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


9 Replies to “M&M: Time to Step Up or Shut Up”

  1. ” 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”

    I think Terry Ryan said about that at his introductory news conference. He didn’t think the budget was all that important, and he “certainly” was going to have more to work with this time around than he did before.

    The Twins are not under any obligation to tell the fans exactly what they are thinking or to even tell the truth. You don’t complain that the movie studios don’t hold news conferences to warn you that their new movie may be a turkey or that the star was badly cast.

    Wondering what the front office is up to is part of what makes the hot stove interesting. That, and watching it unfold one event at a time.

  2. The whole question of what a team’s “obligations” are is probably a topic that could warrant a whole lot of posts, by itself. I tend to agree that a private business like the Twins have no such obligation. In fact, being too publicly forthright can lead to problems as you negotiate with other teams, etc.

    But when teams want something from their fan base (such as a publicly financed stadium), they’re very quick to talk about how the team is a community asset worthy of local support and, in many cases, public investment in order to retain. You don’t see many movie studios doing that.

    During the many, many years of stadium debates involving the Twins, the club claimed they needed the revenue a new stadium would bring in order to afford to compete for other teams free agents. When the stadium deal was official, the team was quick to clarify that the new revenues wouldn’t mean they were likely to sign other teams’ high priced free agents, but would allow them to keep many more of their own. And for a couple of years, that’s what they’ve certainly done.

    But now, heading in to their 3rd year in the stadium, it appears that virtually all of their own free agents will sign elsewhere because they’ve determined revenues will drop, necessitating a reduced payroll.

    All of this being the case, I really don’t think it’s unreasonable for fans to ask for an explanation.

    In any event, TT, you’re right… wondering what the front office is up to is much of what makes the offseason interesting. I would go further and say that talking, debating, and even arguing about what the club is (or should be) up to is even more fun than just wondering. Fortunately, in this blog, I’ve got a vehicle that allows me to voice my opinion. Is this a great country or what?

  3. Thanks for a good read, I enjoyed it. I think the Twins have told us that the payroll will be about $100 million give or take and since GM Ryan is very conservative from a salary perspective, I expect the opening day salary to be closer to $95 million than to $100 million.
    As was pointed out in the story, Twins revenue will drop, there is no way around it and since the Twins have stated in the past that they use xx% of revenue for their payroll, you have to drop payroll.
    There is a bit of “carrot and stick” thing going on here, you can’t reward a team that went 63-99 with pay raises although some players feel they should get paid just for making the roster and showing up in the club house on game days. In my eyes, a decrease in payroll is justified here.

  4. jjswol, that’s a fair point. The thing is, in a fair world, the guys who didn’t perform would be the ones getting paid less, allowing payroll to justifiably be decreased. But this is baseball.

    So if Mauer, Morneau and Nishioka will make the same money and Span, Baker, Liriano, Blackburn and Casilla will actually make more than they made in 2011 (Span’s pay triples, btw), perhaps the only way to make your point with that group of core players is to say, “You didn’t perform last year but we can’t cut your pay, so this year you won’t have guys like Thome, Cuddyer, Kubel and Nathan to fall back on if you don’t perform again. It’s all on you, now. Prove yourselves worthy and we’ll look at adding some more guys to help out.”

    And the more I think about it, the more I think that’s pretty much exactly what the team is telling their “stars”.

  5. I agree. It is unfortunate that the contracts of today do not allow for pay cuts. Hopefully one day the owners will wise up again and write contracts that will allow them to decrease pay just as the contracts can provide bonus pay today based on certain criteria. Then again,the players union will never allow that to happen. But in a perect world……

  6. Indeed. Right now Joe Mauer is thankful he chose baseball over football. His multi-year bajillion $ contract is going to work out better for him than Donovan McNabb’s did.

  7. I enjoyed this greatly. Sums up the frustration of most Twins fans. I hope that Maurer will be able to regain the respect most of us lost for him last year. And hope Morneau and Span recover from the Concussion Syndrome. We surely have the most fragile players in the history of professional baseball.

  8. Enjoyable, Jim. But I’m just not convinced there is any attempt to send a message to the players. The Twins business operates with specific financial disciplines in place. One of those is to spend, ON AVERAGE, no more than 50% of revenues on the 40 man payroll. So, while I agree with you that they are considering a likely falloff in revenue, I don’t believe they have a payroll number set in stone per se. ANd we’ve seen Ryan in action before. He’ll err on the side of losing a specific player rather than overpaying him, because he knows even the Capps and Cuddyers are far more fungible that the players and fans believe them to be.