Minnesota Twins: The Terry Ryan Free-Agent Hall of Fame
Terry Ryan has returned to the Minnesota Twins as the interim general manager by replacing Bill Smith. While the move was made in November, the news is still very exciting for several reasons.
First, the sheriff is back in town. Where Twins players were getting coddled and being read bedtime stories by Ron Gardenhire before, the arrival of Ryan (supposedly) means that warm milk in the Twins' clubhouse will suffer the same fate that beer did in the Boston Red Sox's clubhouse.
However, the most important reason is that the doors to the Terry Ryan Free-Agent Hall of Fame have reopened for business.
In case you haven't heard about it, the Terry Ryan Free-Agent Hall of Fame is for those who have been brought in by the Twins and have failed miserably due to "immense pressure," lack of performance or injury.
Today, we honor (is that the word?) the inaugural class of the Terry Ryan Free-Agent Hall of Fame.
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The Twins signed Butch Huskey prior to the 2000 season to try and fill their void at designated hitter. The Twins gave Huskey an one-year, $500,000 contract to try and add some power to the Twins' offense.
Many people predicted that at age 28, Huskey would have one of his best seasons with the Twins. Instead, Huskey went completely South.
Huskey hit just .223 with the Twins, but what the Twins really wanted was some power in the DH spot. Huskey failed miserably at that, hitting just five home runs for the Twins before being traded to the Colorado Rockies for Todd Sears and cash.
Ironically, Huskey provided the Rockies with some power off the bench, as he would hit four home runs in 92 at-bats.
After trying out with the Cleveland Indians in the spring of 2001, Huskey retired from baseball prior to the start of the season.
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While the 2006 Twins went down as one of the most lovable teams in franchise history, it wasn't because of that year's free-agent class.
In total, three players from the 2006 Twins have found their way into the Terry Ryan Free-Agent Hall of Fame. In all likelihood, nobody deserves getting in more than Rondell White.
White signed a lucrative free-agent contract with the Twins prior to the 2006 season, and like Butch Huskey, White was expected to provide some power from the designated hitter spot.
Instead, White hit .229 with 11 home runs and 58 runs batted in over his two seasons with the Twins. Over that time, White frequently found himself on the disabled list, leading to the nickname RonDL White.
After the 2007 season, in which White hit well below the Mendoza Line, his name surfaced in the Mitchell Report. White had already retired at that point, but his career took another blow past his two dreadful seasons with the Twins.
Along with designated hitter, the toughest position for the Twins to address in free agency has been third base. After Corey Koskie left via free agency to the Toronto Blue Jays, the Twins had a black hole at third base that was even occupied by Michael Cuddyer at one point.
The Twins decided to put an end to the Cuddyer experiment prior to the 2006 season by signing Tony Batista. Batista had not played in the major leagues in two seasons prior to his signing, but he was cheap, so Terry Ryan rubbed his hands together and went for it.
His performance made Twins fans really wish he hadn't, as Batista lasted until mid-June until the Twins cut him. Something about a .236 batting average will do that for you.
Something else that will get you released is playing third base like you're wearing concrete shoes. Before Batista's release, ground balls routinely got through the left side of the infield between himself and shortstop Juan Castro. With the Twins' commitment to defense, they had seen enough.
As a result, the Twins went to their bench and replaced Batista with the one man who could lead the Twins back from a giant deficit in the American League Central: Nick Punto. Ouch.
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Turns out the idea to have a "loaded gun" on the bench late in games came before Bill Smith signed Jim Thome prior to the 2010 season. In 2006, the Twins signed Ruben Sierra to a one-year contract to come off the bench and deliver clutch pinch-hitting like he did with the New York Yankees.
Like everyone else in the Hall, Sierra failed miserably at what he was supposed to bring to the Twins. Despite hitting 17 home runs for the Yankees in 2004, Sierra picked up where he left off in 2005, when he hit just four.
It took just 14 games and 28 at-bats for the Twins to realize that Sierra was not going to usurp the likes of Terry Tiffee as top pinch-hitter, as the Twins would send him packing early in the 2006 season. This would be his last appearance in the major leagues.
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The Twins needed to fill some gaping holes in their rotation after the announcement that Francisco Liriano would need Tommy John surgery and the lack of (or what Ryan deemed as the lack of) major league-ready arms to fill the rotation.
That led to the signing of Ramon Ortiz. Ortiz was a 16-game winner for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in 2003, but he could not channel that same form several years after.
The Twins took a chance on him, and at first it looked like it was a brilliant move, as Ortiz went 3-1 during the month of April, but things spiraled out of control and Ortiz was cut by the middle of the season.
Ortiz was a borderline candidate to make this list because he actually pitched well at some point during his tenure as a Twin, but the fact that Ryan was not ready to hand the keys over to Matt Garza and Kevin Slowey at the beginning of the season makes it look like a head-scratcher.
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Before Carl Pavano's mustache, there was Sidney Ponson's mullet. Ponson signed a minor league deal with the Twins prior to the 2007 season and, like Ortiz, he was supposed to solidify the back of the rotation.
Instead Ponson...you guessed it...failed miserably. Ponson went 2-5 with a 6.93 earned-run average that was about as big as his waistline. The Twins would have enough after seven starts and cut Ponson loose in May.
This is probably the saddest induction into the Terry Ryan Free-Agent Hall of Fame, but it has to happen anyway.
Joel Zumaya was attempting to come back and help the Twins' craptacular bullpen. This was a guy who electrified batters in 2006, and he had succumbed to a bunch of arm and shoulder injuries since then. To be honest, I was looking forward to see Zumaya finally get back to the majors.
Had Zumaya reached that milestone and then injured his elbow, I wouldn't be inducting him into this group of failed Twins free-agent signings. However, Zumaya walked off the field after five minutes of facing live hitters with a torn UCL. That makes you want to point the finger at Ryan for this decision.
Yes, Ryan did do his homework and saw that there was never any damage to the inner part of Zumaya's elbow before offering him the one-year, $850,000 contract.
However, even if Zumaya was talking about mixing his speeds and pitching to contact more, somebody had to figure that when he got on the mound and adrenaline kicked in that he was going to try and throw 100 miles per hour.
I'm guilty, too. I ranted and raved how the Zumaya signing could be just what the doctor ordered in the back end of the Twins' bullpen. Instead, the Twins fall flat on their face after another free-agent disaster.
The Terry Ryan Free-Agent Hall of Fame may have its inaugural class, but the doors will be open for plenty more if they fail to meet expectations. It goes without saying that Ryan Doumit, Jason Marquis and Jamey Carroll better watch out if they don't want to make it to Dumpsville.