Friday, January 13, 2012

Thoughts on Payroll

Geoff Baker, a scribe for The Seattle Times, penned a lengthy but very interesting column earlier this week about spending in baseball.

I recommend taking the time to read it, as the themes are very applicable for Twins fans, but the gist of his argument is that ultra-rich baseball owners are gaming the system by soaking up public money and spending far less on payroll than they can afford to. Meanwhile, the baseball community overlooks this injustice and credits general managers (such as Billy Beane, Andrew Friedman and Terry Ryan) who are able to succeed under superficial and ultimately unnecessary financial constraints.

I've heard plenty of Twins fans express outrage over the team's decision to cut payroll this year, and the points made by Baker in his widely read column only serve to fan the flames. In many ways, I can identify with these gripes. But I also wonder whether some fans are getting too caught up in their frustration, to the point where it's dampening their enjoyment of the sport.

Look, we all wish the Twins would spend more money. Basically every fan wishes their team would spend more money. But as Baker's column points out, the problem is systemic. I don't see him naming one single owner who is bucking the trend and dumping money out of his own pocket into payroll.

These guys generally become millionaires (or billionaires) through savvy business decisions and by running a profitable organization, so that's how they operate their baseball clubs. They put the money that their product earns back into that product -- into payroll, into paying employees, into community funds -- and yes, maybe they pocket a little. That's their right. They own the team.

Baker makes it seem unconscionable for any fan to be content with this model, but really, what is any amount of whining and complaining going to accomplish? The Twins have always claimed they put around 50-52 percent of revenue back into payroll, which would indicate a current annual revenue stream of around $200 million. Maybe they make more, but is there any evidence for that other than blind frustration? They don't open their books, and they aren't required to.

If you take their word for it, the Twins went over their stated threshold last year because they wanted to retain a few extra players (namely Jim Thome and Carl Pavano) and make a push. Didn't work out. I think we can all agree that their prospects for contending this year are not as strong, so I'm not going to sit here and blast them for falling back to the $100 million level that has been set as a baseline. They've demonstrated that they're willing to exceed that benchmark when the time is right, but now is probably not that time.

One hundred million dollars, spent well, should be plenty to contend in this division. It puts the Twins solidly in the upper half of MLB team payrolls. Yes, the Pohlads could afford to spend more, but so could every other owner. That's just the way it is, and the way it shall be.

By endlessly complaining about a situation that's not likely to change any time soon (and that we, as individual fans, have no real control over, regardless of Baker's rant) you're wasting your breath and sucking the fun out of the game for yourself.

55 comments:

Dave said...

I along with other Season Ticket holders may take our cue from the Twins and re-examine our own budgets next year. You could very well see a large dumping of Season Tickets. Will the same folks defend a 85 million Dollar Payroll?? The Twins sold more Tickets then 26 other Teams last year. What good did it do?

TT said...

Nick -

This will probably scare you, but I agree entirely. Well said.

TT said...

"The Twins sold more Tickets then 26 other Teams last year. What good did it do?"

A lot of Twins fans got the benefits of a stadium paid for by Minnesota taxpayers. I always find it amusing that some fans think its only the team that is getting subsidized, not their season ticket prices.

Anonymous said...

"I always find it amusing that some fans think its only the team that is getting subsidized, not their season ticket prices."

Fans paying tax money so they can spend more money on tickets (which went up after 1 year) is a "subsidy"?

Anonymous said...

What annoys Twins fans is that the organization never stated why it lowered the payroll. They are not losing money, and attendance has not dropped. But payroll has. The organization has created a perception that "we lost 99 games and spent 115 million, which is annoying. So now we'll spend less." What kind of message is that sending the fans?

Anonymous said...

No, Nick, we're not taking the "fun" out of the game. Owners are. Just because something is "the way it shall always be" doesn't mean you shouldn't complain about it. Change never happens that way. I will always enjoy the games, but I won't buy that Twins apparel, I won't go to as many games as I used to, I won't put as much money into the Twins BECAUSE the owner's (collectively, it's not just Pohlad) have taken the fun out of the game. And, guess what, I still enjoy the game of baseball just as much!

Twilight in Twins Territory said...

I agree that payroll is not the #1 factor in a team's success. In theory, a team with a $100mil payroll should be able to win a World Series - as has been the case the last 2 seasons. The Yankees, with their ridiculous payrolls, have 1 WS this decade.

