Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Pohlad's Firing Smith is a Bad Sign

Over the years the Pohlad family has not been very popular with Twins fans. Unlike some owners, Carl Pohlad treated the Twins as a business that was expected to make money, not an expensive hobby for him to spend his money on. But the flip side of running the Twins like a business is that he let the baseball people he hired run the business. They were accountable to him of course, but he wasn't trying to manage the team.

Much of the Twins success for the last decade has been based on that hands off approach. When one of Pohlad's cronies wanted to get rid of Terry Ryan and Tom Kelly after the disastrous (in won/loss record) 1999 season, Pohlad got rid of his cronie instead. Pohlad's patience and loyalty to his employees paid off with a decade of success. They had a stable front office with little turn over, they hired a manager they believed in and, when things went wrong, they did the hard work of replacing players instead of using the manager's position as a scapegoat.

What is disturbing about the firing of Bill Smith is not the fact of that decision, but the timing and reasons given. The idea that Jim Pohlad had "philosophical" differences with Bill Smith should be irrelevant. Carl Pohlad might, as a fan, have thought Smith was on the wrong track. But he wouldn't for a moment have thought to substitute his own judgment Smith's.

It sounds like Smith was surprised to lose his job. And he should have been. It is totally out of character for the Twins organization. Last season was a disaster, but it certainly wasn't a disaster because Smith had a bad plan going into the season. It doesn't make sense to reject his plan for next season based on what happened this season.

As Jim Pohlad admitted at the press conference, for next season no one knows whose "philosophy" was right. But its surefire the case that its more likely to be Bill Smith's than Jim Pohlad's. Of course, Pohlad is the one with the power to make the decision. He owns the team. But this is no longer the operation that Carl Pohlad created.

Terry Ryan or no Terry Ryan, with Jim Pohlad injecting himself into baseball decisions, we are in for a rough ride. Jim Pohlad seems to want an operation that is as cheap as his fathers, but where he can exercise the Steinbrenner-like interference that made the Yankees track record so uneven despite its lavish spending.

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