By Jake Rossen
By Jesse Marx
By Michelle LeBow
By Alleen Brown
By Maggie LaMaack
By CP Staff
By Jesse Marx
Now Batista, we didn't have a third baseman coming into the winter, and last fall he was available. We liked some of the power history that he had. He was a veteran, and we were young around the diamond. Now that one didn't work out so well. It was just an evaluation process that ultimately I made, and it didn't work. So we made some changes. We brought Punto in and put him at third, and we brought Bartlett back, and then we promoted Liriano from the bullpen to the rotation. And things started to click.
But other things were happening as well. Morneau started to pick his game up, obviously, we brought back Kubel, Rondell White started to produce. Bartlett played well. A lot of things happened. We changed a couple spots, and there was a little bit different look to the club. There was a little more speed, a little more range, and that range factor improved our defense some. We were hitting better, and our runners were going first to third and second to home on a consistent basis. We had a little bit more production one-through-nine instead of just a couple of spots. Neshek came up, and he's been a very valuable guy in the bullpen.
A lot of things happened. There's not just one area—it wasn't a matter of replacing Tony Batista, for example. I hate to make him the fall guy for this ballclub. There were a number of things that ultimately transpired to give us a whole different look. Tyner came up. It's amazing, all these guys who came up from AAA—they all responded.
CP: After this season, you'll see up to $33m from this year's opening-day payroll go off the books—
Ryan: Not necessarily [$33 million]. That's premature. We'll make those decisions, but there are some players with contracts that have options on them. Torii Hunter, Rondell White, Silva. We've got things to make decisions on, and not just Torii Hunter. Then you've got arbitration, and the decisions you make on who's tendered and who's not. Punto is [eligible for arbitration], Cuddyer is, Morneau is, Mauer is. This is a good year, though, because you're dealing from strength. Most of those players are having the types of years we were hoping for. We're never concerned about paying for quality.
CP: Have you considered following the Cleveland Indians model, tying up young players a couple of years into potential free agency with long-term deals?
Ryan: Yeah, we've done that historically. We've done that with a lot of guys in the clubhouse. We've done it with Knoblauch, we've done it with Hunter, we've done it with Johan Santana, we've done it with Radke. We've always had the ability to make [those] decisions. If we think that the security and the comfort of a multi-year contract will suit them, that they'll handle the situation well, we'll do it. We've had a number of players come through that locker room with deals like that. And most of them have worked out for both parties. Not all.
CP: Do you expect to be in the same ballpark in terms of opening-day payroll next year, in the neighborhood of $60 million? And does the promise of a new stadium in 2010 factor into your payroll calculations between now and then?
Ryan: The new stadium won't have any impact on 2007. This year's results and attendance will have an impact on next year's payroll. Attendance is up, that's a good thing. We'll probably be up some [in payroll]. I'm not sure what the final number will be. As soon as we finish the season, we'll look at the total tally. But ownership here has been pretty good for us. They've done what we needed to have done. Actually, our payroll was responsible this year, and it's allowed us to be competitive, to keep some people we wanted to keep and sign some people we wanted to sign. We got our draft choices [signed] that we wanted, for the most part. So when there's a necessity to get money, I go down the street and ask. And if I justify it, they usually respond favorably.
CP: The Twins have long had the reputation of possessing one of the finest scouting and drafting machines in the game. As far as the split in baseball between scouting and statheads, the Moneyball people, is concerned, you seem to fall on the scouting side of the divide. Have you absorbed any useful lessons from the statheads?
Ryan: There's not a player that we talk about that we don't do a statistical analysis on. We do it a little more behind the scenes than some, but I wouldn't do anything unless I had both the scouting report—the visual [impression], the makeup, the health history—and the statistical history too. We're somewhat a part of that program. I'm not saying we're frontrunners, but we believe in it. I think there's certainly some validity to it, and it always helps to have that type of background. You need the stats to back up the visual.