When a player's stat line is forever frozen in history, when his days stepping onto the field as a player are done, it's not uncommon to see that player continue with the game. Some guys go closer to home and find roles on teams in the region, some guys stay in professional ranks as scouts or coaches, but on rare occasions players become members of the front office.
Billy Beane is probably the most infamous of this category. He's been the General Manager of the Oakland Athletics since 1998. As far as ex-players-turned-General-Managers go, he's setting the bar awfully high. Steve Phillips hasn't risen to the same echelon. Going back a few decades, former players like Joe Cronin or Charlie Gehringer still can't reach the success (or notoriety) that Beane has achieved in Oakland.
In the last few years, seeing ex-players move into the front office has become a bit more common. Mike Sweeney joined the Royals about 13 months ago, joining George Brett as ex-players in charge of their former team. Nolan Ryan, Hank Aaron, and Eddie Collins are all a part of the conversation, too.
For the Twins, it's been an interesting week as far as players and front office roles are concerned. First came Glen Perkins, who told Jim Souhan of the Star Tribune that he wants a role in Minnesota's front office when his days as a pitcher are done.
"I think there’s a spot for a lot of teams, for guys that played, and translating what sabermetrics and statistics can work for players. What players can use and what front offices can use are two completely different things. I think I can help with that."
"There’s such a divide. The majority of players think analytics are crap. The majority of front offices are 70-30, analytics to scouting. So I think there’s a place in this organization when I’m done in finding what the players can use and what the team should use.
"Being in this clubhouse, I also know the human element, that sabermetrics tries to get rid of. I have a pretty good idea how both sides work."
"The one thing I know for sure is you will not see me with another team," Perkins said. "I’m going to finish my career with the Twins. Then I want to start a new career with the Twins. This is the place for me."
To put this in perspective, the fact that Perkins essentially wants to be a Twin for life, keep in mind that just a couple of years ago there was the feeling that his days in the organization were numbered. He wasn't pitching well as a starter, he didn't communicate his health clearly to the people that mattered, and it wouldn't have been a surprise to see his Twins career go the same route as Pat Neshek's.
Instead, Perkins has become part of the identity of this Twins team. He had a come-to-Gardy meeting with his ex-manager and members of the front office, and the end result has been that the organization has committed long-term to a player whose position has been seen as a luxury on a team perpetually doomed to lost 90+ games. Perkins wants to be a Twin, and he's been forthright in admitting that, no, he doesn't want to play anywhere else.
It's an agreement that will pay off for both parties in the long-term, as Minnesota figures to be competitive in the next year or two and, from Perkins' perspective, it's a solid enough relationship that it could turn into a long-term employment opportunity.
In Torii Hunter's case, returning to the Twins had to do with much more than the on-field results for the team in 2015. It was about having that chance to be a leader, to finish things where he started, and to come home, but just as importantly Minnesota is the place where Hunter feels like he became the man he is today.
"I always wanted to come back here,'' says Hunter, who spent the first 14 years of his career in the Twins' organization. "This is where I learned to be a man. When I became a free agent, Terry Ryan and I talked for 1 ½ hours. He made me see things differently. He wants me here forever.''
This revelation puts Hunter's negotiations with the Twins in a new light. Ryan's belief in Hunter went beyond having a bat in the lineup, and beyond having a leader in the clubhouse in order to help guys like Byron Buxton and Aaron Hicks get the most out of their gifts and talents.
When Cris Carter neared the end of his career with the Vikings, what he did and the way he carried himself was as much about the legacy he was leaving behind as it was making incredible catches with one hand on the sideline or in the back of the endzone. You get the same sense that this is part of the appeal of the Twins for Hunter. His numbers and his playing career stands up very well on its own, but at some juncture these players have to think about what's next. And it certainly looks like Terry Ryan's conversations with Torii Hunter led Hunter to believe that his legacy was to be made in Minnesota.
"I really want to get into that front office, make some changes, and build a team that I want to build,'' Hunter says. "I'd love to learn everything from Terry. He'll be a mentor. One day, that's my goal, to be GM of the Twins.''
Can a front office with ex-players be more successful than front offices with fewer or no players? CJ Nitkowski doesn't think so. He's probably right.
That doesn't mean the experience coming with the players is meaningless. Some teams are incorporating new roles to help communication flow between the front office and the analytical departments to the team on the field; could player experience in the front office, and having more of it, help teams make better decisions?
In baseball's environment today, most front offices offer a mix of scouting and analytics in everything from roster construction to lineup creation, and perhaps Perkins and Hunter each represent a side of that ever-shrinking divide. At the very least, if the Twins end up having both of these players as members of the operations division, you know that the front office will have plenty of personality.