Unless we were in the room, or hid a microphone in Bill Smith's box of Krispy Kremes, we don't know why Smith was "reassigned" or "re-evaluated" or "shit-canned."
That said, Terry Ryan's "I'm baaack!" statements sure made it sound like some of those infernal "philosophical differences" had to do with payroll, and made it clear that the team plans to spend less next year than everyone had assumed. A lot less. "If it's 95, if it's 100, if it's 90, we're going to make due," (um, that should be "do," Mr. Reporter, I think. Yeah, we all make grammar doo-doos but some of us are paid not to . . .)
To be optimistic, one can assume that the Twins are going back to a draft-and-develop model, one that emphasizes young talent over risky free-agent signings and trades, thereby building a long-term strength for the club.
To be pessimistic, one can assume that such a strategy will, at best, pay off several years from now, when the economic boost provided by Target Field has shriveled. It's not ridiculous to think that in five years or so the Twins' revenue from ticket sales is going to be right in the middle (maybe worse) of the MLB pack, back to depending on team performance instead of shiny-building-newness. And that a deliberately reduced payroll in between now and then means a whole lot of money in the Pohlads' pockets. Money one can argue that they deserve after taking losses for several years in the Metrodome, or money one might believe is stolen from taxpayers. Depending on one's point of view.
That could be too negative an outlook for several reasons. One: the Xcel center continues to draw well, despite the Minnesota Wild having largely stunk for the majority of their existence. Studies I've read indicate that the "honeymoon period" for new buildings usually lasts about six years; the Wild seem to be extending it. So maybe Minnesotans will keep the Twins in the top tier of ticket sales for a long, long time. (Then again, TCF Bank Stadium isn't drawing unholy numbers of Gopher fans, although I hear it was a cool concert venue.) Two: The $100 million number might mean less money spent at the MLB level but a hefty chunk more on scouting and the minors. If more is being invested in development, that means the team isn't just looking to hoard cash during the "honeymoon period" but to ensure a competitive squad that still draws fans aplenty once the honeymoon is over.
In any case, it looks like fantasies of $30+ million for free-agent signings are over, for now. So: what'll it be? Clever trades? Low-priced veterans ready to rebound? Ryan and his crew spending eight days a week finding the world's top young talent? Jim Pohlad lighting cigars with $100 bills and laughing at the suckers who pay to watch 90-loss teams in the rain? Guess along, if you like. I just had to insert a dose of dour into the Smith Begone party because, well, that's what I do.
Added Tuesday: Tom Powers of the Pioneer Press agrees with many TT fans that "giving Ryan $100 million with which to work is like giving $150 million to most other general managers," and with the pessimistic side that supposes "in the absence of honest, hard facts, it's always a safe bet to envision the Twins as being parsimonious." Patrick Reusse at 1500 ESPN provides more speculation about the Pohlads' motivations, and how they may not be making as much at Target Field as some surmise. No doubt the Star-Tribune has more opinions, but don't go over that 20-article-a-month limit!