Money Matters

I’m constantly struck by how so many otherwise intelligent people suddenly sound like idiots when discussing issues related to money. A number of these people are certainly not idiots… they’re accomplished business owners and/or people who have achieved considerable success at running businesses. So if they aren’t as stupid as the words they’re saying makes them sound, one can only assume that they think the people hearing/reading their words are stupid enough to believe what they’re saying.

Yes, I’m referring primarily to the Twins front office.

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

It was over a month ago that the Twins held a press conference and made owner Jim Pohlad, President Dave St. Peter and General Manager Terry Ryan available to the mainstream media. Predictably, the topic of the team’s potential 2013 payroll came up. Also predictably, the Twins brass was non-committal. Here’s an excerpt from the story written at the time by MLB.com’s Twins beat reporter Rhett Bollinger (click here for the link):

Pohlad said that payroll will not be a concern this offseason, but wouldn’t give a firm number on what that will be. The Twins entered the 2012 season with a payroll right around $100 million.

“We’ve never told anybody they have to spend ‘X’ dollars or that they can’t spend whatever they are recommending,” Pohlad said. “So it could go up, it could go down. It’s whatever Terry tells us. We’ve talked about spending in that 50 percent of revenue, but it doesn’t mean Terry will spend that.”

Ryan said that the payroll situation will be fluid and that it should not hinder him from acquiring the starting pitching the club needs to compete next season.

“I think we can quit fooling ourselves that money is the answer,” Ryan said. “We’re going to have to make good decisions to create a pitching staff that’s going to give us a chance.”

Well, I’m glad they put that question to rest, aren’t you? I’m so glad to know that money doesn’t matter.

We don’t know whether the Twins could have made a deal with the Marlins for the same package of players that they dealt to Toronto last week. There’s absolutely no doubt, however, that the addition of Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle and Jose Reyes would have gone a long way toward addressing the biggest holes in the Twins lineup and the level of players the Jays sent back to Miami certainly could have been made available by the Twins.

So why wasn’t it the Twins that made the deal? I don’t know. But it’s such a friggin relief to know that whatever the reason was, it wasn’t money!

The Twins also lost Scott Baker to the Cubs last week. Baker got a good deal. $5.5 million guaranteed with another $1.5 million in incentives on a straight one year deal. According to the Star Tribune’s beat reporter, Joe Christensen, the Twins were very interested in keeping Baker, but wanted an option year for 2014, which Baker wouldn’t agree to. Again, it makes me feel so much better to know that the reason Baker won’t be wearing a Twins uniform in 2013 had nothing whatsoever to do with money.

Here’s something I’ve learned from working in Corporate America for the past 30+ years: Whenever someone in senior management tells you, “It’s not about the money,” that means that money is exactly what it’s all about.

As Twins fans, we’ve become programmed to just accept the “company line.” We’ve been hearing it since the days of Calvin Griffith and on through the Pohlad era at the Metrodome. Sure, there were hints that having a new stadium and the revenues it would generate might change things, but by and large, the fan base has continued to just accept the, “we’ll spend 50% of revenue on payroll,” line of crap that has always come out of the Twins’ offices.

It has become second nature, to the point where Twins fans seem to almost think that’s how every Major League team does business and we act surprised when other teams behave differently.

The Tigers went to the World Series, but clearly needed to improve at a corner outfield position. They looked for the best option on the market, moved quickly and signed Torii Hunter to a deal that seemed like it was a little excessive, given his age. How can they do that? Won’t that mean their payroll might exceed half of their revenues? Ah, but they’ve got an old owner who wants to win a World Series before he dies, so that’s why they can do what the Twins won’t, right?

The Blue Jays saw themselves needing much the same kind of help that the Twins need. They agreed to take on more years of higher salaries than they might have really been comfortable with, but they made the deal because they want to compete. But that’s ridiculous, right? Boy, they’ll sure regret having Buehrle and Reyes on the payroll toward the back end of those contracts because in a couple of years, their payroll might exceed half their revenues! Ah, but they’re owned by a giant Communications conglomerate and that’s why they aren’t limited as to payroll.

I’ve got a news flash, folks. Every team starts the offseason with a self-examination that identifies what their biggest needs are. The next step for most teams that are committed to being competitive is to identify the best options available via free agency or trades to meet the identified needs. Unless you’re the Rays (who have a whole bunch of financial issues unrelated to the quality of their team), your front office knows that the quality of the product on the field drives revenue.

But if you’re a Twins fan, you’ve been conditioned not to ask who would best fill the team’s needs, but who would fit in to the Twins’ designated payroll limit. That’s because the Twins have historically seemed oblivious to the basic business tenet that product quality drives revenues.