It's not the numbers that bother me. It's the organization's disingenuousness. Look, the team is telling us they plan on being competitive in 2012. Good, fine. Yet they won't spend any more money. So we're left with a team that won't be competitive. The starting rotation is poor, the bullpen is poor. Their starting SS is a 38-yr old first time starter. Etc.

Think of what they could do if they spent another $5 mil. 1-2 relievers. Maybe you can get a better pitcher than Marquis.

As a fan who also understands the business side of things, all I can reasonably ask for of the Pohlads is that put the team in a position to be successful. I understand that a team like the Twins is not like the Yankees; for many reasons we simply can't be World Series contenders every year over a 20-year span. My greatest sporting memory is the 1991 World Series. Part of it was my age, I was young enough and the experience new enough that the feeling of watching Kirby's catch and HR in Game 6 is something that probably can't be recreated. Thinking back on 91 reminds be of that feeling, that joy - it's the fan's ultimate rush.

And, look - the Pohlads' customers are Twins fans. I firmly believe that every business has an ethical obligation to treat its customers with respect. And for a baseball team like the Twins, this respect would extend to things like:

-When the opportunity presents itself, maybe once a decade or so, to really contend not only for a division title but for a World Series, give your fans that chance. Give a whole new generation a chance to make their own 91 memories - and the thing is, if this happens you have a whole new generation of fans (customers) for life. If you need to spend a few extra bucks, do it.
-If you need to rebuilt/cut payroll, be honest with fans. We understand you can't spend $120 mil every year, but when you try to convince us you aren't doing things despite all evidence to the contrary, it's very patronizing and condescending.
-Don't raise ticket prices in a slumping economy after 1 year in a new stadium.

You suggest every team operates this way, but that's simply not true. The Yankees - hate 'em with a passion, but year in and year out they overspend to put the best product on the field. Look at Balt, Cle, Sea for medium-market clubs with new ballparks - none of them cut payroll so early in the "honeymoon" phase. It can be done.

For me it's not a payroll problem, it's a lack of ownership's committment to winning problem. Payroll can be overcome. Can you overcome an owner who isn't interested in winning? Maybe in Hollywood (Major League, anyone).

You claim being irritated by this sucks the enjoyment out of the game. I believe it's more complicated than this. How excited are we fans supposed to get if 95% of the time we go into a season knowing our favorite team has zero chance to win a World Series?

I'd argue that, by turning the Twins strictly into a corporation, the Pohlads have sucked the fun out of the game.

Anonymous said...

"These guys generally become millionaires (or billionaires) through savvy business decisions and by running a profitable organization, so that's how they operate their baseball clubs. They put the money that their product earns back into that product -- into payroll, into paying employees, into community funds -- and yes, maybe they pocket a little. That's their right. They own the team." I would agree with this statement if the business was unsubsidized. But when your business is subsidized with public money, then the public has a say in it. Otherwise, it becomes what is mine is mine, and what is yours... is mine too.

Nick N. said...

I along with other Season Ticket holders may take our cue from the Twins and re-examine our own budgets next year ... Will the same folks defend a 85 million Dollar Payroll??

That's certainly your right, but we're not talking about an $85 million payroll. The Twins' payroll is $100 million, and while they let a couple high-profile free agents walk, they also signed the largest FA contract in franchise history.

What annoys Twins fans is that the organization never stated why it lowered the payroll.

Payroll tends to fluctuate, which is true for all teams. It's down from 2011, but not from 2010. It could easily go back up next year. I just don't see $100 million as an outrageous figure in what's pretty likely to be a non-contending year, personally.

I will always enjoy the games, but I won't buy that Twins apparel, I won't go to as many games as I used to, I won't put as much money into the Twins BECAUSE the owner's (collectively, it's not just Pohlad) have taken the fun out of the game.

That's fine. I don't necessarily disagree with your fundamental standpoint, and I'm referring more to the rhetoric -- I'm tired of reading the same old tired complaints and would much rather be reading discourse about the actual team and players.

I would ask, though, how the owners "have taken the fun out of the game." To my knowledge, the current system has basically always been in place.

When the opportunity presents itself, maybe once a decade or so, to really contend not only for a division title but for a World Series, give your fans that chance. Give a whole new generation a chance to make their own 91 memories - and the thing is, if this happens you have a whole new generation of fans (customers) for life. If you need to spend a few extra bucks, do it.

That's essentially what they did last year, and now they're being punished for it because people expect that same level of spending every year. It's possible (perhaps even probable) that the Twins could easily afford to spend $115M+ every year, but the baseline that they've set is about $100 million, and they've been forthright about that.

