Tag Archives: Target Field

Explaining the Twins’ Fabricated Fiscal Cliff

I have been a Twins fan for 25+ years. The MLB network rebroadcast Game 7 of the 1991 World Series a few nights ago and, even writing about that game triggers memories of watching it on my parents living room floor. Seeing Dazzle Man Dan Gladden and his gorgeous mullet trot to home plate with the winning run. My face inches from the TV because I had to make sure I had heard Jack “Yeah, my son is not me” Buck correctly, the Twins had just won the World Series. Those were great times.

Despite its shortcomings, Twins fans had a lot of great memories in the Dome. A lot.

In spite of its shortcomings, Twins fans had a lot of great memories in the Dome. A lot.

As I have gotten older, I have watched my team change. The Dome got older and, what was once a novelty, became a punchline. Twins fans were told that, because of revenue restrictions relating to the Dome, the Twins’ only way to compete was to draft and develop in-house talent. Amazingly, we did.

From 2001 to 2006, the Twins were competitive for the division title each year, somehow managing to even win it a few times. Unfortunately, we never rekindled the ’87 or ’91 magic and got back to the World Series. However, those teams did accomplish one significant thing: they built Target Field.

The quality of the teams in the aughts finally helped get the legislature off its sizable rear and on board with a state-financed ballpark for the hometown nine. And what a ballpark it turned out to be. Target Field is one of the most enjoyable sports venues in the country. There are few, if any, that can equal its atmosphere.

Prior to the opening of that palace we call a ball field, Twins management assured the fans that the state’s commitment to the team, remember, we built the stadium, meant a more significant payroll and, hopefully, a more consistently competitive team. Aside from a magical (though abbreviated) playoff run in 2010, its inaugural season, Target Field has not hosted any playoff games. What is worse, the “financial commitment” that the Twins assured fans would come has been severely lacking.

Dollar dogs are great! See, I am fiscally responsible too!!

Dollar dogs are great! See, I am fiscally responsible too!!

Oh sure, they gave big money to hometown boy/team savior Joe Mauer. But if you do not think that contract will pay the Twins back ten fold during Joe’s lifetime, maybe you should just stop reading now. I am not sure I can get through to you. Heck, the Twins even threw $80 million at AL MVP Justin Morneau. I can almost hear the ghost of Carl Pohlad, “SEEEEEEEE…we are huge spenders…what are you trying to do? Get everyone all fired up for no reason? Here, have a dollar hot dog”

Rather than focus on those two reasonably large contracts, though they are the only two the Twins have signed in the last 10 years, let’s focus on overall revenues. This is the critical piece. If the Twins are balancing a financial mess each year, as we have been lead to believe, one would expect their operating margins to be razor thin.

From 2006 to 2011, the Twins operating income, the money that the Pohlad family deposits in the bank, was just a touch north of $140 million. $140 million. That does not feel razor thin. And it is not like that number is skewed by one or two massive years. In fact, Twins operating income has been like a metronome, knocking out right around $20 to $25 million a year for the last six years.

But what does that mean? After all, baseball is a big dollar business. Maybe $140 million is chump change. Right? I mean, maybe?

Well, for comparison’s sake, the Detroit Tigers (Twins’ division rival and comparably-sized metropolitan fan base), lost just south of $60 million during that same time period. But, you know what else they lost: two World Series.

Like the Twins, the Tigers realized a sizable bump in their operating income when they opened Comerica Park in 2000. They immediately returned that money into the team. Unlike the Scrooge McPohlads, who are unwilling to have a year where they bank less than $15 million, Tigers owner Michael Ilitch has followed through on his promises to use the revenues generated by the new stadium to build a championship contending team. He has made mega-deals with Justin Verlander, Prince Fielder, Miguel Cabrera, and countless others.

Hang on though, in full fairness and disclosure, that is only half the story. We should also take a peek at the net worth of each owner to make sure that Michael Ilitch is not some uber-wealthy (by owner standards), championship-crazed nut who can afford to stop at nothing to win. Our friends at Forbes put Michael’s net worth at around $1.7 billion. A lot of cash to be sure. However, the Scrooge McPohlad family’s net worth is approximately $3.6 billion. Gee, only $2 billion more.

That is right! THE Kevin Correia. And for ONLY $5 million a season.

That is right! THE Kevin Correia. And for ONLY $5 million a season.

