Rantz Ready To Retire After 52 Years With Twins
George Brophy was the second farm director in Twins history, serving nearly 25 years in the post. When he was "shown the door," as Tracy Ringolsby wrote in Baseball America back in 1986, his assistant, Jim Rantz, took his place.
Rantz has been married to both his wife Pearl and the Minnesota Twins for 52 years. Neither of those marriages is ending. But at age 75, Rantz will step back from the Twins, retiring as farm director with Brad Steil assuming the position.
For 15 years before he became farm director, Rantz was Brophy's assistant. He has received a paycheck from the Twins since 1960, when he signed with the original Washington Senators as a 5-foot-10 righthanded pitcher.
"I had made the decision coming in that the 2012 season would be my last," Rantz said as November dawned. "We had meetings down in Fort Myers during instructional league, and I told the staff and coaches who were there. Then we came back to Minnesota and got the members of the organization here together and told them, and it was nice to share that."
Rantz has shared so much with the Twins, getting his first front-office gig in 1965 helping out with the media relations office during the World Series. He has been a part of both of the organization's World Series championships in 1987 and '91.
Mike Radcliff, the longtime scouting director who is now vice president of player personnel, called him a "great farm director when you're the scouting director. Draft a high school pitcher? Fine. Draft college seniors? Fine. He was always so easy to work with."
Rantz also played a huge role by helping the Twins land Kirby Puckett. During the 1981 strike, Rantz took time off to go see his son playing in the summer Central Illinois Collegiate League. While he was there, he saw Puckett play and turned in a glowing report.
"Terry Ryan was the Mets' area scout in the Midwest at that time," Radcliff said, "and he was on Kirby Puckett from when he was at Bradley and then transferred to (Triton) Junior College. He'd been following him for more than a year."
The Twins had the third pick in the January phase of the 1982 draft, while Ryan's Mets picked three spots later. Thanks to Rantz's recommendation, the Twins picked Ryan's pocket and drafted Puckett. "Terry's been giving Jim a hard time about that for a long time," Radcliff said with a laugh.
While Puckett went into Twins lore with his World Series heroics, Rantz had his own (College) World Series moment as a member of the University of Minnesota's 1960 club, which won the second of the Golden Gophers' three national championships.
To hear Rantz tell it, he was the Michael Roth of the '60 CWS, which turned into an epic battle between Minnesota and Southern California. The Gophers won the first game between the two teams 12-11 in 10 innings, then lost the rematch 4-2 in 11 innings. That set up a one-game championship.
"We were pretty much out of pitching," Rantz recalled. "I was a relief pitcher and I'd thrown well earlier in the series, so I got the start in the title game. It was the only start I made in college. If we'd had pitch counts, I would have come out of there in the sixth."
Instead, Rantz went the distance in a 2-1 10-inning victory.
Not Accustomed To Change
Rantz's retirement could provide an opportunity for change, though the Twins are still the Twins.
After stepping back for a few years, Ryan has returned as general manager. Radcliff has been with the organization for more than 20 years. The Twins did change pitching coordinators three years ago when Rick Knapp left the organization, but that didn't prompt a change in philosophy.
The Twins have homegrown stars in the majors in Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau and Denard Span, and they have exciting hitting prospects such as Miguel Sano, Byron Buxton and Oswaldo Arcia. But the big league team couldn't pitch in either of the last two seasons, and Minnesota's farm system is thinner on pitching than at any time in recent memory.
The Twins long cited Brad Radke as a model for their pitching development, and in the last decade they developed several starters of that ilk who pitched for their six American League Central champions since 2002. While the ace of many of those teams was Rule 5 draft pick Johan Santana, several were homegrown, such as Scott Baker, Nick Blackburn, Brian Duensing and Kevin Slowey.
But the Twins haven't drafted and signed a pitcher who reached the big leagues since Anthony Slama, a 39th-rounder in 2006 who signed in 2007 as a draft-and-follow.
That has prompted reflection in Minnesota's system, and it prompted a 2012 draft heavy on pitching after the selection of Buxton second overall. The Twins believe in their scouts and their development system, and they believe 2009 first-rounder Kyle Gibson is on the cusp of becoming a frontline big league starter. (Many scouts outside the system agree.)
Rantz's retirement brings some change to Minnesota, but the Twins appear likely to stay the course.