Goatriders of the Apocalypse

Guess the GM

This small market American League GM has had tremendous success in recent years. His team has won three consecutive division titles while spending significantly less than many other teams in baseball. He has found success by building a solid organization from the ground up. Many of the ball players on his team were drafted and cultivated in the club's minor league system. He is now facing the challenge of sustaining that success by trading away higher priced homegrown stars for exciting young prospects.

The GM's name is not Billy Beane. His name is Terry Ryan.

Now, I know I'm not shocking the pants off anyone reading this, but I have been looking at some historical salary data for a project I am working on over at TheCubdom and some of these numbers just kind of jumped out at me.

Despite the fact that he hasn't had a book written about him recently, Terry Ryan is clearly one of the best GM's in baseball. Lets have a look.

Teams making the playoffs in 2002, 2003, and 2004
Team Name Cumulative Payroll Average Payroll/Year LDS Titles LCS Titles WS Titles
Yankees $462,872,347 $154,290,782 2 1 0
Braves $289,896,534 $96,632,178 0 0 0
Twins $149,315,000 $49,771,666 1 0 0



Twins vs. A's 2000 - 2005
Year Record Payroll MLB Payroll Rank Playoff Wins
Twins A's Twins A's Twins A's Twins A's
2004 87-75 86-76 $53,585,000 $59,425,667 19th 16th L LDS, 1 win DOA
2003 85-77 94-68 $55,505,000 $50,260,834 18th 23rd L LDS, 1 win L LDS, 2 wins
2002 86-75 96-66 $40,225,000 $40,004,167 26th 27th L LCS, 4 wins L LDS, 2 wins
2001 85-77 104-58 $24,130,000 $33,810,750 30th 29th DOA L LDS, 2 Wins
2000 69-93 91-70 $15,654,500 $32,121,833 30th 25th DOA L LDS, 2 Wins

gavin

Very interesting indeed.

I can't wait for one of these teams to succeed mightily in the playoffs against King George or King John. Of course, Joe Morgan won't shut up, but I've been ignoring him anyway.

Bob

The Twins, the Official Second Favorite Team of the Sloth

James

I think Terry Ryan has done for the most part a fantastic job keeping the Twins afloat, but we're talking about the same market that has won World Series in the last two decades, and his teams haven't advanced past the first round of the playoffs. In fact, his teams wouldn't have even made the playoffs before the AL went to three divisions.

I'm unsure of some of his moves lately, most notably losing David Ortiz for nothing and signing Juan Castro to a two-year contract worth more than a million dollars when they had superior options already on their roster... also remember Matt Lawton, who was their best hitter at the time, for Rick Reed. That one still puzzles me to this day, though I'm not sure it was Ryan's doing.

How about allocating most of his DH at-bats last year to Jose Offerman when he could have been finding out what Michael Restovich (who is out of options this year) and Michael Cuddyer or Terry Tiffee (their third-base candidates this year) had to offer.

Before we start lumping him in with Billy Beane (who's had to trade his two best pitchers for whatever he could get, while Ryan got to resign his to lucrative contracts), when Beane "loses" players it's because he's forced to by management... I'm not sure Ryan operates under those constraints anymore.

Pestilence

Wow James, I don't know where to start. Lets see here.

"but we're talking about the same market that has won World Series in the last two decades"

Minnesota WS -> 1987 W, 1991 W
Oakland WS -> 1988 L, 1989 W, 1990 L

So, I would argue that both franchises have been historically capable of winning, or at least making the World Series. (However, to argue that market differences in the early '90s are even remotely comparable to now is difficult to accept.)

"his teams haven't advanced past the first round of the playoffs"

His team has advanced past the first round (2002 LCS), which Billy Beane's teams have not.

"In fact, his teams wouldn't have even made the playoffs before the AL went to three divisions"

Neither would the 1996 World Champion New York Yankees,
Neither would the 1997 World Champion Florida Marlins,
Neither would the 2000 World Champion New York Yankees,
Neither would the 2001 World Champion Arizona Diamondbacks
Neither would the 2002 World Champion Anaheim Angels
Neither would the 2003 World Champion Florida Marlins
Neither would the 2004 World Champion Boston Red Sox

"Before we start lumping him in with Billy Beane (who's had to trade his two best pitchers for whatever he could get, while Ryan got to resign his to lucrative contracts), when Beane "loses" players it's because he's forced to by management... I'm not sure Ryan operates under those constraints anymore."

