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From Ryan to Radcliff to Rantz, the Twins have found their magical front-office combination

By John Millea
November 12, 2002

Torii Hunter
Photo: Larry Goren
MINNEAPOLIS–The three Rs of Minnesota baseball are not reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmetic. They are Ryan, Rantz and Radcliff. And around here, where Homer Hankys once again created an autumn breeze under a Teflon sky, they are the front-office equivalent of Tinker to Evers to Chance.

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 experience–in scouting, developing, winnowing, nurturing, signing, trading and everything else having to do with ballplayers–paid off again in 2002, when the Twins advanced to the American League Championship Series.

It was a breakthrough season for the organization, and it’s no surprise the Twins are Baseball America’s Organization of the Year.

"It’s not so much me, Jim or Mike; it’s 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. It’s 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 that’s 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 they’ve been in Minnesota longer than some of those 10,000 lakes. And don’t 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 doesn’t hold grudges. Because when Ryan’s 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.

Previous BA Organization of the Year Winners
1982 Oakland Athletics
1983 New York Mets
1984 New York Mets
1985 Milwaukee Brewers
1986 Milwaukee Brewers
1987 Milwaukee Brewers
1988 Montreal Expos
1989 Texas Rangers
1990 Montreal Expos
1991 Atlanta Braves
1992 Cleveland Indians
1993 Toronto Blue Jays
1994 Kansas City Royals
1995 New York Mets
1996 Atlanta Braves
1997 Detroit Tigers
1998 New York Yankees
1999 Oakland Athletics
2000 Chicago White Sox
2001 Houston Astros
Ryan, always respected, earned even more respect throughout the organization and the industry last winter when he turned down a chance to interview with the Blue Jays. That was during the throes of contraction talk, when the Twins looked like a safe bet to get whacked.

Now here it is, a season later, and the Twins are soaking up awards.

"We’ve had a lot of great things happen this year, and I don’t think anybody could have envisioned all the things we’ve experienced," Ryan says. "We had a successful major league season. We had a very successful minor league season. We’ve 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 that’s why we’re getting some of these accolades. People went out and did their job. First and foremost, players produced. And you don’t get any of these things unless players do their job. That’s where all the interest is. And then there are all these people who don’t get any recognition ever, but they are vital to everything we do."

Indeed, it’s 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 staff–basically as an intern–and 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.

"I’ve been lucky, especially in our industry, when there are so many changes all the time," Rantz says. "We’ve 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. "We’re easygoing guys who are easy to work with. And Terry doesn’t 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.

"That’s another one of Terry’s strengths. He’s a great delegator; he lets everybody do their thing, and you don’t have to go over the line and get involved in other people’s business. That’s very, very, very easy to work with."

Radcliff has been with the Twins since 1987; a 15-year tenure that’s 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 Cargill–an international agribusiness company based in Minneapolis–but 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 they’re 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. They’ve developed experience, they know what they’re doing, and we’ve all worked together so long that we’re 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, that’s 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. "Terry’s obviously the guy that all of us look up to," Radcliff says. "I ran into Terry when he was an area scout. I’ve seen how he works forever. He sets high standards. We have high accountability, and sometimes it’s 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 we’ve finally built up to where we’ve got some success going."

And now, after all the tribulations of the past year–contraction, the threat of a strike, the shaky future of the franchise–the Twins stand as AL Central champions, the light of the future shining bright. There’s 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. That’s what we all have pride in."

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