Twins fire general manager Bill Smith, name former GM Terry Ryan as interim replacement

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Minnesota gave zero indication that general manager Bill Smith’s job was in jeopardy despite a 99-loss season, with ownership publicly issuing a vote of confidence last month, but today the Twins fired Smith and replaced him on an interim basis with former general manager Terry Ryan.

Smith replaced Ryan as GM in late 2007 and has made a series of unsuccessful big-picture moves, including trading Johan Santana, Matt Garza, Wilson Ramos, and J.J. Hardy for very underwhelming returns.

When Ryan stepped down from the job in 2007 he cited a desire to focus on baseball rather than the off-field responsibilities that come along with being a GM, whereas the perception of Smith is that he was far more suited to handle those off-field responsibilities than he was making personnel decisions. He made several nice low-wattage free agent signings, but the bigger the move the worse Smith fared.

It’s unclear how long Ryan plans to stay on as GM this time around, but last week the Twins brought back his former right-hand man, Wayne Krivsky, who left Minnesota to become Cincinnati’s GM in 2005. They also denied the Orioles’ request to interview vice president of player personnel Mike Radcliff. This isn’t so much a front office shakeup as it is admitting a mistake and turning back to the clock to the previous regime.

UPDATE: Smith did a local radio interview with 1500-ESPN and was an organizational soldier to the end, refusing to say a bad word about anyone. He’s been offered another role in the organization, but said he’s undecided. It was a very weird post-firing chat and Smith cited “philosophical differences” while making it pretty obvious that he was surprised by the firing.

The Cubs will try to clinch the NL Central on Tuesday

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The Cubs soundly defeated the Cardinals on Monday night, 10-2, sending their magic number down to one. They will try to clinch the NL Central on Tuesday with another win against the Cardinals. Alternatively, if they lose, they can still clinch if the Brewers also lose on Tuesday.

The Cubs, of course, won the Central last year en route to winning their first World Series since 1908. It wasn’t nearly as easy this year as the club was below .500 entering June and was exactly at .500 entering July. A 16-8 July, 17-12 August, and 15-8 September have helped put the Cubs back in position to return to the postseason.

Not to be forgotten, the Cardinals were eliminated from NL Central contention with Monday’s loss. Now they have their sights set on the second NL Wild Card slot and currently trail the Rockies in that race.

The matchups for Tuesday’s action:

Carter Capps to undergo surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome

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Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union Tribune reports that Padres pitcher Carter Capps will undergo surgery this offseason to address thoracic outlet syndrome, which doctors believe caused the right-hander’s blood clots. The Padres hope to have him ready by spring training next year.

Capps, 27, underwent Tommy John surgery last year and didn’t debut this season until August 7. He made 11 relief appearances, yielding nine runs on 12 hits and two walks with seven strikeouts in 12 1/3 innings. He went back on the DL on September 12 due to the blood clot issue.

The Padres acquired Capps from the Marlins last July in the Andrew Cashner trade which ended up having a lot of moving parts. Capps will enter his third and final year of arbitration eligibility this offseason. It’s quite possible the Padres choose to non-tender him.