January 30, 2012: Brothers

I'm a decade older than my brothers, and very proud of how both of them are turning out. One little brother leaves this morning for a semester abroad. He's headed to Florence, and I've no doubt in my mind that he'll make the most of this opportunity. The other little brother attended Twins Fest last weekend, and was one of 120 people invited to a small event in the Champions Club, where he asked a panel of Jim Pohlad, Dave St. Peter, and Terry Ryan a question. Here's what he asked:

"Could you explain how you can justify cutting payroll three season into a publicly financed ballpark?"

42 thoughts on “January 30, 2012: Brothers”

    1. Apparently Pohlad disagreed that they are cutting payroll. TR said, "If I can't win with 100 million...," then sought my brother out after the town hall was over, told him he'd asked a tough question, and not to worry about payroll. Something to the effect of, "Don't you worry about the payroll."

    2. I thought this comment over on Gleeman's site was great:

      Terry Ryan was on the 1500 ESPN last Friday. He was asked which sabermetrics he found useful and which ones he doesn’t find to hold much value. He immediately discounted range statistics and said he found runs produce, whip, and pitches per inning all useful, but the one statistic he and the rest of the Twins evaluation team value over all other is BMP, or to the layperson, Bulldog Mentality Perception.

      Clearly they are ahead of the next big thing.

      Comment by spoofbonser — January 30, 2012 @ 8:20 am

      1. I loved that the Twins put up a picture on Facebook with the caption "Two local fans defeat Kent Hrbek and Matt Capps in a game of trivia" and that the very first comment on the Twins official page was "Hrbek's team was comfortably ahead, but Capps blew it at the end."

  1. I have one brother who is about a year younger, but I also have two brothers who are a decade younger as well and both are turning out quite well (well, one for sure, the other doesn't come home ever when me and my wife and daughter are in town. Matter of fact, he still hasn't met his niece.) To be perfectly honest, I was kind of a dick to them both when they were growing up. The two of us elder pair of brothers spent half the time at my dad's house and half at my mom's, switching every two weeks. It made things difficult. I've been spending the last many years trying to make up for acting the way I did. Teenagers are jerks.

    Anyway, I've touted the older of the two and his band on here before. He's headed for a nice career in music, I think. And, he's coming down to visit with his new girlfriend this weekend. We're pretty excited because he's into beer and I am planning to get a brew day going on Saturday. It should be fun.

    1. Similar situation here in that my folks had joint custody when I was growing up, meaning I was only around 50% of the time (one brother is my mom's other son, while the one who asked the question is the oldest of Pops' younger children). I missed out on a lot of their growing up while I was in the Marines, which I regret. Our relationships have gotten much stronger now that they're both adults, and our dads' passing have tightened that even more. I just wish Pops and Pa were around to see them doing the things they're doing, so that they could have had more of the adult father-son relationship I was able to enjoy.

  2. Isn't the answer to that question pretty straightforward? After a epically crappy season, their season-ticket base has been diminished and they have less revenue to count on. TR probably wouldn't answer like that in public, because it sounds like blaming the fans, but if the team is spending as much as it can every year, you would expect the payroll to bounce around a bit. Also, for reference, the payroll was $65M the last season the Twins were in the Dome and it looks like they've committed to around $95M this year, plus they likely are moving some money from the major league payroll to the draft budget since they are drafting so high this year.

    If payroll wasn't going down this year, I would take it as a sign that they weren't spending as much as they could have been the last two years.

    1. The Twins drew the fourth-most fans in MLB last year - 3,168,107 - actually finishing higher than they did when the ballpark opened and they drew 3,223,640 (good for sixth). Their TV and radio deals are carrying over, so that's not going to change their income picture at all. Cots has the team at $91.9 million right now, with Casilla's arb deal outstanding. Payroll for last season was $113.2 million. If 55,500 fewer fans through the turnstiles in 2011 and fewer season tickets sold for this season equals a $15-18 million drop, I'd be surprised. I agree that some of that money will find its way to the draft, but I think we're still talking a net cut in the budget. From the perspective of the team, how strong will your Season Four season ticket sales be if you cut payroll and finish in third or below again?

      1. It's possible that there's a net cut in the budget, but I'm not sure what it's going to be. Admittedly, I have more faith in the Twins FO that they are spending money than most. In the past, payroll has gone up when the team has found new revenue streams, whether it be additional revenue sharing from the '01 CBA or when attendance has increased, or when they moved into the new park. A lot of focus was put on the dip in budget in '08, but the Twins got younger and improved from '07 to '08, while putting at least some of that money towards draft picks.