Despite that almost incomprehensible difference, two billion dollars is a TON  of money (actually it is two tons if we are talking c-notes), the news broke today that the Tigers re-signed Annibal Sanchez to a 5 year, $80 million deal. This on the heels of the Twins recent mega-deal, the signing of the domitable Kevin Correia to a 2 year, $10 million deal. So, the ownership group, the McPohlads, that could have signed 12,449 Annibal Sanchez contracts, or 6,801 Zach Grienke contracts, and still have more money than his division rival.  Instead, that owner signed super-5th starter, Kevin Correia. Just. Brutal.

What is brilliant about the whole situation? There is no outrage. None. Zero. Zilch. Nada. For some reason, the good people of Minnesota have embraced the “little engine that could” mentality. Twins fans wear their “small market” badge with pride! It is a marketing coup on the same scale as the pet rock and the Honey Boo Bot. Not only are people are paying money for this, but there is demand for everything Twins.

Please do not get me wrong. I am a huge fan of frugality. I grew up that way. And I get it, we pinch our pennies here in the Midwest. We are sensible people. But that is the crazy thing, there is no reason for it. Not only have the Twins not been in financial straits the last 6 years, they have actually been generating a substantial profit!! Like, swan-dive-in-the-bank-with-the-dollar-sign-on-the-outside profit.We should not be frugal for the sake of being frugal. Not when the goal is to win.

The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world that he did not exist.

The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world that he did not exist.

In the classic Brian Singer flick “Usual Suspects,” Kevin Spacey’s character, borrowing a line from Charles Baudelaire, a 19th century French poet and philosopher, informs the cop interviewing him that the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he did not exist.

I am no 19th century French poet, but the greatest trick the McPohlad family ever pulled was convincing Minnesota that our club’s stinginess is reactionary and not a choice. I have $140 million reasons why nothing could be further from the truth.

The fact is, there is no fiscal cliff for the Minnesota Twins. Only a gold-lined road from Target Field to the McPohlads’ bank. If this happened in Philly, where the fans are more…aggressive…for lack of a better word, Target Field would nothing but a pile of rubble. But not here in flyover country. While we are busy pinching pennies for the McPohlads, they are pinching us for millions.

Tweets From The Cutting Room Floor

With the Twins’ 2012 season essentially in the books before Labor Day, fans have found creative ways to channel their frustrations with management. Some rail away in the online comments section of the local bird cage liners. Others make their voice heard on fifty and one hundred thousand watt radio.

The volume of Twins fans’ displeasure has increased these past few weeks.

But, there is another, little known venue where fans are commenting on the state of the team. Though, unless you are a top-secret management insider, those comments go unheard. The silenced source of fan angst that I am referring to is the Twins Twitter feed at Target Field.

If you have been to a game in the last couple of years, you may have noticed the “live” Twitter feed that the team displays on the right center field scoreboard. In order for your tweet to have a shot at appearing on the board, you need to include #MNTwins in your tweet.

As you may have guessed, critical tweets do not appear in the feed. It is only the true believers or 14 year old girls commenting on Joe Mauer’s “cuteness” who ever crack the feed and are able to revel in five seconds of social media glory. Presumably, it is some lowly intern’s job to edit out the negative tweets. Though, considering the Twins notoriously stingy payroll, it would not surprise me if this was part of Bill Smith’s new gig.  From signing boat anchor contracts to censoring the Twins Twitter feed. It almost sounds like a promotion when you put it like that.

Bill Smith’s potential new gig aside, the following are what we think the tweets that do not make the feed might look like:

“Just saw @Yoshi “Buckner” another ground ball. Are we past labeling him a homeless man’s version of Kaz Matsui? #MNTwins #MissingPunto “

@JasonMarquis has pitched incredibly well…for the Friars this year. The exact kind of veteran leadership the Twins were hoping for when they signed him.

“@JasonMarquis with another quality start!! Though, can someone explain why his jersey says Padres on it?? #MNTwins #SPsGalore”

“”Average attendance 35,000 a game?!?! P.T. Barnum wasn’t kidding. In fact, at 35K, the MN birth rate must be higher than one a day. #MNTwins “

“@Liam Hendricks leads the British Open after two rounds. Wait, Liam pitches in the MLB? Not really though? Really?!? #MNTwins #StillSPsGalore”

“@LewFord back in the show? @TerryRyan step away from that phone. We are not trading for him. Even if the O’s throw in 2 boxes of popcorn. #MNTwins”

“@DLViceChairCarlPavano has nearly 3 times as many career starts as all the current Twins SPs. #MNTwins #StillSPsGalore??? “

“@ZachGrienke is getting ready to make his Twins debut…riiiiiight…so about that. #MNTwins #AnotherBlockbusterTradeDeadlineDeal”

“Well, it might be 8-0 Tigers in the sixth, but, Target Field’s Helmet Nachos are going to get me through tonight’s game” #MNTwins #NoJokeHelmetNachos”

Okay, so even if  the above tweets are not entirely legit, except for that last one, you get the drift. My guess is that lowly intern (or Bill Smith) is going to be awful busy these last six weeks.

