Friday, December 2, 2011

Terry Ryan Fan Forum Conference Call Recap

On Thursday evening, the Twins invited season ticket holders, group organizers, and on-deck circle members to listen in on a conference call with Terry Ryan. They did the same thing with Bill Smith and Dave St. Peter not too long ago, but it was great that we got to hear from the new (old) GM. There were more than 3000 fans listening in, and the vast majority of the callers who got through to ask a question told Mr. Ryan they were glad he was back.

This time I was prepared and took some notes; however, my note taking is pretty slow, so I paraphrased the whole thing. Also LaVelle Neil of the StarTribune has a nice recap.

Dick Bremer, who moderated the call, started off with the first question: what is the immediate priority?
Getting the players healthy is the first priority, talking to the departing free agents, preparing for the upcoming Winter Meetings in Dallas, and taking care of the minor league affiliates.

I'm not sure what "taking care of the minor league affiliates" means. Perhaps there are still some staffing decisions that need to be made. He probably meant that he has to fill out their rosters as well.

He couldn't talk specifics because that's against major league rules, but the Twins are in discussions with Cuddyer's agent.

Keep talking with Cuddy, Mr. Ryan. Keep talking until he comes back.

Cubs indicated that they might shop Matt Garza -- any interest?
He hears all the same rumors that fans do. However, Theo denied they're shopping Garza.

I that was his way of changing the subject. The Twins are clearly not interested.

What will be done about the training and medical staff?
He's had lengthy discussions with everyone on the training, conditioning, and medical staffs, and he said a lot of things can be easily corrected. More communication will help. The players need to do more. The training and medical staff can learn some new techniques. They need to get better at knowing when or if to do rehab. No one will lose their job.

He said the word "communication" a lot over the course of the call when talking about injuries and changes that need to be made. I have no idea what he means by that. In fact, it just leaves a lot a questions for me: are the players hiding their aches and pains too long until they become really hurt? Is the training staff not telling Gardy who's coming in for treatments? Is Gardy not asking the right questions? Why is there a breakdown? Who doesn't trust whom and why? I want to know!

Plans for starting pitching?
Pavano gave them the innings they needed, but the rest need to work on consistency. Also, he hopes to build the bullpen so that someone is needed for a spot start, they'll just use a reliever rather than taking a starter from Rochester.

Hope so. They also really need to find out why there were so many forearm strains in the staff.

What to do about Kevin Slowey?
He wants to completely wipe the slate clean with Kevin. Kevin had a bad year and they want to start over from scratch. As of right now, he's on the roster.

The way he emphasized "as of right now" did nothing to convince me that Kevin will be on the roster for very much longer.

What about middle infield?
They're moving Plouffe to left field. So they've got Nishioka, Carroll, Dozier (in the minors and who they really like), and Hughes. And when Casilla's on, he's really good. So they feel they have depth at the position. They're also wiping the slate clean with Nishioka and he has to learn that the game is different here in the US.

In fact, Brian Dozier's name came up a bunch of times, and Terry had nothing but praise for him. He just finished up in the Arizona Fall League, where he did very well. Clearly, Terry is looking forward to him making it in the bigs. Also, I don't think he's as sold on Nishioka as Bill Smith was.

Dick reminds us that TwinsFest is the last weekend in January at the Dome
Assuming the Dome is still inflated.

Not really sure why I wrote that down, but, hey, knowledge is power.

What about the catching position?
They fully expect Joe Mauer to catch about 120 games and he's the catcher when healthy. Doumit is there on days he needs a break.

He said that Mauer should catch about 120 games a number of times throughout the call. I think they believe he's fully healthy and will be playing a lot next season.

How's the starting outfield look?
It's a long way from being finished. There isn't much power out there. There is a lot of speed and athleticism. Span is the only veteran. It's certainly a work in progress.

I kind of get the feeling that he doesn't have a whole lot of love for Ben Revere. Or Trevor Plouffe for that matter. 

Can the Twins afford both Cuddyer and Kubel?
Well, that's up to them. The Twins would like to have both back, but it all depends on the contract they want and what they might be offered elsewhere. It's a puzzle. Plus they're still looking for a closer.

So, what about a closer?
He's looking outside the organization and wants to get a closer either via free agency or trade. There are plenty of closer free agents out there. He is hesitant to go internal for a closer.

He explains why he doesn't want Glen Perkins to close yet later.

Baseball tends to go in cycles of winning and losing. Can we keep this losing cycle a short one?
The Twins plan to keep that losing "cycle" to only one year. They're working hard to develop the minor league system for depth.

Why the lack of power pitchers and power bats?
Having a team of power pitchers and power batters is ideal. However, there aren't many of those guys, and they're expensive. So if you can't go out and get that kind of talent, you have to develop it. The Twins do have some power arms, but they just need to work on their command. A team likes to have power bats playing the corner positions, but too many of those guys were hurt. Same with the middle infield. So the organization needs to work on keeping everyone healthy so that they can develop the young players and funnel them up at the appropriate time. With the new CBA, drafting will be different regarding the caps on signing bonuses.

Who will bat lead off, Span or Revere?
Span. He's the veteran, and when healthy, he's a good ballplayer. He's a good lead off man. Revere is still learning the strike zone.

Again with the no love for Ben? Actually, I think Mr. Ryan just sees him as needing more time in the minors.

Why no real DH?
It's true that there is no established DH, and that may be a little by design. They want to keep their options open for moving guys around or into the DH position as needed. They won't fully know the health situations of all the players until spring training starts. And they want to get the outfield situation figured out. Doumit can DH a little.

