Smith took over from Ryan after the 2007 season.
In Smith's first season as GM, the Twin improved from 79 to 88 wins. In his second and third seasons, they won American League Central titles before getting swept in their Division Series, both times by the Yankees.
And then the Great Northern Baseball Disaster of 2011, when the Twins went 63-99, their worst record since 1982.
It's hard to blame Smith for the injuries that practically wiped out Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer, the franchise's biggest stars. And it's probably too early to tell if Smith has overseen productive amateur drafts and international signings. But after a season like this, someone's usually going to take a fall and apparently Ron Gardenhire's not going anywhere.
Before taking over as GM in 1994, Ryan had been the Twins' scouting director. He was a baseball guy. While running the club, he traded A.J. Pierzynski for Joe Nathan and Francisco Liriano, and picked up Rule 5 draftee Johan Santana. There were some lean times in Ryan's first few years at the helm, but beginning in 2002 the Twins won four division titles in five years.
Smith served for some years as Ryan's assistant, but upon his hiring was described in one newspaper story as "primarily an administrator". He's been advised by Ryan, and enjoyed the services of scouting guru Mike Radcliff as Vice President of Player Personnel. So whatever you might think of Ryan, it's hard to imagine that he's not had access to good advice. Whether he's been taking good advice is an open question.
Radcliff has been been mentioned as a GM candidate, and just last week the Twins denied permission for him to talk to the Orioles about their vacancy (now filled by Dan Duquette). It seems quite possible that Ryan is merely keeping the chair warm until the Twins are able to work out a new deal with Radcliff.