Helmet nachos aside, if you are interested in heading to a game to try and crack the Twitter feed wall of censorship, skip on over to Ticket King or solid deals on Twins tickets. Plus, if you are in the sweet seats, it is less likely that you get plunked with another home run ball surrendered by a Twins pitcher.

Hope For Sale, Get Your Hope!!

If you missed Part 1 of BR’s reaction to the first weekend of the 2012 MLB season, you can find it here. Part 2 covers the western half of the BR rivalry. That is right, ladies and gentlemen, the Twin Cities finest purveyors of hope, your 2012 Minnesota Twins.

Even though the Twins’ record is markedly improved from when Part 1 was written, all is not well in house that Mauer built.

Not even the power (see $$$$) of the Mouse himself was enough to pen a happy ending for the Alberts' road trip to the Land of 10,000 Lakes.

The Twins are currently 2-4, fresh off two semi-dramatic wins at home over the Anaheim Alberts of Los Angeles, brought to you by Disney. No doubt, the recent wins were exciting. In fact, aside from the recent addition of excellent, local micro-brews like Fulton to Target Field taps, these wins were the most excitement this field has seen since Big Jim Thome stroked his 598th HR last August. But hey, don’t worry, we only have 320 months worth of payments left on that tab!!

In spite of those recent wins, this year’s team is ripe for savagery. It is almost too easy to point out that a team that was one of the worst, from a pitching perspective, did literally nothing to add to the strength of either the rotation or the bullpen. In fact, with the loss of former horse Joe Nathan, it is more reasonable to say that the Twins let one of the worst staffs in the league get worse. Add to that the recent news that staff “ace” (read into those quotes however you want to), Scott Baker, is going to have to undergo season ending elbow surgery and 2012 Twins pitching staff offers little in the way of inspiration.

In fact, to call the Twins’ staff a collection of 3s and 4s might be generous. The current stable of starters is: The Moustache, The Artist Formerly Known As The Franchise, Nick Blackburn, Someone Called Liam Hendricks, and Jason “That Is Right, I Am Your Marquis Free Agent Signing” Marquis. A generous projection would be an average ERA around 4.25 with 150+ innings from four out of the five. IF, and that is a Hrbowski sized if, the Twins can get those numbers from their starters, the offense might be able to keep them in some games.

Though, to call the 2012 Twins offense consistent or reliable would be a bold-faced lie. There is promise there, but that is about it. There are still more questions than a Tim Tebow new conference.

Twins fans are hoping the Baby Jesus embraces his role as Messiah and starts spraying balls into Target Field's cavernous gaps.

Messers Mauer and Morneau started the season off relatively well. Both have driven the ball and have had decent ABs during the first two series. But, neither one of them has ever had an issue producing when they are healthy. Their health is the key. Morneau (an admitted man-crush of this author), almost gives off a vibe of fragility when he digs in. Every AB is like playing hot potato with a pin-less grenade. He will rip a ball to the outfield and as he digs around first, you find yourself thinking things like, “Stay put!!”……”This is no time to be a hero!!”……”It is a marathon not a sprint” Then, as he is retreating to first, your competitive side pipes up, “Wait a minute, be man, stretch that thing out”…….”At least force a throw?!?” If this is what is going through the minds of most fans, it has to be 10X more difficult to reconcile that battle as a player. For years, you played the game one way, now, both Mauer and Morneau are having to learn how to manage those natural instincts.

Even though there is a serious concern as to whether the M&M boys really will melt under the lens of Minnesota fandom, other pieces in the line-up are looking promising. Free agent signee Josh Willingham is making Michael Cuddyer look like the poor man’s Josh Willingham, cranking 4 HRs to start the season and assuming the mantle of role model for young players. And, super rookie, Chris Parmelee has kept his hot streak from spring training alive.

All is not lost (yet) in the Land of 10,000 lakes. Even though things are likely going to have to go oh-so-right this year as often as they went oh-so-wrong last year for this squad to make any noise, spring has a funny way of giving fans amnesia. Hope is an easy beverage to consume on a beautiful, Minnesota spring day. Taking that into account, most of us do not need anything crazy like a deep playoff run, but, instead, we would be happy with a return to relevancy. As financiers of this fancy new park, at this point, it seems like little to ask for. Aww hell…..screw it……pass the hope.

