Why Do We Care About the Twins?

I’ve been pretty critical of the Twins front office lately. I’m not alone in that, of course. Quite a number of fans, including many who are far more informed and better able to communicate than I, feel that the Twins have simply not done enough to improve the team this offseason.

Over this Christmas holiday week, I couldn’t help but reflect on matters so much more important than baseball. Will the ideologues in Washington really lead our country in to a deeper recession simply to try to make those who disagree with them look bad? What can we do to help those whose lives have been devastated by terrible storms? How do we make sure our children and their teachers can go about the educational process without fear of seemingly random acts of unthinkable violence?

Kind of makes the whole debate over whether Terry Ryan is doing enough to fix the Twins’ rotation seem hardly worth thinking about, much less arguing about over and over, doesn’t it?

So why do it? If we’re going to feel so passionate about a problem that we’ll write 1,000 words about it… not once but several times a week… shouldn’t the topic be more substantial than baseball? Of course it should.

But I can’t solve those important problems. Nothing I say or write will help. I’ve led a relatively active political life, yet I’ve never felt less able to influence my government. I give to charities, but it seems like a drop in the bucket of what’s needed for humanity. I pray, yet have never felt less aware of God’s presence in our world.

frustration2So perhaps it’s simply that powerlessness that brings me back here. I can’t do anything about any of the important matters facing the world, so I focus attention… arguably too much attention, at times… on baseball. Granted, I have no more influence with Terry Ryan than I do Congress, but I enjoy writing about baseball more than about politics, so here I am and here I shall remain.

The give and take with other baseball fans and writers… especially other Twins fans… is enjoyable. It would certainly be more enjoyable if the talent being assembled looked to be more competitive on the field come Opening Day, but we can’t really do any more about that, as fans, than discuss it. So that’s what we do.

Is it really all that important whether the Twins are being built to win more games in 2013 or not? Does it matter if we have to wait until 2014… or even 2015 or 2016… for the Twins to be good again? Well, for those of us closer to the end of our projected mortality arc than the beginning of it, it may be more important, but no, it’s not all that critical in the grand scheme of things.

But it is important.

I don’t believe the Pohlads are evil people out to fleece Twins fans out of our money without any concern for the quality of the product on the field. I don’t believe Terry Ryan is stupid about baseball, nor is he so ego-driven that he is determined to prove he can assemble a winning roster without spending any money at all. I also don’t envision his staff of senior baseball people resembling the group of old-school scouts in the movie version of “Moneyball,” whose player evaluations seemed based solely on “gut feel”.

Pohlad and Ryan want to win. I believe they want to win in 2013, while also preparing to contend in years beyond. The players Ryan obtained in return for Denard Span and Ben Revere make it clear that Ryan’s primary focus is at least two years in the future. He knows it would be a very good idea not to have the 2013 Twins lose 95+ games again and he’ll try to avoid that, but he’s clearly not going to waste a lot of energy… or the Pohlads’ money… on any attempt to fix the team’s immediate problems.

I still think that’s bad business, but it’s not my business. The Pohlads have entrusted those decisions to Ryan and, presumably, team president Dave St. Peter, so in a few years we’ll see who was right.

With the new year almost upon us, it’s probably time to move past the, “what should Terry Ryan do?” phase of the offseason discussion, anyway. Maybe there will be a late bargain available to Ryan over the next couple of months, but for the most part, the roster is set. It will be an $80 million payroll short on established Major League talent. It will be a team projected to finish at the bottom of the AL Central again.

But that doesn’t mean it can’t be fun to watch… and to talk about.

That’s one of the things that makes baseball the greatest game in the world, to me. When the players… whatever their respective talent levels… take the field, anything can happen. You never know when you might see something you’ve never seen before. I couldn’t begin to count the number of baseball teams I’ve been involved with over the years, from the time I started playing organized ball at the age of 5, through my years as a player, as a coach, and now as merely a fan who enjoys writing about the game and my chosen favorite teams. But I’ve enjoyed literally every summer of baseball for these past 50+ years and I’m sure I’ll enjoy 2013, as well.

I will also get frustrated in 2013. I will rant here… and elsewhere… about that frustration. I will argue about it. I will cheer what successes may be found in 2013 and I will try to savor the experience of watching a potential Hall of Fame catcher do his thing for the Twins, just as I savored watching Rod Carew’s talent, even during some very difficult years for the Twins and their fans.

I may not spend much of my money on Twins tickets in 2013 (I spent no money at all on them in 2012) because I do believe the only way any of us can genuinely influence Ryan and his bosses to change their business strategy is by speaking with our pocketbooks. I attended 12-15 games a year when I felt the organization was moving in the right direction. I won’t do so when I feel that’s no longer true.

Hammond Stadium, Spring Training home of the Twins
Hammond Stadium, Spring Training home of the Twins

That doesn’t mean I won’t still be a fan. I’ve been a fan through far worse stretches over the past 50 years. For better or worse, being a Twins fan is an important aspect of who I am and I will continue to spend a considerable about of time following them, talking about them, writing about them and, yes, arguing about them. I’m not sure what that says about me, but it probably isn’t good… at least not entirely good. I don’t really care about that.

I care about the Twins. And I care that Spring Training is less than two months away.

– JC

11 Replies to “Why Do We Care About the Twins?”

  1. “I spent no money at all on them in 2012”

    I beg to disagree 😉

    – Did you go to ST and watched any home games?
    – Did you buy Twins’ logoed stuff?
    – Did you buy MLB.TV?
    – Did you watch any Twins’ game in a cable TV channel while subscribing to cable TV?

