From Ryan to Radcliff to Rantz, the Twins have found their magical front-office combination
By John Millea
General manager Terry Ryan, farm director Jim Rantz and scouting director Mike Radcliff combine for more than 80 years with the Twins. All that longevity and all that experiencein scouting, developing, winnowing, nurturing, signing, trading and everything else having to do with ballplayerspaid off again in 2002, when the Twins advanced to the American League Championship Series.
It was a breakthrough season for the organization, and its no surprise the Twins are Baseball Americas Organization of the Year.
"Its not so much me, Jim or Mike; its the people who work for this organization and have been loyal and accountable," Ryan says. "And they produce things that help get these types of awards, which is very flattering. Its a heck of a thing for us to experience."
The reasons for the Twins success this year are many. A strong bullpen, a solid rotation and a group of rapidly maturing youngsters helped Minnesota reach the heights. But it all goes back to this: finding, drafting, signing and developing players. And thats where Ryan, Rantz and Radcliff come in.
Radcliff, 44, the pup of the group with just 15 years of service to the organization, has been around since the Twins won the 1987 World Series. Ryan, 48, was drafted by the Twins in 1972, and after his playing career ended he was away from the organization just long enough to earn a college degree and some scouting experience.
And Rantz? Rantz, 64, has seen everything. He was the winning pitcher for the University of Minnesota in the decisive game of the 1960 College World Series, was signed to a Washington Senators contract by Calvin Griffith soon after and headed west to the Twin Cities when the franchise moved in 1961. Like Ryan, Rantz never played in the major leagues, but he found a life down on the farm.
Ryan: 20 years with the Twins. Rantz: 42 years. Radcliff: 15 years. It seems like theyve been in Minnesota longer than some of those 10,000 lakes. And dont be surprised if Rantz tries to convince you that he once scouted a great big local kid who could really swing the lumber. He would be listed in the old scouting files as Bunyan, Paul.
Rantz is glad Ryan doesnt hold grudges. Because when Ryans playing career ended, Rantz was the front-office guy who cut him loose.
Ryan was a 35th-round draft pick of the Twins in 1972 after graduating from Parker High in Janesville, Wis. He was a pitcher in the farm system for four years, fashioning a 14-3 record (including 10-0 in 1973) before an arm injury ended his career.
He enrolled at Wisconsin in 1975 and graduated with a physical education degree in 1979. He was hired by the Mets as their Midwest scouting supervisor in 1980 and was with New York for six years before being named Twins scouting director in 1986. He was promoted to vice president of player personnel in 1991 and became GM in 1994 when Andy MacPhail left to join the Cubs.
Now here it is, a season later, and the Twins are soaking up awards.
"Weve had a lot of great things happen this year, and I dont think anybody could have envisioned all the things weve experienced," Ryan says. "We had a successful major league season. We had a very successful minor league season. Weve got a number of individual awards all the way from our all-stars to what I suspect might be a couple Gold Gloves. We had a number of minor league players take huge steps. We had people go out and advance scout for the postseason. We progressed to the ALCS.
"Those are the types of things you talk about as objectives way back in January and February, when we finally got the OK to go ahead and play. We accomplished a lot of things this year, and thats why were getting some of these accolades. People went out and did their job. First and foremost, players produced. And you dont get any of these things unless players do their job. Thats where all the interest is. And then there are all these people who dont get any recognition ever, but they are vital to everything we do."
Indeed, its hard to believe how far the Twins have come since those dark days, but everyone saw Ryan as the lighthouse that gave everyone safe harbor.
"It was Terry. He took the lead, and no one ever looked back," Radcliff says. "We had lots of guys and lots of families that were very, very anxious about what might happen. But Terry was the leader once again, and obviously things are looking good for the future."
Ryan, Rantz and Radcliff are all from the Midwest. Rantz grew up in St. Paul and Radcliff in Kansas City, and neither ever strayed from his hometown.
After his college career ended, Rantz was all set to take a full-time job as a playground director with the city of St. Paul. But the Twins persuaded him to give pro ball a try. He was a minor league player and manager for five years before joining the front office in 1965.