The Yankees - hate 'em with a passion, but year in and year out they overspend to put the best product on the field

That money ain't coming out of Steinbrenner's pocket. The Yankees are a revenue machine.

Nick N. said...

I would agree with this statement if the business was unsubsidized. But when your business is subsidized with public money, then the public has a say in it.

This is true to an extent, but the economic benefits of a publicly funded stadium certainly extend beyond the team's owner. Target Field wasn't built solely to put more money into the Pohlads' pockets.

JimCrikket said...

I really couldn't disagree more, Nick. You don't stop expressing disagreement just because it's unlikely that your voice alone will cause a change. Voices raised in objection to injustice are all that has ever successfully caused change. Remaining silent communicates that we are fine with the status quo and would likely just lead to owners becoming more unjust in their dealings with fans.

RB Lipton said...

"That's just the way it is, and the way it shall be.

By endlessly complaining about a situation that's not likely to change any time soon (and that we, as individual fans, have no real control over, regardless of Baker's rant) you're wasting your breath..."

Nick, I've got to say, if you feel this way, it's a pretty sad worldview. As last year's Arab Spring demonstrated, people who don't share this defeatist attitude are capable of imparting real and dramatic change on a worldwide scale...and that in the context of centuries-old dogmas and political foundations. We're talking about a game here.

By no means am I comparing the Pohlads with Arab dictators...but I think your conclusion of "well, that's the way it is, I'm not going to try to change it even if I don't like it" is really disturbing. And if fans don't do something about it, what's to stop the Pohlads from cutting payroll more? Raising ticket prices again? How much of this are you willing to take before you decide maybe someone should do something?

Twilight in Twins Territory said...

"That money ain't coming out of Steinbrenner's pocket. The Yankees are a revenue machine."

True, but spending, say, 60% of revenue on payroll is far different than spending 50%. Or, even better, spending enough to be in a position to accomplish your goals for the season and the next few, instead of setting a firm payroll first and then cobbling together a team, any team, around that fixed number.

In terms of ownership's commitment to winning and spending philosophy, you can't possibly compare the Twins to the Yankees, can you?

Nick N. said...

True, but spending, say, 60% of revenue on payroll is far different than spending 50%.

This article from Forbes last year indicates that in 2010 the Yankees' revenue was at $427 million. The year before it was at $441 million. Based on those numbers they'd need to spend $210-$220 million annually to reach 50 percent of revenue. They've exceeded $210M once, ever ($213M in 2010).

I think you're underestimating how much money that franchise rakes in.

In terms of ownership's commitment to winning and spending philosophy, you can't possibly compare the Twins to the Yankees, can you?

No, you can't. For the reasons listed above.

By no means am I comparing the Pohlads with Arab dictators...but I think your conclusion of "well, that's the way it is, I'm not going to try to change it even if I don't like it" is really disturbing.

I'm not like that with all matters in the world that need changing, but I guess I don't see it as a high priority in my life. Owners will continue to operate as they always have, the game will go on, and it will be great. The system isn't necessarily fair but it doesn't prohibit the Twins from succeeding, particularly when they're able (and willing) to spend $100M+ on a yearly basis.

I simply find it a lot more productive to discuss ways in which the Twins can succeed within their announced budget rather than complaining about that budget because it happens to be lower than it was a year ago. There are certainly fans out there who have it a LOT worse than us.

Simple Math Guy said...

Nick, that same Forbes article estimates - and they're estimates - the Twins revenue at $213 mil. 52% of that would be $110 mil. The team's making an extra $25 mil in TV this year. $238 mil potential revenue. Say they lose $10 mil in ticket sales. I won't even factor in inflation, so, $228 mil. $100 mil payroll is thus 44% of revenue. You said they've "always claimed they put around 50-52 percent of revenue back into payroll". What gives?

TT said...

"Fans paying tax money so they can spend more money on tickets (which went up after 1 year) is a "subsidy"?"

What about all those taxpayers who aren't fans and never buy a ticket? That is, how about the vast bulk of the money that got spent on the stadium? The pittance paid by fans was a small part of it.

Thanks for proving may point. There are a bunch of fans who seem to think the public was subsidizing the Pohlads, when it was really subsidizing the Twins fans. Take away the public subsidy and the Pohlads would still make money. Its the Twins fans that would suffer, either from a lesser team or having no team at all.

