M&M: Time to Step Up or Shut Up

I’ve grown tired of complaining about the Twins’ stated plans to slash payroll by over 10% and that’s probably indicative that anyone who stops by here from time to time is probably tired of reading those complaints. It’s not like the Twins front office is going to bother explaining their thinking to a blogger and the “traditional media” seems uninterested in asking for justification from the Twins. 

GM Jim Crikket (image: clkr.com)

So, I’m going to do what I usually do when I can’t get anyone to answer my questions. I’m going to assume the role of a person who knows the answer and provide it myself. In that vein, then, here is what I believe to be our blog’s first exclusive interview… with “GM” Jim Crikket.

Knuckleballs: Mr. Crikket, thank you for taking time out of your busy day to talk to us. We know you’ve got the Winter Meetings coming up in Dallas and you certainly have a lot of work to do to prepare.

GM Jim Crikket: I’m glad to have the opportunity and actually there isn’t a whole lot of preparation necessary for the Winter Meetings. It’s not like we’re going to actually do any work there. May go check out the JFK Museum in the old School Book Depository.

Knuckleballs: Um. OK. So that means we shouldn’t expect the Twins to be making any big deals at the Winter Meetings swap meet?

GM JC: Oh the swap meet? Sure! There’s a HUGE swap meet over at a place across the street from Love Field. It’s like a giant indoor flea market. Now that you mention it, that may be better than the JFK Museum.

Knuckleballs: Mr. Crikket, Twins fans all over have been asking why the front office is imposing a significantly reduced payroll for 2012. Can you explain the reasoning?

GM JC: I’m glad to get this opportunity to do just that. I had been hoping someone in the media would ask the question so we could get the facts out there, but all they seem to ask about is whether we’re talking to Michael Cuddyer.

Knuckleballs: So, why cut payroll?

GM JC: The simple answer is, because we expect revenues to drop.

Knuckleballs: Yes, Twins president, Dave St. Peter, Tweeted something to that effect, but didn’t specify what revenues or how much they’ll drop.

GM JC: I think he did provide those details, but that darn 140 character limit might have cut that part out. Anyway… here’s the bottom line:

We don’t think three million people will show up to watch a bad baseball team… or at least they won’t do that two years in a row. Season ticket sales may stay high, but if people don’t actually attend the games all season long, they don’t buy $8 beer or $10 sandwiches and they certainly won’t be buying many $125 jerseys with the names of players who don’t even play very often. That stuff adds up.

Knuckleballs: You’re referring to Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau?

GM JC: Yes… and Denard Span and Scott Baker and Francisco Liriano and that shortstop from Japan who’s name I haven’t figured out how to pronounce yet. Pretty much everyone but Pavano. That guy can be a bit of a prick but at least he shows up for work every day.

Knuckleballs: So you don’t think the unusual amount of time Twins players spent on the DL in 2011 was just a fluke?

GM JC: It might have been. Then again, who knows?

Knuckleballs: What DO you know?

GM JC: We know we signed a lot of guys to a lot of multi-year contracts that have made them all multi-millionaires just to play baseball and that most of them didn’t play much baseball last year. We also know we lost 99 games.

Knuckleballs: But what kind of message does it send to fans and, more importantly, to your core of players, when you decide already that you aren’t going to spend the money it might take to surround your stars with proven players?

GM JC: It should tell our fans that we at least noticed that the team sucked last season and we’re not going to spend $115 million on another team that sucks in 2012. As a matter of fact, it should tell our “stars” the same thing.

Knuckleballs: Won’t guys like Mauer and Morneau wonder whether the front office is committed to winning?

GM JC: They might. But then again, that’s only fair, because the front office is wondering just how committed Mauer and Morneau and a few of the others, for that matter, are to winning.

Knuckleballs: You don’t think they want to win?

GM JC: Of course they want to win. Everybody wants to win. But you don’t always get everything you want. You have to do more than want it.

Look, for a bunch of guys who have a reputation for being “quiet leaders”, some of these guys have sure felt free to speak up about what they want. They wanted the trees dug up in center field because they kept them from hitting. We dug them up. That didn’t work so they wanted the “batters eye” changed. We did that and they still didn’t hit. Now they want the fences brought in, but at this point, we’re not convinced that will do anything except increase the number of home runs our pitchers give up.

When we were negotiating all these contracts, they all said they wanted to see our commitment to spending enough money on payroll to win. We did that and we got 99 losses for our efforts. It’s time for the players to show the front office that they’re going to live up to their end of the bargain.

Some of these guys talk about how they demonstrate leadership not by talking a lot but by leading on the field. That’s fine, but it’s time to start doing that.

Knuckleballs: So you’re saying the $100 million mark is a hard limit?

GM JC: I don’t believe in setting hard limits, but it’s a fair estimate of what our Opening Day payroll will be. I can say with certainty that it won’t be what the payroll is at the end of the season. There will be plenty of room to add quality players at mid-season if Mauer, Morneau and the rest have been healthy and productive the first half of the season and the team is playing well enough to be in contention.

Think about it. If our guys get off their butts and play baseball, we’ll have $15 million we can spend over the last three months of the season without exceeding 2011’s payroll. That means we could, theoretically, add rental players that are getting paid $30 million annually, since we’d only be paying them for half the season.

But if our studs sit on their asses from April through June, with weak legs and headaches and sore wrists and stiff whatevers… we’ll be looking to dump just about any player making over $1 million per year that any other team shows an interest in and we’ll start over from scratch a year from now.

But one way or another, the players who wear Twins uniforms in August and September this season will be guys who want to play baseball, not just hang around the clubhouse, wear a Big League uniform and do commercials.

Knuckleballs: Well that’s hard to argue with. Thank you for explaining the club’s position.

Yes… I know… this was nothing but a bit of fictional blogdom fantasy. But you know what? If Terry Ryan or Dave St. Peter would just come straight out and send this message to fans, I’d stand up and applaud. And I’d certainly get off their backs about the payroll.

– JC