Pohlad: “We took our eye off the ball”

With a hat tip to Twins Daily’s Parker Hageman (@OverTheBaggy) for sending the link out via Twitter, I found this interview with Twins owner Jim Pohlad by Adam Platt of Twin Cities Business to be another indication that Pohlad is not looking for this offseason to be “business as usual” for Twins President Dave St. Peter, General Manager Terry Ryan and the rest of the Twins front office.

Owner Jim Pohlad, GM Terry Ryan and President Dave St. Peter
Owner Jim Pohlad, GM Terry Ryan and President Dave St. Peter

Certainly there’s plenty in Pohlad’s words that skeptics (and really, who in the Twins fan base is NOT a skeptic at this point?) might roll their eyes at. But for me, I’m seeing more evidence that St. Peter, Ryan and their group have different – and quite specific – marching orders this winter.

The Twins owner wants a better product on the field and he doesn’t want to sit around and wait through another miserable season before he gets what he wants.

Platt asked Pohlad if losing hurts the bottom line, to which the owner replied: “Poor performance will always be out ahead of poor financial performance. 2010 was the best year in our ownership history. It’s been declining ever since, and if we don’t improve it will decline next year.”

Pohlad pointed out that success among some organizations is cyclical, while others are able to win consistently. The Twins want to be among the latter group going forward and are doing some analysis to determine what differentiates one group from the other. Platt asked Pohlad if ownership had a role in the current down cycle. “I was probably not pushing enough in the good years. We became self-satisfied. We took our eye off the ball,” Pohlad admitted.

His further responses would seem to indicate his eye is back on the ball – and on the people who work for him.

One of the more insightful exchanges came as Platt asked Pohlad about the organization’s perceived insular nature. The Twins have a reputation for almost exclusively promoting from within to fill leadership roles when they open up, rather than looking to bring in people who have come up through other organizational cultures.

Said Pohlad, “Well, in order to have the ‘Twins way’ be successful, you have to have a methodology, but you also need players. We do embrace new perspectives. Loyalty and low turnover can inhibit that, I admit. We need to always be asking ourselves if we have the right mix of people, policies, and procedures to develop the right players.”

Platt followed up by asking if Terry Ryan is open to that and Pohlad responded, “We’re pressing him on it. I’m not saying Terry isn’t somewhat old-fashioned. He is. But he wants to win.”

For those of us hoping to see the Twins jump in to the deep end of the free agent pool this winter (or at the very least, venture out of the kiddie pool of the free agency marketplace), Pohlad responded in this way when asked specifically what could be done to fix the team’s problems in 2014: “We have a lot of prospects, but most aren’t quite ready. We don’t have a lot of trading inventory. We have to go into the marketplace. Terry knows that. I’m not encouraging him to wait.(emphasis added)

There’s nothing in this interview that indicates Jim Pohlad has lost confidence in Terry Ryan. I believe he genuinely likes Ryan and believes he’s among the best in the business at evaluating baseball talent. However, he also admits at one point that, “The toughest thing for an owner is patience and avoidance of meddling…”

I encourage you to read the entire interview and come to your own conclusions, but I get the distinct impression that Pohlad’s patience is not unlimited. In fact, his patience is being tested every bit as much as is ours in the fanbase.

I also get the feeling that, if things don’t change soon, the days of ownership not “meddling” may come to an abrupt end. Pohlad does not come across to me as an owner who is content to let his front office stubbornly stick to old-fashioned approaches indefinitely, especially once they start to cost him real money.

At one point, Pohlad also says, “There’s not one bit of truth that you can make money and lose consistently. Long-term losing destroys your brand.(emphasis added) I don’t believe you can make money and lose indefinitely.”

That sounds like a man who is tired of losing.

– JC

4 Replies to “Pohlad: “We took our eye off the ball””

  1. Don’t believe anything you hear from Jim Pohlad other than we want to create a competitive product but don’t want to pay for it.

  2. I think he’s trying to say the right things. But, until proven otherwise, I believe that they won’t be splashing around more money than the Royals spent on Vargas, whose contract effectively sets a limit on the kind of pitchers I expect the Twins to sign. One of the club executive’s (I forget which one) comments on Josh Johnson lead me to believe that they’re not interested in betting $10M on 1-yr. deals for pitchers with a bad ERA but encouraging peripherals last season, like Johnson or Danny Haren, either.

    Pohlad also indicates in the interview that he still most strongly believes in building around the farm system (“The most efficient dollars you spend are spent on player development and scouting”) and doesn’t expect to trade prospects for veterans this winter (“We have a lot of prospects, but most aren’t quite ready. We don’t have a lot of trading inventory”; um, Jim, a lot of prospects = a lot of trading inventory, but whatever). They’re apparently focused on upgrading with free agents (“We have to go into the marketplace”), but how high are they really aiming?

    I believe the Twins probably will sign an average player for 3-4 years, at a bit higher rate than what they paid Willingham–maybe as much as $40M/4yrs. At least they really will try for the best players available at that rate, if only because they know that fans want some kind of significant signing this winter. Otherwise, they’ll be shopping for a few more stopgaps out of the bargain bin. The real plan remains to wait for the farm to produce the core of the next winning team. The process worked well enough in 2001-2004, and again with the next wave of prospects from 2006-2010. Pretty much all of the same people are still running the show, now. Why wouldn’t they believe that their process can work in the same way, yet again?

  3. Well, a bit of money, mouth, and so on since this interview, it appears. New nickname: Jim “I’m not Carl” Pohlad?

  4. I wonder what Carl would have done with the sort of revenues, adjusted for inflation of course, that Jim has available to him. Twins fans focus on Carl’s willingness to contract the team (and rightfully so, at least to a degree), but the senior Pohlad also authorized giving Kirby a contract that was the biggest in baseball at the time.

    As for Jim, yes it appears he was serious in his interview with Twin Cities Business. Fans can, and will, pick nits regarding the talents of Nolasco and Hughes, but those signings in advance of the Winter Meetings show an aggressiveness that has not been part of the Twins MO before.

    There’s still a lot of money available to spend before they get to anywhere near the level that revenues should be supporting, so I don’t think they should be done shopping yet.