I'm sure Terry Ryan wanted to let Eddie Guardado, LaTroy Hawkins, and Eric Milton go. It couldn't have been that their contracts got too large.

Twins 2004 Salary: $53.6 M
Athletics 2004 Salary: $59.4 M

James, I respectfully disagree. I think Beane has been set up on a pedestal because of the book. Beane is a fantastic GM, but so is Ryan.

James

...and I'm damn sure he wanted to let Eric Milton, LaTroy Hawkins and Eddie Guardado go for the same reason I'm sure he wanted to let A.J. Pierzynski go. He had better players available and he got a lot of value in return (in the case of Pierzynski and Milton). Are any of the teams who have those players above better off? I commend Terry Ryan for that. But Billy Beane has to trade guys like that on a regular basis for little or no help to his major league roster AND let his Santanas and Radkes walk.

You're not being very fair to Billy Beane here. He is the reason the A's have stayed afloat since he took over. Looking at your handy-dandy chart (which I would have caught my playoff faux pas had I waded through the weird orange color to see), you can see that the A's have won more games than Ryan's Twins (does that sound like the name of a Soap Opera or what?) four of the last five years, with the only exception being last year when he missed six starts from Tim Hudson and Mark Mulder and Barry Zito had down years... and in all of those years Billy Beane has had to play in a division with record-setting teams and world series champions.. and the Texas Rangers of course. But the AL Central is full of Texas Rangers.

You can say he's helped stave off contraction. You can say he's better than Allan Baird, Ken Williams, Mark Shapiro and the rest of the hacks running AL Central teams. You can say he's made some significant progress in turning his team into a perennial contender with Pohlad opening up the purse strings and some shrewd moves (letting Milton, Guardado, Hawkins, Guzman, Koskie, Pierzynski... but not Ortiz, go), but that's all I'm willing to say.

Beane has done a lot more with having lost a lot more... The Twins haven't had to firesale someone since Chuck Knoblauch, and I'm not sure that applies anymore.

...and I haven't read Moneyball yet, though I probably should get around to it, so please don't lump me in with that crowd. I've been singing his praises long before Michael Lewis found out that Scott Hatteberg and Steve Swisher were the secrets to his success.

James

I meant Nick Swisher, of course. The next two years will either make or break Beane, with guys like Swisher and Blanton and now Harden, Haren and Meyer. He'll either be a god or he'll be exposed as a right-time, right-place guy. On the other hand, Ryan has set that team up for long-term success... against the AL Central. His teams still aren't good enough to get to the World Series, but if he can avoid any further cost-cutting talent losses (i.e. having to trade Justin Morneau or Joe Nathan) and solidify the rotation behind Santana and Radke, he'll have a good chance of getting there.

They're really two schools of thought. The Twins right now are the kings of reallocating funds... look at what they've done with Guardado-Nathan, Guzman-Bartlett, Koskie-Cuddyer, Pierzynski-Mauer... and it doesn't stop there either. They've had an impressive run of offensive talent coming out of their system and they'll probably only regret not getting full value for Dustan Mohr and Michael Restovich. They're going to have to trade Restovich soon... even if they were able to trade Jacque Jones, they still don't have room to play him. None of the above guys are leaving in a fire sale. They're a product of the natural progression of the Twins' offensive talent, which is what's letting them keep Radke and Santana at extroardinary prices for a "small-market" team.

On the other hand, the A's don't sign guys like Juan Castro. They are squeezing every penny out of the guys they have before they have to let them go, and pinching pennies to bring in guys who are undervalued and fit into their system... as well as turning busts like Arthur Rhodes (totally Beane's fault. I still can't figure out what he saw in Rhodes, and he ended up costing him 3B Mark Teahan) and Mark Redman and Ben Grieve into superstars like Johnny Damon and Jason Kendall, while getting integral parts of his team's success like Jim Mecir thrown in.

I haven't seen Terry Ryan have to suffer the indignity of losing MVP players and Cy Young Award winners... and until I see that, I'm not going to put him on the same "pedestal" as Beane.

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