They’ve brainwashed fans in to believing that the only reasonable way to operate a business is by subscribing to the theory that a drop in revenues last year means they must cut payroll next year. It’s time for fans to become deprogrammed from that mindset and let the Twins know that their fan base is not as stupid as the club has treated them as being.

Maybe I’m being premature with this criticism. After all, it’s still early in the offseason and the Winter Meetings are still a couple of weeks away. Terry Ryan may actually sign honest-to-goodness legitimate starting pitchers to fill the Twins’ needs in that area, regardless of the cost. He may make a trade or two that will improve the middle infield, even if it means making his bosses nervous. Maybe he’ll prove that his words about payroll not hindering him from doing his job were more than just more of the same BS we’ve heard for the past decade.

But until the Twins start ACTING like money doesn’t matter, they should stop saying it. It just makes them look like fools… or like they think that’s what we are.

– JC

2010 Opening Day Predictions

We’re a little slow around here lately. A week ago, Josh Johnson posted a challenge over at Josh’s Thoughts for the Twins blogosphere to come up with our predictions for the year. He emailed a notice around to a lot of Twins bloggers and, to be honest, I have no idea if we got an email from Josh. See… we’re new at this and I haven’t quite figured out how to check our “Knuckleballs” email. (Stop laughing, it’s not THAT funny!)

We were all supposed to use Friday, April 2 as the date for all of us to post our various predictions for this season. I’m pretty sure we missed that date. I did read his post a week ago and I just have to admit that I was getting so excited about my upcoming (at the time) trip up to Target Field on Saturday, that I just simply forgot about this.

The good news is that, since we’re a newer blog, chances are that not many people noticed we didn’t participate in “prediction day.” On the other hand, apparently SOMEONE out there is reading us, because over at the “newsbobber” site, we’ve shot up from Number 64 all the way to number 48 (or tied for number 43, if you look at it that way)!

Josh suggested a number of categories that we might consider making predictions concerning. Frankly, I had enough trouble getting my “Monday Morning Mind” around LaVelle E. Neal III’s challenge for his blog readers to come up with a position player and a pitcher as 2010 “Picks to Click”, never mind all of Josh’s proposed categories, but I’m going to take a swing at making some predictions.

Twins-Specific Predictions
- Twins MVP
: Hmmmm… let me see… I hear that Joe Mauer guy is pretty good. I’ll go with him.
- Twins Top Pitcher: I like the way Kevin Slowey’s been looking. I’ll predict he keeps up the good work through the year.
- Twins Best Rookie: I’m wondering how many rookies will even get a shot in 2010, but I’ll go with Danny Valencia.
- Twins Most Improved Player: Nick Punto (it’s an even numbered year, right?)
- Bold Predictions (think of several if you’d like): Jim Thome plays a major role this year, to the tune of 25 home runs and Pat Neshek leads the Twins in saves. (Yes, Thome and Neshek are my “Picks to Click“.)
- A.L. Central Prediction (Standings): Minnesota, Chicago, Detroit, Kansas City, Cleveland
- Three Keys to Success for the Twins: I suppose “win lots of games” is a bit broad, huh? OK, let’s say 1) identify a consistent closer; 2) keep the big guns healthy; and 3) consistency of the rotation. (Yes, I know, these are all painfully obvious. I guess I’m just not feeling overly thoughtful today.)

Rest of the League Predictions
- A.L. MVP:
When someone shows me a better, and more valuable, player than Joe Mauer, I’ll consider someone else. Until then, he’s the guy.
- N.L. MVP: Likewise, I can’t see anyone approaching Albert Pujols for this award.
- A.L. Cy Young: Cliff Lee, Seattle… if he gets off his lazy butt and gets on the mound sometime soon.
- N.L. Cy Young: Roy Halladay, Philadelphia
- A.L. Rookie of the Year: Brian Matusz, Baltimore
- N.L. Rookie of the Year: Jason Heyward, Atlanta
- A.L. Breakout Player of the Year: Let’s go with our own Denard Span, shall we?
- N.L. Breakout Player of the Year: I’ve got no friggin clue here
- A.L. Comeback Player of the Year: Pat Neshek would be a nice story in this category, wouldn’t he?
- N.L. Comeback Player of the Year: Yeah… no idea.
- A.L. Playoff Predictions: Twins over Red Sox, Yankees over Mariners
- N.L. Playoff Predictions: Braves over Rockies, Cards over Phillies
- World Series Prediction: Twins over Cardinals in a throwback to 1987!

CapitalBabs and KL… if you feel inclined to add your own picks here (maybe you’ve given this more thought than I have?), just edit the post and add your predictions.

Anyone else? Let’s see what you think in the comments section.

Look for a GameChat for Game 1 out of 162 (or more!) this evening before game time at 9:00 CT.

-JC