This is an annual discussion. No matter how much the Twins spend, its never enough. Last year was the largest payroll in team history. We still had this discussion. Its a monotonous drone heard every winter with the same arguments.

TT said...

To keep things in perspective, Twins ticket buyers paid about $104 million last year based on attendance and the average ticket price. That would cover less than half the payroll. The rest is coming out of someone elses pocket.

TT said...

"the Twins revenue at $213 mil. 52% of that would be $110 mil."

They spent more than that when you include Nathan's buy out.

Karl said...

There is no number the Twins could possibly spend that would give the vocal majority of fans the sense that it was an appropriate amount. Period.

In sports - there is always incessant bellyaching about "more".

2011 - fans constantly complained about the team being non conpetitive.

2010 - fans constantly complained about the team being non competitive in the playoff format.

These two seasons couldn't have been more different in terms of the Twins succeeding on the field - yet the overriding theme of the off-season was always "lets complain about the shortcomings of the team!".

I think this was compounded in 2011 by the fact that a third of the $100 mil is tied up in what were basically replacement level players in 2011 (M&M). Pay them replacement level salaries and this "feels" like a $65 million payroll. Please understand I am not calling M&M replacement level players - just look at their stats from last season without attaching the names to them.

Lastly - I really believe this is a phenomenon unique to sports. The city of Edina only allows municipal (publicy subsidized by tax dollars) liquor stores. It is a business like the Twins. No one bitches about the competency of the employee, or the management of the payroll and no one complains that the profit gets allocated by the person in charge of those decisions. Every citizen pays tax dollars to run the store, yet not every citizen uses it.

This is a long winded way to say - on the surface - I agree with Nick. We are basically complaining to complain at this point. What if Ryan said today we are going to bump payroll up to $120 mil. A huge 20% increase!!!

Would the extra $20 mil really guarantee any more success in 2012?

The Twins are employing a responsible business strategem.

Why would they dump a bunch more money into a "C" lineup to make it a "C+"?

RB Lipton said...

"I simply find it a lot more productive to discuss ways in which the Twins can succeed within their announced budget."

How so? How do us fans/bloggers have any more control over this than what the owners decide to spend? Frankly, if our owners spent the money necessary to field a competitive team, we wouldn't have to talk about budget constraints. I bet Yankees/Sox/Phils fans don't have to talk budget much.

And it would be MUCH more productive if Twins fans demonstrated to the Pohlads that we are tired of being lied to. Letter-writing, walk-outs, emails, twitter, season ticket canceling, merchandise boycott. Fans can be heard. For god's sake, these worldwide protests started on facebook.

This would be much more productive than sitting around debating which gray-haired journeyman has-been we should sign to start at shortstop.

My grandad used to say, if you don't speak up, you're condoning it. Yes, it's just baseball. But it's symptomatic of what's going on in our country right now: the insanely wealthy/greedy taking advantage of your everyday joe. Maybe this is why people are so vocal this offseason in regards to payroll. We're just all sick and tired of being lied to, disappointed, disenfranchised. Little things add up. If you can find examples of this culture of greed in a game - America's past time, for god's sake, a game we grew up playing and loving - what does that say about our culture as a whole? Where does it stop? What else will you let the 1% take over?

Simple Math Guy said...

"To keep things in perspective, Twins ticket buyers paid about $104 million last year based on attendance and the average ticket price. That would cover less than half the payroll. The rest is coming out of someone elses pocket."

Hilariously shortsighted. Twins pocketed $1mil+/game in concessions alone. Merchandizing - huge. This year, an extra $25 mil in TV. Factor in all the suite/club/champs club revenue - those are the big buck seats. Naming rights. Advertising.
Radio.

As this - and your understanding of the word subsidy - demonstrates, you might want to brush up on your economics before you start talking about it.

Anonymous said...

"The city of Edina only allows municipal (publicy subsidized by tax dollars) liquor stores. It is a business like the Twins."

Perfect example. Say Liquor Store A one day says we need a bigger, newer liquor store to compete with the others. Public pays for it. Business booms. After a few months, they raise prices. Business is still great. Then they say, we spent more than we wanted to, so now we're replacing all the Grey Goose with Phillips. Prices won't change, though.

What happens? People complain to management; if nothing happens, they simply stop going to the store. The owner either changes the way he operates, or goes out of business.

Twins fans are the suckers who keep going to the store, even as the owner keeps jacking up prices.

Matt said...

