There's a saying that goes something like, "No one knows you're clueless until you open your mouth and remove all doubt." On July 18, 2016 the Minnesota Twins fired long time General Manager Terry Ryan. It was a much needed move, and one that could have been made a long time ago. But then Jim Pohlad spoke, and so did Dave St. Peter.
Pohlad is the owner of the Minnesota Twins. He's one of the most disconnected, at least based on appearances, in the world of sports. On May 6, 2016. he was featured in the Star Tribune by columnist Chip Scoggins for calling the entirety of the organization a "Total System Failure." The problem is, he wasn't wrong, but he still appears to not have much of an idea what that actually means.
That whole opening your mouth and removing doubt bit, it couldn't have been more on display than when Pohlad explained his baseball understanding of other front offices around the big leagues. When asked if he had studied or looked at what other teams are doing in setting up their organization structures and the success of them, he muttered, "Yes I have. I’ve gone through all the media guides and looked at titles and structures and the emerging trends of president of baseball operations or whatever. Yes, I’ve studied that.” Sorry Jim, but you'll probably want to do a bit better than perusing some media guides to have any clue about the effectiveness of organization you currently oversee.
In his press conference following the firing of Terry Ryan, Pohlad didn't offer just one head scratching comment though. He talked of his desire to promote from within, how that's something he and the Twins have always felt good about doing. It's a direct contradiction to the "Total System Failure" comments, and it's tone deaf to the reality that Rob Antony, St. Peter, and even Pohlad himself are all part of the problem that has the Twins where they are.
At this point, the Twins have taken a massive baby step. While that's seemingly an oxymoron, it adequately describes what's currently going on. Firing a GM that has long underperformed is indicative of Minnesota coming to grips with a change that was long overdue. Ryan wasn't allowed to simply bow out (even though he was given a month to craft his exit), but instead was fired. A message was sent that the Twins do have a slight shred of accountability left within the organization.
That's where the other part of the narrative comes into play however, the change can't end there. Simply hiring from within, rather than using the opportunity to make sweeping changes, would be a catastrophic missuse of the massive part of this equation. If making the initial move was the baby step, it is in the follow up that the future direction and turnaround of the Twins lies.
Following the push forward, the Twins may have already slipped up once, and they simply can't afford to do it again.
With both Pohlad and St. Peter handcuffing their future GM to current manager Paul Molitor, the Twins have failed to get out of their own way from the start. It may not hamper the quality of the final candidate, but it sure stacks the deck against them from the onset. Molitor doesn't have the equity in the managerial game to be given the safety net that he has now, and his 2016 season has all but wiped away any semblance of in game acumen that was displayed a year ago.
Right now, the organizational structure for the Twins is headlined by an out-of-touch owner and a haughty President. Both Pohlad and St. Peter are more a part of the problem than they will ever signify the solution. As they work to right the ship, owning that, and ceasing a trickle down effect is going to need to be part of the process.
For the first time since the early 90's, Minnesota has a chance to make an organizational shift that leverages a strong system begging to win. A missed opportunity could be catastrophic, and as we've seen before, there's no telling how long the organization may need to wait to get it right.