        I also forget where I heard it this off-season, but I thought I heard that the Twins now have to pay into the revenue sharing pot this year for the first time, but I wouldn't swear to it.

        One thing I'd like the Twins to avoid is what seems to be a common NBA trap where, because there is a cap, teams always try to use that money, regardless of whether it really makes sense to spend it on the particular free agents who are available that off-season. It seems to result in a lot of max contracts to guys who don't really deserve it. If everyone was on a one-year deal, then it'd be easier to say they should spend to the limit each year, but since filling this year's payroll often has ramifications on payroll the next 2-3 years, then I can see leaving some flexibility so that they can potentially make either a mid-season deal (like adding Shannon Stewart back in '03) or have more money available if a good opportunity comes along next off-season. It's probably also more difficult to recruit decent free agents on one-year deals after having such a bad season last year.

        Ultimately, though, this is a faith-based exercise. What it comes down to for me is that these budgets are always going to be really opaque and if I'm going to get irritated about anything regarding the budget, it's that there's not a stiffer, progressive luxury tax on teams with payroll over, say, $130 or $140M. Even if the Twins were able to increase the budget to $115M this year, we'd still be way behind the really big spenders. Preliminary AL spending leaders:

        NYY - $208M
        BOS - $151M + Ortiz
        LAA - $146M
        DET - $128M
        TEX - $109M

        And I don't think anyone else is going to crack $100M if the Twins don't.

        1. Phil Mackey had a pretty great article the other day comparing the Twins' TV revenue stream to the other teams in baseball. All five of those top teams have huge TV deals. The Twins' is peanuts in comparison. I don't think that a lack of salary cap is bad per se, but I agree with ubelmann that a progressive penalty over a certain very high threshhold would be ideal.

          1. Huh, those are interesting numbers on percentage of cable subscribers in the market. Makes it seem like an even bigger mistake for the Twins to take all of their games to cable, and it makes it more understandable that the Mariners would be content to move all their games to cable.

            The reason I like the idea of a more harsh, progressive luxury tax is that baseball already has a luxury tax, so really all I'm suggesting is moving the line in the sand, as opposed to a cap, which would be completely new to baseball. Also, I like the idea of teams having some flexibility over and above the cap so long as they really have to pay for it.

              1. Yeah, someone brought that up at Twinsfest at a 1500 audience Q&A with Ryan, Dave StPeter, and the older Pohlad brother.
                Dave StP mentioned the cable penetration of the market, but didn't sound like he'd envision backing out of the cable-only deal. Did mention that there would be at least a dozen games on FOX on Saturdays. (Groan.) He's lucky I wasn't the questioner, I was already in a pissy mood (no cut-rate Chuck James jerseys!), because I would have mentioned that those broadcasts are awful.

                I think it's penny-wise, pound-foolish. I've got an 8yo and 6yo that know enough about the Twins and have enjoyed their games at the Bullseye (one per season), but could really grow as fans if they had games they could watch on TV. We've been watching so little TV generally that paying for a cable subscription just for baseball is not matrimonially feasible*. I'm fine about listening to the radio and watching the gameday feed, but that's not the sort of thing that my kids will get attached to.

                At least I gave up most football watching this season, so they won't prefer that over baseball. I'm taking my wife out for her birthday during the Superbowl. (I've got so much wonderful spite in my heart for the NFL.)

                *She is right: we did end up watching so much worthless pablum, and we got excited about it. I feel like I've kicked an addiction.

                1. Speaking of the Super Bowl, I realized today that Sunday will make 3 of the last 4 Super Bowls I've watched outside the country - Steelers-Cards in Dublin in grad school, Packers-Steelers in Dublin visiting, and the upcoming Patriots-Giants. The only one I was in the States for was, of course, the one the Colts lost.

    2. What I've read from the FO is that 2011 was an "aberration," which means they overspent on payroll in an attempt to take advantage of the players in the final years of contracts. So, they are coming back to their normal payroll this year instead cutting back, or that is at least how they are trying to spin it.

        1. I don't think it's all spin, the team did spend more than usual last year and the Pohlads have always been keen on keeping payroll to about 50% of revenue. They've never made that a secret. I guess what we don't know was what the revenues were like last year and how much we could expect to see spent this year. I know Twins Geek reported heavily on payroll and salaries last year about this time, but I haven't seen what's he's been up to lately.