For as "greedy" as the Pohlads are portrayed, they sure are responsible for plenty of jobs and tax revenue in our home state.

If you're against how they run the club, don't support them. It's nobody's "right" to have a pro sports owner do as they wish. The market data speaks, and Twins fans buy tickets, watch FSN, and buy Twins merchandise.

I personally have no issue with the money spent. A good FO should be able to compete on $100 million. They can cut payroll and increase profits all they want if fans keep buying tickets. Protesting the ownership while buying tickets won't work. You want them to change, stop coming to Target Field in droves, and turn off FSN North.

Salary caps and revenue sharing nearly destroyed the NFL, NBA, and NHL, so I fail to see why MLB would even consider such a thing. Let the market go.

Meanwhile, go Twins!

TT said...

"Hilariously shortsighted. Twins pocketed $1mil+/game in concessions alone. Merchandizing - huge. This year, an extra $25 mil in TV. Factor in all the suite/club/champs club revenue - those are the big buck seats. Naming rights. Advertising.
Radio."

Right, because there would be no advertising, TV or radio without a new stadium. And those cheap bastards make you pay for your own beer and hot dogs! You paid taxes for the stadium, why should you have to pay for the beer?

I have no doubt the Pohlads are making a profit. I have no doubt the stadium is helping them make more money, otherwise they wouldn't have invested a lot of money to get it built. But the whining fans are lined up at the public trough right next to them.

TT said...

"they sure are responsible for plenty of jobs and tax revenue in our home state."

They are responsible for lower attendance at competitive entertainment. There is no evidence that professional baseball teams create more tax revenue and/or jobs than competitive forms of entertainment. Its money out of one pocket and into someone elses.

Karl said...

"What happens? People complain to management; if nothing happens, they simply stop going to the store. The owner either changes the way he operates, or goes out of business.

Twins fans are the suckers who keep going to the store, even as the owner keeps jacking up prices.
"

This. ^

Right now there is a whole lot of bitching and not alot of action.

Thus - the Twins will continue this business strategem.

RB Lipton said...

"Right now there is a whole lot of bitching and not alot of action."

Precisely! That's the problem! Have we become a population of bitchers and not doers? Even worse, the author of this blog is suggesting doing neither - just sit quietly and accept whatever fate is thrown our way, like docile little cows.

Twins fans, if you truly and passionately believe you are being wronged by your owner, than rise up! Unite! We can impart change! Other team's fans might draw strength from this and follow (much like the Arab Spring). Take back our pastime from corporate America! Take back baseball! Take back YOUR Minnesota Twins!

TT said...

Count me as skeptical that very many fans will boycott he Twins because they aren't paying their players enough.


What fans want is a better team. Spending more money doesn't guarantee that, which is what makes this discussion so boring. I doubt anyone here would be pleased if the Twins just gave all the existing player's a 10% bonus and hit that $110 million mark.

Nick N. said...

The point being made in the post is not that the system is good, it's that the issues some Twins fans continue to grumble about are present in every single market across the league. We aren't being "wronged" by our owner any more than the rest of the league's fan bases. So, really, what you're advocating for is a nationwide uprising of baseball fans.

Not going to happen. Doesn't need to happen. There are parts of the sport that are broken (I'd argue fewer parts than the rest of the major sports leagues) but for the most part this is a great game that is going strong. Twins fans have a gorgeous brand new stadium and a $100 million payroll, and still we have people talking about boycotting because management won't needlessly throw money at the FA market in a likely non-contending year? It boggles my mind, really.

If you're not happy with the state of the sport, don't go to or watch the games. That's your prerogative. But I see nothing wrong with those of us who are willing to take the good with the bad, and enjoy Major League Baseball for what it is -- a great game and a profitable league that has avoided labor disputes for longer than the NFL, NHL and NBA combined.

Twilight in Twins Territory said...

"Count me as skeptical that very many fans will boycott he Twins because they aren't paying their players enough."

If you think this is the reason fans are upset, you are totally, totally, totally missing the point.

Fans want a better team, yes. For example, fans want a better starting rotation and a better bullpen. The Twins got Jason Marquis and nobody, because they claimed they didn't have any more money.

What pisses smart fans off is when the team cuts payroll for no reason whatsoever, and then uses the self-imposed cut as the reason why the team can't be better. They are creating their own excuses.

Personally, I'd be happier if the team spent $80 mil this year and rebuilt with a clear 2-3 year plan to be really, really good. Play some younger guys now, see if they stick. It's what the team did in the early 80s. All that did was lead to 2 World Series titles.

