doubt he (or his surrogate) is in contact with the agents as well, but it is significant that Ryan is making direct contact with players.
As I said in my last post, my memory may be less than stellar, but it does appear to me that Ryan is being more up front with the media on what he intends to accomplish this off-season than Smith was in previous years. Just today in his comments about Joe Nathan’s signing with the Rangers, he was pretty clear about his intent to look to the free agent market or trade to find a closer for 2012. Many Twins fans had anticipated Glen Perkins would get a shot at earning the closer spot, but that seems to be unlikely based on Ryan’s comments.
Don’t look for the Twins to suddenly be an open book at the front office level. They will continue to play it very close to the vest as they have done in the past. Evidence for that is how cautious Ryan was in talking about the Jamey Carroll signing until after the physical was completed. The same is the case on the agreement with Ryan Doumit, who all media outlets have said is coming to the Twins, but no public announcement has been made and will not be made until he passes the physical and the contract is signed.
The one significant bit of information that we all would like more specificity on is whether or not Ryan sees 2012 as a year to compete for a division championship, a rebuilding year, or something in between. So far, he seems to be approaching the year as not quite full rebuild mode, but also not an all in-win strategy.
So, for now at least, I’m concluding that communication style and strategies are the primary philosophical differences. Others may become more apparent as the off-season progresses.