I’ll Keep Howling at the Moon

I read something today in another Twins blog that made me more than a little disheartened. It wasn’t so much because I disagree with the writer (though I certainly do), but it bothers me that I sense a great number of good, intelligent fans do agree with him.

I’m talking about Nick Nelson’s “Thoughts on Payroll” post over at Nick’s Twins Blog. I don’t often put up a post here at Knuckleballs in response to another blogger’s post. Usually, I simply post a comment at his/her site and let it go at that.

But this time, while I did leave a brief comment, I didn’t feel I could fully express my concerns in the few words I try to limit such comments to. So here I am.

Let me say up front that I really respect Nick, even when I don’t agree with him on a topic. He and the other TwinsCentric writers do great work and all of their blogs are “must reads” for any Twins fan, in my opinion. When I notice Nick has posted something new, I check it out as soon as I have an opportunity. The respect I have for Nick, in this case, just adds to my discouragement. 

At the risk of overly simplifying the point of his piece, the takeaway I got from it was that we should all stop howling at the moon. There’s no point continuing to complain about the Twins slashing their payroll because there’s nothing we can do about it, no matter how much we complain about it. We should just enjoy the baseball. But please don’t just take my word for it, you should read it for yourself and judge whether I’ve missed his point entirely.

But I would take strong exception to anyone who suggests we stop complaining about an issue, even if the cause is just, because we may be powerless to effect immediate change.

I believe it was Margaret Mead who said, “Never underestimate the power of a small dedicated group of people to change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Perhaps it’s because the roots of my philosophical beliefs go back to the 60s and 70s, but I would contend that:

IF the system truly is unjust; AND

IF the efforts of those who speak out against the injustice of the system appear to be ineffective; THEN

THE SOLUTION is not to stop speaking out, but to speak out louder, so as to educate and, hopefully, inspire others to lend their voices to the cause.

If fans do as Nick suggests and stop complaining about owners who milk their communities and fan bases without consequence, what would prevent or even dissuade them from taking greed to an even greater level?

The Twins claim they budget just over 50% of revenues toward their Major League payroll, with the number a little higher some years and lower in others. But we have to trust them on that because they are neither required, nor inclined, to share with their fans what their revenues actually are.

I find that difficult to accept without voicing objection, regardless of the likelihood of my objections being met with anything but silence from the Twins. I’m sure we’re all quite accustomed to the Twins ignoring anything and everything we say to them that isn’t intended to congratulate them on what a good job they do.

Well guess what… 99 losses is not a good job, something that the front office readily admits and has declared their intent to remedy immediately. So I’m not inclined to congratulate any of them and it’s pretty difficult to understand how imposing a 10+% payroll reduction is consistent with their claim that they are committed to contending in 2012.

If they are just paying lip service to contending, but don’t really believe it’s going to happen, why shouldn’t we call them on it? Why should we simply nod dejectedly and agree that allocating enough payroll to actually contend isn’t doable… when they aren’t willing to provide even the flimsiest evidence that such is the case?

That’s not to say that we can’t or shouldn’t enjoy the baseball games themselves or support our players on the field. I believe that one can support their favorite team, while concurrently voicing differences with that team’s front office. 

I hope most of us who disagree with ownership’s decision to slash payroll are perfectly capable of not letting that disagreement prevent us from enjoying watching the Twins play baseball. Anyone who can’t do that certainly should find other forms of entertainment… and perhaps some professional mental health assistance… rather than relying on any professional sports team to fill their days and nights.

As for me, I’ll keep howling at the moon while I also continue appreciating the beauty of the game of baseball as played by men blessed with exceptional, if occasionally flawed, talent.

– JC

5 Replies to “I’ll Keep Howling at the Moon”

  1. “Why should we simply nod dejectedly and agree that allocating enough payroll to actually contend isn’t doable”

    Actually the question is whether “allocating enough payroll” can make a team a contender. There are any number of examples where high payrolls didn’t make teams contenders and where low payrolls didn’t prevent them from contending.

    Regardless of how much the Twins spend, some fans will always make the argument that they should spend more. All you have to do is look at last year’s budget. It was the highest in team history and there were vociferous complaints about their dumping salary by letting Hardy go and not signing the bullpen guys who left as free agents.

    The complaints happens every year and it will happen every year off into the future. You could just re-run the same post with the same arguments every year. The complaining is a monotonous drone for which there is no solution.

  2. Then I’ll continue to drone on, as well as howl.

    The article that Nick linked to, by Geoff Baker, is spot on. http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/marinersblog/2017206419_how_the_myth_that_cost-effecti.html

    As long as the fan base is so willing to just accept what the teams say are their “payroll limits” without question, owners have really no incentive to improve the competitive levels of their teams.

    I have no objection to team owners potentially making profits. I’m a Republican, after all! But I don’t believe owners should have profits locked in and guaranteed, regardless of the quality (or lack thereof) of their product. The Pohlads are essentially saying, “We need to take our cut off the top of gross revenues, so that means we will insist on cutting payroll this year, just in case few fans show up at games.”

    Owners have no skin in the game at all and they never will, because no owner that is even suspected of being so competitive that he might consider using personal wealth to make sure his team is competitive will ever be allowed by the other owners to join their fraternity (see Cuban, Mark).

    Many fans agree with TT. They don’t want to keep hearing about the financial realities of MLB. They don’t care that the Twins clearly COULD improve their rotation and their bullpen enough to make them very, very likely to compete for the AL Central title. They’re willing to just accept the front office’s public line about how they can’t spend more than $100 million.

    Howard Sinker said it right in his post a while back. It’s not “can’t”, it’s “won’t”. There’s a big difference. If continuing to point that out is monotonous, so be it.

  3. “As long as the fan base is so willing to just accept what the teams say are their “payroll limits” without question, owners have really no incentive to improve the competitive levels of their teams.”

    Uh – the only thing every team having higher payroll limits will do is raise the salaries of players. The players don’t get better just because they are paid more.

    ” I’m a Republican, after all!”

    Well that explains it.

  4. Howl all you want. The Twins know they have screwed themselves with the Mauer and the guy with the headaches contracts. Jimmy Carl Pohlad is filling the money bags and stashing them in one of his several mansions. Get used to it.

  5. My concern with the Twins is less the projected payroll for 2012 and more the commitment to assemble a team that can win it all. Last year they appeared to be ready to extend the payroll to win and injuries compounded by bad play kept that from happening. At least the signs were there that the Twins were committed to winning.

    This year it is more difficult, at least at this time of the year, to see a similar commitment, but it looks so far like they are betting on the return to success of Mauer, Morneau, Span, Liriano, Baker, Blackburn and Capps. If most of them do not have a good year, it won’t matter what the payroll level is, the Twins will end up in last place in the division again. If they do have rebound years, the Twins will be in the mix for a division title and also in a position to make the deals needed to improve the starting rotation by the trade deadline. In that circumstance, the current payroll projection is an advantage because there is plenty of room to get the needed pieces.

    All of that is why I’m not yet ready to get too bent out of shape about the decrease in projected payroll. We are going to have to see how the season plays out to find out how committed the Twins are to winning this year. In the meantime, given the realities of MLB as it is now structured, and the Seattle journalist has it mostly right, I also want to see that the Twins management is continuing to invest in the future. The recent signing of the 16 year old Silva is a good sign.