  3. You know where I want the Twins to help out the fans? Getting them to Fort Myers!

    We started planning on doing a trip to Spring Training / Sanibel this past summer. Despite the depreciated housing market, condo rentals were a bit higher than when we went three years ago. Flights and car rentals have to be the most expensive in the continental US. Last time we flew direct for < $400 / seat. This time we'll be lucky to get a 1-stop flight < $600. Car rentals are astronomical, and somewhere around twice what they are in Tampa. We might actually end up flying to Tampa if the price doesn't improve.

    It's astonishing and frustrating. In the end, our trip will just cost a lot more than we expected. And I'll still have fun. But annoyed.

    1. Have you ever used yapta.com? If you are planning that far out, it can be a good tool for tracking flight prices to get a good fare.

      It looks like Delta and Sun Country are the only airlines that fly non-stop between MSP and RSW, so I guess it's not too surprising that prices are high.

      1. I'll check yapta, though probably a little late now. As for direct flight prices, I think the airlines were the sam three years ago. Not sure why those and the 1-stop flights are sky high.

    2. Other options: Fly in via Miami (about an extra 30 minutes to get to Fort Myers) or Fort Lauderdale (extra 15 minutes). Both include an incredibly boring drive across the Everglades though.

      1. I'm curious how long this drive is. I can't imagine a more boring stretch of road than I-29/MB Highway 75 from Grand Forks to Winnipeg. It's absolutely brutal.

        1. I can't compare, but the Everglades drive is nearly in a straight line. There are a couple curves, but that's it. However, it isn't that long.

          1. The one thing that saves the Everglades trip is that it's, what, maybe 1 to 1-1/2 hr drive (I forget)? But there are swamp reeds and plants that rise up on the sides of the highway behind the chain link fence high enough that there is no horizon to look at except ahead and behind you.

            1. Yeah, it's only about 90 miles. It might have been more boring for me at the time since I wasn't driving. Sunshine, warm car.. knocks me out every time.

        2. Hey, there's a break when you go through customs! For my money, nothing quite tops I-94 West from Fargo to, well, you choose the point.

          1. This is also pretty bad, admittedly I've driven the Fargo-Winnipeg route probably 200 times in the last 7½ years which is coloring my perception. I remember I94 being okay between like Valley City & Bismarck, but Bismarck to Dickinson or Minot was terrible. The last time I went to Minot it was in the backseat of my grandmother's 1991 Civic to go to my cousin's graduation party. We graduated the same year, so I figured I should go. It was a horrible trip in both directions. And she didn't come to mine. Sigh.

        3. I can't imagine a more boring stretch of road than I-29/MB Highway 75

          That's a dull stretch, for sure. Take I-70 across Kansas sometime, it's my least favorite road. I-80 across Nebraska is up there, too.

          1. Seriously? I loved watching the Platte River "Valley" as it changed, oh so subtly Omaha to I-76.
            I've driven and enjoyed 94 across ND and MT to ID, 90 across SD and WY (starts out slow, but what a finish!).
            I guess I just enjoy long open-highway drives through the west.

            I was frustrated by driving US-95 from Boise to Moscow, but mostly because I got to it at last light, and all I could tell was that I was in some deep valley.

            I do find I94 from Maple Grove to Moorhead to be quite dull.

            Absolute worst was I30 from Dallas to Texarkana. I hit it at evening Rush Hour. I have no idea how anyone could do that daily.

        4. Anybody else ever driven across the Lake Ponchartrain Causeway? It's not that long, but it's soooooo boring.

    3. OK, I'm planning my next vacation...
      I'm gonna start at the Canadian Border on I29. Then through Grand Forks to Kansas City, take a right on I70 to (near Moab), down to Flagstaff on US 191, US 160, and US 89. From Flagstaff, east to OKC.

      South to Forth Worth on 35, West on I20 until it hits I10 near Balmorhea (which I once had after some bad crab cakes).
      Then, it's east to Florida on I10, (but crossing Pontchartrain when I get to NOLA). In Florida, I take I75 south past Tampa Bay to Naples , where I take a sharp left across the Everglades for a Glorious final 90 minutes, before getting in an airplane and flying home.

      Google Maps miles: 5,379. 3d14h.

      to Flagstaff, then through West Texas to Lake Pontchartrain, ending up cutting across the Everglades for a glorious 90 minutes.

  4. Bill Simmons:

    The best example of things changing: The Minnesota Timberwolves Rubio Loves improbably morphing into America's Team.

    Kaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhn!

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