He managed that year in St. Cloud, Minn., when the Twins made it to their first World Series. Rantz was brought in to help the public-relations staffbasically as an internand that was the beginning of his front-office life. "And here we are, how many years later?" he says.
Rantz worked as assistant public-relations director for four years before moving into the minor league and scouting department. He has been the director of minor league operations since 1986.
"Ive been lucky, especially in our industry, when there are so many changes all the time," Rantz says. "Weve been fortunate to only have two owners (Griffith and Carl Pohlad), and really only three general managers: Calvin, Andy and Terry."
Ryan sets the tone for everyone in the organization, and the rules are simple: Do your job, and do it well. Under that philosophy, Radcliff and Rantz are the perfect department leaders. "Jim and I are somewhat alike," Radcliff says. "Were easygoing guys who are easy to work with. And Terry doesnt put any shackles on us. A lot of teams have to do certain things to work within the confines of an approach or a system in player development. He allows us to do our gig.
"Thats another one of Terrys strengths. Hes a great delegator; he lets everybody do their thing, and you dont have to go over the line and get involved in other peoples business. Thats very, very, very easy to work with."
Radcliff has been with the Twins since 1987; a 15-year tenure thats the longest among current scouting directors. The 1979 graduate of Missouri began as an area scout with the Major League Scouting Bureau in 1983. He was hired as a Twins scout in 1987 and became Midwest supervisor in 1988. He has been the scouting director for 10 years. Radcliff oversees a staff of almost 30 scouts, including those who work part-time and internationally.
After college, Radcliff was working for Cargillan international agribusiness company based in Minneapolisbut had a desire to get into baseball, the game he had loved since childhood. He had some contacts in the game, and that got his foot in the door.
Radcliff, like Rantz, talks about the tremendous stability of the Minnesota front office, even through the changeover from MacPhail to Ryan.
"There was hardly any transition from Andy over to Terry," he says. "Terry worked under Andy, so there were a lot of the same people in the key positions and not a whole lot of change at all."
Among the current Twins drafted by Radcliff and his staff are third baseman Corey Koskie (1994), first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz (1995) and outfielder Jacque Jones (1996). In 1997 the Twins drafted infielder/outfielder Michael Cuddyer and catcher Matt LeCroy in the first round, outfielder Michael Restovich in the second round and pitcher J.C. Romero in the 21st round.
There is a comparison to be made between the big league lineup and the scouting staff, Radcliff says.
"Our scouting staff has basically gained experience just like that major league team," he says. "The (players) got there and took some bumps for a couple of years. We signed a bunch of young (scouts), and now theyre all veterans."
Again, the stability of the front office, as well as scouts and minor league staff who have worked together for years, is playing a tremendous role in the on-field success of the Twins. "I think stability is maybe one of the final elements in order to build up to being successful," Radcliff says. "From our standpoint, our scouting department is finally not a bunch of young guys. Theyve developed experience, they know what theyre doing, and weve all worked together so long that were all on the same page and we know how to react to each other."
Ryan says, "I think that helps make any organization successful. If you have people in place that are talented and everybody is on the same page all the time, thats vital to any organization."
Ryan is famous for deflecting praise away from himself and spreading it around the organization. Radcliff, more than most, knows how Ryan works. "Terrys obviously the guy that all of us look up to," Radcliff says. "I ran into Terry when he was an area scout. Ive seen how he works forever. He sets high standards. We have high accountability, and sometimes its very difficult to walk behind him, but it makes us do everything the right way. We do things professionally, correct, thorough, complete, and that goes a long way toward why weve finally built up to where weve got some success going."
And now, after all the tribulations of the past yearcontraction, the threat of a strike, the shaky future of the franchisethe Twins stand as AL Central champions, the light of the future shining bright. Theres plenty of credit to go around, and everyone shares in it.
"All of us understand and realize how many other people are involved here," Radcliff says. "To get where we are right now is a tremendous team effort and a tremendous team experience. Thats what we all have pride in."
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