Anonymous said...

"Salary caps and revenue sharing nearly destroyed the NFL"

What????? With the salary cap and revenue sharing, every team in the league can go from last to first in any given year. There were 5 new playoff teams this year. There is no "Yankees" of the NFL. This is why the NFL is so popular - fans can have hope that this year is our year, every year. And this is why you don't have to have stupid payroll discussions in the NFL, because teams are REQUIRED to spend a certain amount of money. It's a non-issue.

TT said...

" So, really, what you're advocating for is a nationwide uprising of baseball fans."

Exactly. And I don't see how a nationwide uprising demanding teams spend more on higher payrolls does anything other than just increase player salaries.

This isn't Lake Wobegon, everyone can't be above average.

Dave said...

The Twins now have the 6th highest average Ticket price in Baseball. Back in the days of lower payrolls, the Twins were in the bottom third. Ticket prices went up 45% between the 2009 and 2010 season. The Fans do not pay small market or Medium Market prices, they pay Major Market prices. If the Twins fail once again to put a good product on the field, you will see a boycott. It will take the form of dropping Attendance which will be followed by dropping payroll.

Twilight in Twins Territory said...

"present in every single market across the league. We aren't being "wronged" by our owner any more than the rest of the league's fan bases."

This is demonstrably false, and also broad-brushes the problem (like folks used to blame the Twins' playoff losses on a lack of salary cap, without paying any attention to learning from mistakes). There are plenty of owners across the league who have demonstrated an interest in and committment to winning. The Pohlads have not.

"So, really, what you're advocating for is a nationwide uprising of baseball fans."

Not speaking for everyone here, but no. And why are you taking a specific topic - the Twins cutting payroll - and turning it into a national problem that no one could should or would change?

So what to do? For me, I did not renew my season tickets. I will not buy merchandise. But unless mass quantities of fans follow my lead, it won't make a difference. Like you said, it won't change. I still follow the team. I'm still interested. I'm still a fan. Always will be.

It just saddens me to think that my kids will never have that deep emotional attachment to the team that I do because of 87 and 91, and the only reason (now that we're out of the Dome) is because our owner isn't really interested in winning a Series. In today's game, I'm a firm believer that you don't win a Series by accident (like you could in 87). We need buy-in from the top. Unfortunately, as long as the Pohlads are in charge, we'll never have that.

mntwinsmusings said...

Looks like I got here a little late for most of the fireworks. For the most part, I agree with you, Nick, in that the payroll issue is not the most interesting aspect of following the Twins or MBL in general. Too many examples of lower payroll teams winning and higher payroll teams losing make it clear that payroll is only one factor. In the off-season I'm much more interested in discussing the moves made and whether or not they are likely to improve the team this year or in the future, but I must admit that payroll is an important factor for discussion as well. Of course, I know full well that all those discussions are not going to have any impact on what the Twins' management actually does, but then I am not interested in baseball because I want to have any influence at all on the game or the Twins. I enjoy watching, analyzing, and discussing the game. Thanks for providing a forum to discuss, argue and express interest in the great game of baseball.

Jeff Miller said...

I think something missing from this is the following: the Twin's chances of success rely on Morneau and Mauer being able to produce at a high level offensively. If they don't do that next season (and the foreseeable future), then payroll for payroll's sake won't matter at all; that 'extra' money will have been wasted.

If the Twins were to spend and extra X million in payroll and they don't have success next season, will any fans say it was worth it?

I get the frustration with the organization, God knows they've earned it, but the team is built around Mauer and Morneau. Lavelle N. has gone on record saying the Twins are screwed without them no matter what and I'm with him.

Don't get me wrong. I'm incredibly frustrated with the organization, but the kind of payroll it would take to fix the mess they're in isn't happening.

TT said...

"why are you taking a specific topic - the Twins cutting payroll - and turning it into a national problem that no one could should or would change? "

Because he started with an interesting column in the Seattle Times which makes the case that it is "a national problem".

birdofprey said...

I for one want to urge all of you who are distressed by the Twin's spending strategy to vote with your wallets. Please. I won't buy a $7 beer. I won't spend $60 for a seat. It hurts, but I won't do it, even though I can afford it. A couple times a year, I shell out for the cheap seats, which incidentally are very, very nicely priced relative to those at most stadiums.