AL Central Preview (With A Throwback Twist): Part 2

In case you missed Part 1 of Border Rivals’ 2012 AL Central Preview, you can find it here.   Without further adieu (seriously, who likes adieu), lets get it on.

Minnesota Twins

The focus of Part 2 is on the other half of the Border Rivals rivalry. That is right, fresh off 99 losses, bi-lateral leg weakness, and concussion-like symptoms, ladies and gentlemen, your 2012 Minnesota Twins.

Thome was in Minnesota just long enough to hit his 600th and win the fans' hearts (that lumberjack commercial was solid). Then, in line with the 2011 season, he was gone.

To say 2011 was a difficult season for Twins fans is like suggesting the recent Tibetan hunger strike was a couple monks dieting for a cause. Twins fans experienced the following (in no particular order): more than uni-lateral leg weakness (Mauer), a Hall of Fame milestone (Liriano’s no-hitter), a milestone for a Hall of Famer (Thome’s 600th HR), concussion-like symptoms (Morneau), additional concussion-like symptoms (Spansy), elbow pain (Baker), twisted ankle (Kubel), the departure of a Hall of Famer/fan favorite (Thome again), an appointment with Dr. James Andrews (Kyle Gibson), and a litany of other maladies and strange happenstances (remember, it hailed during a game in May), that made 2011 both memorable and oh-so-forgettable.

The success of this season hinges almost entirely on three things: Mauer and Morneau’s return to their MVP form, the health of the starting rotation, and the squad’s ability to play “Twins” baseball — defense, advancing the runner, and making the routine play.

Mauer and Morneau are both coming off their worst seasons as professionals. It was so bad that, on more than one occasion, both guys were hearing boo birds for the first time in their careers. Particularly for the Baby Jesus, the idea that THE hometown boy would get jeered by the hometown fans, is nigh on unthinkable.

This spring, the M&M boys have shown glimpses of their old form. Mauer is making solid contact, even if he is not hitting HRs, and Morneau is pulling the ball with authority to right field. Ultimately, the key to both men having successful seasons might be the same: managing their playing time. That burden falls on Manager Ron Gardenhire. It is not an enviable task, convincing superstar players to assume a reduced role. But, putting them on a platoon (Morneau with more time at DH and Mauer at 1B) will likely decide whether they return to their All-Star forms. If they play at that level, the Twins will feature a fairly solid line-up that will put runs on the board.

In terms of the starting rotation, Moonshot Scott Baker is already injured. He will start the year on the disable list. That is exactly what the Twins did not need. With Brian Duensing moving to the bullpen, an injury to the starting rotation means either Duensing gets stretched out, or, a call-up will have to occur. That being said, if this is the only set back the rotation experiences this season, that would be a win.

Fransisco Liriano has pitched well this spring, though, he has gotten hopes up before. If he even returns to even 75% of his 2006 form, the Twins staff will sneak up on some people. The stuff is there. It is the execution that has been the problem. The Twins also need steady performances from Nick Blackburn and veteran Carl Pavano, though, if betting were legal, those steady performances are more likely than Baker being healthy and Liriano being The Franchise again.

American businessman Jim Rohn said that success is doing ordinary things extraordinarily well. If the Twins are going to push for a playoff spot this season, they need to embody that quote.

As for the last key, defense and fundamental play, local football coach/legend, John Gagliardi, adapted a famous phrase from American businessman, Jim Rohn, and made it the Johnnie way: “Success is making the ordinary plays, extraordinarily well.” The Twins need to make sure that, defensively, they emulate that mantra. Free agent signing, Jamey Carroll, while not the sexy free agent acquisition that teams with a new stadium should be locking up, could be the engine that drives that “ordinary” approach. Carroll plays solid defense at both middle infield positions. That will be a nice change from last season.

Carroll also handles the bat well and could be a very effective #2 hitter in this line-up. The blockbuster signing of Josh Willingham gets the pulse racing to about the same degree as Carroll.  Though, he has hit in spacious ball parks before. And, even more importantly than his hitting, he is a veteran that could help fill the void left by the departure of Mr. Glue Guy, Michael Cuddyer. That void might be the most important intangible to this season’s success and Cuddyer’s departure cannot be overstated. The Twins are really going to miss him this year.

Baseball, like no other sport, requires that the locker-room have a cohesiveness to it. Unless someone steps up to lead this squad,  give them an identity, and bring them together, it could be another long summer for those at Target Field hoping to see something resembling a baseball game. Here’s hoping, for the sake of the rivalry series (so sue us, we are a little selfish), that someone assumes the mantle of Mr. Glue Guy.

