Right down to the end of his tenure with the Minnesota Twins, Terry Ryan's loyalty was clearly in evidence.
When a team that finished second in its division as a genuine postseason contender hits the middle of the next season with the worst record in the league, somebody is going to take the blame.
Unfortunately, in the Twins' case, that somebody turned out to be Ryan, the club's executive vice president and general manager. The Twins announced Monday that Ryan had been dismissed. Assistant GM Rob Antony will replace Ryan on an interim basis.
This was the same Ryan who in his first stint as Minnesota's GM put together the teams that won six division titles in nine seasons in the first decade of this century. In those years, Ryan's Twins were role models for every small-market organization in baseball.
After stepping into an advisory role with Minnesota after the 2007 season, Ryan returned to the GM position in November 2011. It appeared that he had engineered another breakthrough in 2015.
But the encore that was supposed to be the 2016 season, went south, in a mixture of injuries and disappointing performances. Some of Ryan's free-agent pitching signings were more expensive than effective.
Typically, in this sort of situation, the GM can blame the manager, or the pitching coach, or the hitting coach, or a combination of those individuals, anything to deflect the heat from himself.
Ryan repeatedly did the opposite. He insisted on taking all of the blame, thus protecting manager Paul Molitor and his coaching staff. This is a perfect reflection of who Ryan is as an individual; honest, straightforward, loyal.
"We're having a tough go, but it starts right at the top and I'm sitting in that chair," Ryan said earlier in the season. "We've struggled, to say the least, but that doesn't diminish the fact that my belief in Paul Molitor is strong. You don't have to worry about that."
And that approach worked, not for extending Ryan's tenure, but for those he protected. Twins owner and CEO Jim Pohlad said Monday that Molitor would return to manage Minnesota in 2017. That makes perfect sense, too. In 2015, his rookie managerial season, Molitor was a finalist for the American League Manager of the Year Award.
There isn't much question about how Molitor views Ryan.
"He's given his heart and soul to this organization," Molitor said Monday. "He's as good as it gets in terms of people in this game."
Ryan's comments regarding his dismissal were typical of the man; candid, dignified, respectful.
"While disappointed we were unable to bring Minnesota a third world championship, I leave the GM post with immense pride in being part of the Twins organization for the better part of three decades," Ryan said.
"I'm grateful for the leadership opportunities provided by the Pohlad family; the collaboration and talents of my colleagues in the front office; the hard work and dedication of our manager, coaches and clubhouse personnel; the commitment and professionalism of our players; the passion and attention to detail of our Minor League staff and scouts; and most importantly, the incredible support of our fans.
"It's been an honor to be part of the Twins organization and I wish everyone nothing but the best going forward."
Pohlad also had an appropriate tone in his comments on Ryan's dismissal.
"Since joining our organization as a player in 1972, Terry has been a dedicated, loyal and respected member of the Minnesota Twins family," the Twins' owner said. "Terry has been a gifted leader of the baseball department for over 18 seasons. It is impossible to overstate his contribution to our game, our team and the Upper Midwest baseball community.
"The decision to part ways with Terry was difficult, painful and not obvious. We are extremely grateful and very thankful to Terry, his wife Karilyn and their family for being a part of the Minnesota Twins."
Ryan was a left-hander in Minnesota's organization for four years before an arm injury ended his playing career. He worked as the Mets' supervisor of Midwest scouting for six years before being named as the Twins' scouting director in 1986. Ryan was Minnesota's vice president of player personnel before becoming GM for the first time in 1994.
In a better world, Terry Ryan goes out on top. In this world, he goes out respected and admired throughout baseball.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.