My reason? Because Joe Mauer and Michael Cuddyer and Johan Santana and almost all the rest of them are greedy capitalists, and I'm tired of seeing productive, community-oriented, job-creating people like the thousands associated with all the various Pohlad Companies being forced to do things that shouldn't have to be done. Like asking for public assistance to build a venue that will support those greedy salary demands placed on them by agents, players, and primarily the fans. And like raising prices so they can continue to, ON AVERAGE, spend over 50% of revenues on payroll, a level unprecedented in most businesses.

Be accoun table for the role you play in this. The Pohlads don't fleece you any more than you fleece yourself.

Anonymous said...

Nick -- thanks for you post today. Yesterday I was characterized as a greedy and uninformed enabler by one of your posters but assumed it was the minority view. Based on your responses today, I'm not so sure.

I completely agree with TT's assertion that this is an annual conversation that probably won't be any different next year. But I still don't understand the level of vitriol toward the Pohlad family and the economics of professional sports.

We should all rise up and demand what? The Pohlad family should disclose sll their finances? We should demand a 150 dollar payroll? I guess we could all boycott Twins games and go watch beer league softball in Loretto.

I enjoy having the CHOICE to attend Twins games, even though the economics of baseball might not be perfect. But at the end of the day, it is still a choice to buy the $8.00 beer or buy a ticket to a game.

If the thought of paying a ridiculously low dollar amount in tax dollars annually bothers you so much (in the name of billionaire subsidization)...I hear Fargo is great this time of year.

atchi020 said...

TT it was not the minnesota taxpayers that payed for the stadium...rather the hennepin county taxpayers. they should be the hennepin county twins not the minnesota twins

Anonymous said...

Wow - 40 responses in 1 day! You clearly hit a nerve with this topic Nick. Here's my take. The real issue is not how much the Twins spend on payroll it's winning and losing. The Twins have never been big spenders, but have still managed to be competitive - to a point - through scouting and player development. These two areas have really dropped off the past 5 years - and this franchise has never seemed committed to building Championship caliber teams. They seem content (complacent) with being competitive in a fairly weak division. Don't believe me? Read Sid Hartman's interview with Terry Ryan this week.

The gist of it is that we've done a pretty decent job of putting together a decent roster that can compete.

That says it all.

Dear Terry - your job is to WIN a World Series title - not to be decent and compete.

Matt said...

TT -
When I made the point about the Pohlads bringing jobs and tax revenue to MN, I wasn't referring specifically to baseball. If you remember, they are bankers, first and foremost.

Anonymous said...

Actually I believe Carl Pohlad made his first fortune in the 50's ripping up the streetcar tracks and selling it for scrap iron. I think there's a metaphor there somewhere.

TT said...

"Actually I believe Carl Pohlad made his first fortune in the 50's ripping up the streetcar tracks and selling it for scrap iron."

Uh, no. Pohlad made his first fortune during the depression foreclosing on little old ladies and throwing them out on the street. At least, that's the story I heard...

I have a hard time with the argument that the Pohlads should spend their wealth on giving Minnesota (or Hennepin County) Twins fans a better team. If they have extra cash lying around they can't use, there are a lot better charity cases.

Marshall Garvey (MarshalltheIrish) said...

Man, this post generated comments fast! Nothing new I can add, as I basically agree with the point that it's not how much money is spent, but rather how it's spent. I think the reason a lot of fans are frustrated with the team right now (certainly among others) is that we're not really seeing much for $100 million. It's clear this team needs to revamp pitching, for one, yet they only go out and get Jason Marquis, who is basically no different from the standard college pitchers we're used to with the Twins. Granted, the offseason isn't over, and there's no avoiding the fact that no matter how much they spend or who they get, the Twins' success next year is absolutely contingent upon Mauer and Morneau. But I'd like to see a little more effort in building a contending team back together. Even just a couple of excellent relievers would do that.

Also, a huge + to everything Twilight said. As a younger fan myself (born in 1989 and a fan since 2000), winning a World Series is of paramount importance, and it's frustrating to see the Twins squander so many opportunities to do it. In the very least, I'd like to see a commitment to winning a title that's comparable to NY or Boston. I know they'll never be mega-franchises like those two, but with a new stadium and a huge increase in revenue all the same, they should do all they can to at least shoot for one WS. It would absolutely satisfy the fanbase and boost the team's popularity and financial success, to say the least.

TT said...

The Yankees have won one world series in the last decade. The Cardinals and Red Sox have won two. It you go back two decades you can add the Yankees and the Blue Jays to the list of teams who have won more than one world series. If you go back three decades, you can add the Twins and the Dodgers.