Prediction:     78 wins. 3rd in the AL Central

Fresh Prince of Comerica!

As I’m sure you know by now, the offseason of a certain Prince has finally come to an end. Paying a king’s ransom, the Detroit Tigers landed a Prince. In what can only be described as a reactionary move to the loss of Victor Martinez, the Tigers signed Prince Fielder to a 9-year, $214M deal.

What it means for the Tigers -

The loss of Victor Martinez is nothing more than a blip in the record book for the 2012 Detroit Tigers. Sporting the most dangerous 3-4 combo in baseball, the Tigers should have no problem defending its division title. But, after 2012, the Tigers’ outlook is more confusing than trying to convince yourself that Prince is actually vegan. The Tigers will have approximately $57M tied up into three players that play 1B/DH – Prince, Cabrera, and V-Mart. It is going to be very interesting to see how Leyland will handle the logjam. More interesting will be to see if Detroit maintains this level of spending in future years. Verlander is scheduled to make $20M through 2014. His future status with the Tigers is more imperative to their future success than the splashy signings for the offense. Tough decisions will have to be made in the future.

As for the actual baseball aspects of this signing, reports have already surfaced that Prince will play 1st and Cabrera will be 3rd. I think it’s safe to say that both will simply man the position rather than actually playing defense. Unlike football, defense does not win championships – or at least that is what Detroit is hoping. This move is driven exclusively by his bat. As Brewers fans can attest, Prince defines Beast Mode. Something worth monitoring, though, as he moves into a more cavernous ballpark: Prince batted a full .050 points higher at home than on the road last season, and belted 10 more home runs too. In 6 career games at Comerica, he’s batting .174 with one home run. Admittedly, this is a very small sample size, but it’s something worth monitoring.

What it means for the Brewers -

Immediately, and most importantly, Ryan Braun (and his immense levels of testosterone) will not be protected by Prince. Braun will feel the impact of Prince’s loss the most. Undoubtedly, Braun is a stud hitter and will be able to produce without Prince. But, without that protection, Braun is likely to see fewer balls to turn on and drive. It will be important for the Brewers’ success for Braun to adapt quickly (once he’s back from the 50-game suspension that is inevitably coming).

Otherwise, the loss of Fielder may not be as significant as some may think. The Brewers success will be tied to how far Yovan, Greinke, and Marcum (the non-playoffs version) can carry them.  The core of Braun, Hart, Weeks, T-Plush, and the new addition in Aramis Ramirez (assuming he doesn’t continue using his mug as his glove) should still make for a potent offense. As for who mans 1st, rumor has it Hart will supplant Fielder at 1B once Braun returns. The catalyst of Beast Mode will undoubtedly be missed, but the Brewers have anticipated this day for a few seasons and positioned themselves well to remain competitive.

What it means for the Twins -

Those with season tickets in the right field bleachers should be rejoicing at the prospects of finally seeing a few balls come there way. After all, Morneau and Mauer have combined to swat just 5 home runs in two seasons at Target Field (the same number of home runs Jose Bautista has hit in 3 career games). As the saying goes, a bad workman blames his tools. Even though Prince has had a nondescript three career games at Target Field, I’m sure he will make his presence felt against Baker, Blacky, F-Bomb, etc.

The bigger discussion, in my mind, is the stark difference in approach between the Tigers and Twins. Correct me if I’m wrong, but the Detroit economy is not exactly thriving. Yet, the Tigers have made big splashes in each of the past several off-seasons, all in efforts to put the most competitive team on the field. Comerica Park opened in 2000, and it hosted the All-Star game in 2005. Ownership is clearly putting its profits back into the team. On the other end of the spectrum, Target Field opened in 2010, and is likely going to host an All-Star game in the next few seasons. The team has two stars (albeit injury-riddled stars) to build around. But, the team has not, and gives no indication that it will, make that splashy move to help put this team over the top. But, at least the Twins got Jamey Carroll!

Interesting food for thought… Prince is averaging $23.78M per year for the nine years on his contract. Mauer is scheduled to make $23M over the next 7 seasons.

One final note -

I think one of the most surprising aspects of this deal is that Prince Fielder chose, on his own volition presumably, to sign with the Detroit Tigers – you know, the same team his father, Cecil, played for from 1990-1996. And the significance of that is that Prince has made no bones about it – he does not have a strong relationship with Cecil and wants to avoid all comparisons to him. By signing with the Tigers, Prince is undoubtedly subjecting himself to continual comparisons to Cecil. How he handles the constant comparisons and questions about his relationship with Cecil will be one of the several interesting stories to follow this season.