    If you answered “yes” to any of the above, you did spent money on them 😉

  2. i bought a new Twins hat for 2013 and i subscribe to Direct tv MLB package….that will be it for 2013

  3. We all ot caught up in this bandwagon of a new stadium will mean we can afford more market value or above players. Not that spending money means you win…or lose.

    Baseball is a tough business. You sit and look at player development. Do you bring them up too soon. What do they need to be the best prepared for the big leagues. You always worry about arbitration and potential free-agency. You want the best group of players to mesh in an overlapping pattern, not necessarily all at the same time (as they become expensive at the same time).

    Someone has to lose. Someone has to win, If everyone amps up for contention, someone still gets the short straw.

    Plus, you have injuries, headcases, working together, fan support, age.

    In the real world, and at times baseball has been a real world, all teams are fairly equal. They have their one or two outstanding superstars, a bunch of grizzled vets, and young turks who long for the glory.

    But there is still more disparity than ever, it seems, as in real life business. You have $200 million payrolls and $40 million payrolls. Go figure. But the money is there to spend.

    Yes, we would rather see the Pohlads spends $100 million of their yearly $200 million revenue on current on-field product. Then they spend $80 million, we wonder where that additional revenue ultimately goes. Of course, we don’t know how much the Twins really make, how much money is shuffled between companies (this year, they own the radio station).

    Was baseball of my youth better, players having to work real jobs in the off-season, preparing themselves for another career after the game ended. Was it a expensive back then as now. Did I blanch at getting more than x-$ worth of food and drink like I do now?

    I love baseball. I enjoy watching the game. I worship the different skill sets that I dream I can almost do.

    They still get my money, a small percentage of what they take in each year. I happily give it to them, and watch…be they win or lose.

  4. Thrylos, you conveniently left out the sentence prior to the one you quoted from my article. The full paragraph is, “I may not spend much of my money ON TWINS TICKETS in 2013 (I spent no money at all on them in 2012) because I do believe the only way any of us can genuinely influence Ryan and his bosses to change their business strategy is by speaking with our pocketbooks. I attended 12-15 games a year when I felt the organization was moving in the right direction. I won’t do so when I feel that’s no longer true.”

    I did not say I did not or would spend money on anything where any portion of it might find its way in to the Twins’ pockets. The topic I clearly was discussing was tickets to their games. True, I attended two Twins home ST games in 2012 and I may indeed attend ST again this spring. I did not attend any regular season games. I also don’t think you can consider my MLB.tv subscription to be “supporting the Twins” since I’m blacked out of even watching Twins games on that site. I primarily watched Orioles games.

    Nevertheless, let me clarify… I did not spend any money on Twins regular season tickets in 2012, while I have historically made several trips to the Twin Cities to attend Twins series each season for most of the past decade, at least. It’s unlikely that I’ll make a similar number of trips this season, unless the team is far more successful than we’re expecting. Attendance is a critical component of the Twins’ financial model and going to fewer games is one important way fans can communicate their displeasure with the Twins’ financial decisions this offseason.

  5. Joel, because the Twins apparently still don’t want my friends and me in Iowa to watch their games on television and thus continue to allow us to be blacked out, I won’t have to make the decision of whether I will watch them regularly on television. My guess is that I’ll spend less time at my local sports bar watching their games this season, but that’s only partially determined by the quality of the team’s play.

    Since my local Class A team, the Kernels, is now the Twins’ Midwest League affiliate, I’ll likely spend many more nights watching live baseball at the local ballpark watching the Kernels. I can even do that without feeling like I’m “supporting” Jim Pohlad, since my ticket and beer money go to the local public organization that owns the Kernels. My guess is that it will be much less frustrating watching them that in would be watching the Twins this season.

  6. While I’m on a “clarification” roll here, let me just add that I believe we, as fans, SHOULD support the players on the team. They aren’t responsible for the decisions being made. So long as they behave themselves and put forth an honest effort to win baseball games, I’ll support the players. None of them likely went to Terry Ryan and said, “please don’t sign any good pitchers this offseason.”

  7. the Twins need pitching. Outside of Zach Greinke, was/is there a difference maker in the FA market? From my perspective, no there was/is not.
    Would it be nice if the Twins took a shot at a McCarthy/Marcum/etc type player? absolutely. But I have made my peace with the Twins never ever doing that sort of thing long ago. Thats why I can still cheer for the Twins and not be utterly turned off by the lack of any marquee free agent signings.
    And living 100 miles away and no practical way to make it to a Twins game….yeah I dont really spend money on the team.

  8. Thank you, Alex.

    James, I do believe there were other “difference makers” in the FA market beyond just Greinke. Sanchez, Jackson, Marcum, Dempster, just to name a few. Were they “aces”? No. But each was a potential “difference maker” in a Twins rotation. I admit that I let the talk coming from Ryan, Pohlad and St. Peter give me some hope that this offseason would be different from others in the past. Now, like last year, I’m left in a position where I just have to hope for the best. There’s always at least one really surprising team that outperforms all expectations… maybe this year that’ll be the Twins.

  9. That’s nice, man. I’ve been having the same conversation with myself.

    Besides the moves from the front office, I’ve also letting myself get frustrated by people with whom I disagree – and even with terms I’m tired of people throwing out with authority. (“Replacement” and “upside” are tops on my sick-of-hearing list.)

    I’ve been reminding myself, “It’s just club baseball.” And I’m sure I’m right. I had a great time at a game with 7,000 people at Met Stadium where the highlight was Bombo Rivera throwing our beach ball back into the bleachers. To some degree, it doesn’t matter if the team stinks. I still get to see top-level teams and players.

    The reason having the Twins turn into the Timberwolves or Royals or Cubs matters is because the average fan is not me. Minnesota baseball fans are fickle. We have come dangerously close to watching the team leave before, and I don’t want to come close again.