So in the last 30 years, six teams have won more than 2 world series and one of them is the Twins. They won both of those series under the Pohlad's ownership.

Only one team out of 30 can win a world series each year.

With 80 teams having made the playoffs in the last decade, the average team has done it less than 3 times. The Twins have made the playoffs six times in the last decade. So they are ahead of the rest of the league.

One of the 8 teams that make the playoffs will win the series each year. One in 10 under the new system. So, the Twins are not even behind on the odds for teams that make the playoffs.

If the Twins haven't won a decade from now, there might be a reason for complaining. But unless they end this decade like the late 90's team, its hard to fault the management or Pohlads for their lack of commitment to winning.

Nick N. said...

There are plenty of owners across the league who have demonstrated an interest in and committment to winning. The Pohlads have not.

Examples? Pointing to the Yankees, who pull in over $400 million in revenue every year, is highly disingenuous. Earning more money as a result of playing in a larger market does not equate to a greater commitment to winning. It equates to an inherently easier path to winning.

If you want more fairness in that regard, what you should be arguing for is a salary cap.

Anonymous said...

Over the last 20 years, the Twins have won a single playoff Series. I believe that the K.C Royals are the only American League Team that can top that.

TT said...

Oakland's only playoff win in the last 20 years was over the Twins. And the Twins only win was over Oakland. Of course if you go back 25 years, the numbers for both those teams look much different.

I think this is commonly referred to as goal-posting.

nightmare said...

I agree with the post. People sare acting like the extra 15 million would make us contenders. It won't. The free agent crop this year was pretty short on fixes. We could spend $20 million or so a year for ANOTHER first baseman/DH, could have ponied up $13 million or so a year for a Carlos Beltran, how much would that improve the team overall? Or a Buehrle, Reyes, Rollins, CJ Wilson? Any ONE of those names would put us close to or over the $15 million we cut down and leave us there for multiple years, and we'd have addressed ONE spot, the rest of our rotation would be the same, the rest of the infield would be the same, the bullpen would be the same, the rest of the outfield would be the same.

Anonymous said...

There is one other thing to realize about the Twins lack of post season success. They have had both Mauer and Morneau on the post-season roster only once, against Oakland in 2006.

Alex said...

So in the last 30 years, six teams have won more than 2 world series and one of them is the Twins.

In general I agree with you "goal posting" comment, but I think here you mean won 2 or more, not more than 2 world series. Also, the Marlins have won 2 world series in the last 30 years, perhaps others, but I am not too sure.

Phil said...

"I have a hard time with the argument that the Pohlads should spend their wealth on giving Minnesota (or Hennepin County) Twins fans a better team."

Jesus, this is not the argument. How can you read these comments and fundamentally misunderstand something so completely?

It's really simple, to me. This year is a perfect example. The Twins claim they're competing in 2012. Everyone who follows the Twins or baseball in general knows their starting staff and bullpen is average at best. To really compete in 2012, they need help in both of those areas. They're already at $100 million. Another, say, $7 million would go a long way.

That $7 million is not coming out of the Pohlads' pocket. It's the difference between spending, say, 45% and 48% of revenue on payroll. That $7 mil is revenue, it's other people's money.

So it all comes down to this: would the Pohlads rather spend the $7 mil on improving the baseball team, or keep it?

The Pohlads, it seems, prefer to keep it for themselves.

That's what it boils down to.

Fans have a right to be upset by that. They also have a right not to be upset by that.

The Pohlads can do what they want with our money. It's their right; it's a business; I still don't like it; I'm still a fan.

These posts are infuriating because there simply isn't any middle ground. There's no nuance. Either you're "sucking the fun out of the game for yourself" if you don't like payroll cuts or you're a "docile little cow" if you aren't bothered by them.

Those are verbatim quotes. This is where we are as a country.

Whatever happened to intelligent discourse?

FishingMN said...

Getting back to the original post by Nick - one thing that nobody has mentioned is that if every fan had their way (along with the original story author) then payrolls for their teams would rise.

Lets say every team increased their payroll by 20%. How would that benefit anyone other than the players? The Twins are already spending more than most other teams. The real problem is how they've allocated the $100M since they are already in a position to use their higher than average payroll on players that should produce better than average results.

Dave said...

The Twins will be about 14th next year in payroll. This last year they were 4th in attendance and had the 6th highest average ticket price.