Fans are worried about the long-term health of Justin Morneau. How's he doing and what happens if he's not better?
He shares the concern. Last they spoke, Justin was doing fine. They won't really know how he's doing until he plays some games. They want him healthy; he's a leader in the clubhouse. Chris Parmelee would be next in line, but he still needs more time in the minors.

There's a lot of talk about bringing back Cuddyer, but what about bringing back Kubel?
He's talking to both Cuddyer and Kubel.

This question was from Twins blogger and podcaster Fanatic Jack. It was kind of fun that he got through to ask a question. Ryan's response, however, kind of made me feel like Cuddyer is still the top dog.

Plans for the draft and draft picks? 
The Twins have the #2 pick next time. That's a very lofty position; the last time they drafted this high was when they picked Joe Mauer. So they want to get an elite, high-caliber player. His philosophy is to be more reluctant to trade away their draft picks than Bill Smith was. He really believes in keeping and developing talent.

What about improving the defense?
He agreed that they kind of did a lousy job of picking up the ball in 2011, which is hard on the pitchers and, well, everyone. Part of it was that it was a merry-go-round of players. Some of it has to do with positioning -- being in the right place to receive the ball and cut off throws. He doesn't think it'll be too hard to correct.

Why, oh why, are you thinking about bringing back Matt Capps?
He wondered when someone would ask about this. He acknowledged that Capps had a bad year in 2011, but he was very good in 2010. Many relievers go through cycles of one on year, then one off year, Guerrier and Crain used to do that, and Capps just had a bad year.

Ryan really did seem to sympathize with fans' frustrations with Capps. But, does he really believe the whole "reliever cycles" thing? If so, what happens in 2013?

Are the Twins grooming Jake Mauer or Tom Brunansky to take over for Gardy?
Jake Mauer is a great manager in the minors and they expect him to have a bright future. Tom Brunansky is also a great baseball man with a high ceiling. But Gardy is also a pretty good baseball man and a darned good manager. They're standing behind him.

You go, Terry! I have to admit that I kind of wonder where this guy was coming from when he asked this.

Which minor leaguers are likely to make the 25-man roster?
The guys we've already seen: Hendriks, Parmelee, Benson, etc. They'll all probably start in AAA, unless they force the Twins' hand. Ryan likes it when that happens.

To be fair, he did mention other names, but I couldn't keep up with the note taking.

Why would you sign Jamey Carroll at 38 years old and near the end of his career?
He may be 38, but the scouts would disagree that he's at the end of his career. He makes the team better and he stays healthy.

What's the future of the shortstop position? Will you continue with Nishioka? Or Levi Michael? Or outside?
They have a good group coming. Dozier, Santana, Grimes. They're also scouting Latin America. Dozier is very good. Miguel Sano has some power. Eddie Rosario will be moving from OF to 2B and he has power too. Everyone will move up as ready.

What's up with the salary? What's the best use of the money?
Starting pitching is the best use of money. There is no finite salary limit. The salary will be less than the Yankees and more than Tampa Bay. The actual amount is fluid. The Pohlads are open to work things out.

I kind of think that he's not really attached to the $100 million figure he threw out during his introduction press conference. He mentioned $118 million.

You saw something in Joe Nathan to make him closer right away, what don't you see with Glen Perkins?
Nathan three "plus" pitches -- curve, slider, and fastball. Perkins has only two with an average fastball. That's why they're looking outside the organization for an experienced closer.

I really wish he'd find another Joe Nathan closer-in-the-rough type guy that the Twins can convert to closer with the same results.

What keeps you motivated?
Winning. Seeing 40,000 people in the stands smiling. People proclaiming that they're proud Twins fans. Having other franchises say they want to be like the Twins.

What are your thoughts on Aaron Hicks?
He had a great fall, but he had an average summer. They'd rather see him have a great summer. He has a chance for AA. He's very athletic and profiles for centerfield.

Are Liriano's consistency struggles in his head?
That's probably an accurate assessment. He needs to work on his consistency. He should dominate. He needs to take control.


I thought it was a great conference call. I thought Mr. Ryan was very personable and interesting. Of course, he's quite good at not revealing more than he should, I did appreciate his candor. He told us what's good, but he also told us what's bad. And he disagreed with a couple of callers and said so.

I kept getting this "read between the lines" feeling that he wants the players to be more accountable, especially when he was talking about the injury problems. He didn't say anything specific, but the whole communication thing just has me thinking that. Which wouldn't be a bad thing.

I really enjoy that the Twins do these.


JimCrikket said...

Great write up, k-bro!

Some very interesting comments by Ryan and I enjoyed your perspectives. I certainly hope you're right about him not being all that tied to the $100 million payroll.

The next month or so could be quite interesting.

Anonymous said...

Nice post!! You must have been taking notes or recorded the conversation to remember everything that was said. I agree with you on Ben Revere and it would not surprise me if he was dealt at the MLB Winter Meetings. It's also very nice to have a GM talk straight to you instead of trying to tell you the opposite of what you want to hear. Smith never knew how to handle the media.

Fran said...

I disagree, Jack. I was with the Twins Train fan group in Chicago early in the 2010 season. The group bumped into Bill Smith in the patio area at US Cellular. It turned into a 30-minute fan "press conference" with the GM. Smith answered every question and candidly. He was no different during his radio call-in show on Sunday mornings. I don't think Smith and TR are mirror images, but they are very similar. I really can't imagine what the 'philosophical differences' are that supposedly got Smith fired. I'm not really buying that notion, I think it's cover for some untold story. My suspicion is someone had to be the scapegoat for a 99-loss season. There was a ready replacement in TR, so Smith was that fall guy.