When you are the fan of a 100-loss team, you expect your team to make changes; after all, you just lost 100 games. This is a feat which has only been dubiously achieved by 28 teams in the last 30 years, the Houston Astros becoming the latest to do so. If the Twins don’t win both of their remaining games, they will become #29.
Having said that, if you are a fan of a 100-loss team, the last thing you want to see is a headline like this, courtesy of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.
Twins owner Jim Pohlad: ‘We’re not a knee-jerk organization’
Yeah, that’s just what I want to see; the owner of a 100-loss club talking about limiting the discussion on making changes. This is precisely why this article was pointed out to me by Dick Marple, the Chairman of the Dubsism Advisory Board. I know what I saw in the article had me wrapping duct tape around my head to keep my skull from exploding. I shudder to think what Mr. Marple’s reaction could have been.
It's a good thing the Irish aren't prone to violence.
This is exactly why we cannot waste anymore time before we dissect this article as the esteemed Mr. Marple may be on his way up a bell tower as we speak.
After one of the worst seasons in Twins history, club owner Jim Pohlad knows change is needed.
“I am really all about trying to get better,” he said Monday.
But his idea of change doesn’t appear to include changes at the top.
Pohlad, speaking from his Minneapolis business office — with Target Field in clear view through the window –said the key men running the Twins will remain in place. That means manager Ron Gardenhire, who has led the team since 2002, and General Manager Bill Smith will be back for another season. If there are changes to his coaching staff, it’s up to Gardenhire to make those decisions.
“We are not a knee-jerk organization,” Pohald said.
Remember this…Pohlad says he knows changes are needed, but he then couches that by limiting what those changes might be. In other words, this is the old Nixonian “non-denial denial.” This theme is crucial to understand the load of bovine scatology about to be laid out here.
In a lengthy interview with the Star Tribune on Monday, Pohlad discussed the season, Joe Mauer, injuries, payroll and attendance and how the Twins will go about improving on a season he called “sickening.”
Here are highlights of the interview:
Q Entering the season the popularity of the Twins had never been higher. Now we’re looking at the possibility of being the second team ever to lose 100 games with a nine-figure payroll ($115 million). How do you plan on holding people accountable for some of the things that have happened this season?
A Well, I mean first of all, let’s talk about what’s happened. I mean, in my view, the two main things that have happened have been a ton of injuries — the perfect storm of injuries — and there have been players that we counted on that, when they’ve played, they’ve played not up to the levels that they played in 2010, for sure. So in my view that’s the synopsis of the season.
This is the classic beginning of a non-denial denial. When faced with an inexcusable situation, create a cover story that is both plausible, true, and yet incomplete enough for the addition of extra falsehoods later. After all, the Bible says the truth shall set you free, but it was Spiro Agnew who said a good lie will keep you out of jail in the first place.
Q When the team loses as many games as the Twins have this year, and the manager expresses concern about fundamentals and young players being prepared, don’t you feel that you have to change something? Something has to be adjusted here?
A I think, yes, we need to change, but we need to have the players healthy, and we need to have our core group of players playing to their capabilities, that’s for sure. Now beyond that, how do you cope with the perfect storm of injuries and players not performing? You have to bring up players from the minor leagues, obviously. When they did come up, it did appear that fundamentally there were some issues. We have not gone into great detail at this point — the season is not even over yet –about the underlying causes of those issues. But it certainly would appear that there are issues.
I love how Pohlad sticks to the “perfect storm” concept; as if everything that happened to the Twins was some sort of ”Act of God” which could neither be predicted nor prevented. Of course, this completely ignores such facts as the complete inc0mpetency of Nishioka, and the over-dependence on guys named Hughesy and Plouffey.
Q So you feel like there will be some things you need to address during the offseason?
A Oh clearly … we need to address how can we keep the players healthy. We need to address how can we encourage the players during the offseason to get to a point where they’re going to play up to their capabilities. Then we need to address the issues that are maybe down in the farm system.
How can “we” keep the players healthy? First of all, it took “we” six weeks to find out what the hell was wrong with Joe Mauer, and even then “we” didn’t know what to do about it. Then there’s the not-so-subtle shifting of blame to the players. Guess what? It ain’t the fault of the Hughesies of the world that you thought they were All-Stars in the making, and it’s not their fault you simply increased your expectations of the kids when it was clear your “big-money” guys were going to be non-factors. In other words, the farm system is not the problem, and the young players are not the problem.
Q I think you’ve used the injury list 27 times this year and some of these injuries have been rather unique. But it sounds like you’re concerned a little bit from the medical staff or the training staff, that things may need to be adjusted there?
A I’m not saying that the medical staff or the training staff has done anything wrong. I’m just saying let’s look at the injuries and see how they can be prevented in the future.
Idiot Management 101 – Once you’ve identified a problem that you are using as your scapegoat, always say Idiot Management things like “We’re going to look at ways of preventing that.” How the hell do you prevent injuries? Wrap all the players in bubble-wrap? Play only with Nerf balls?
Q All right, how do you feel about the job Ron Gardenhire has done this year? What do you think about how the coaching staff has performed?
A I think they had very difficult conditions. It’s got to be frustrating, on any given day you don’t know who’s going to be ready to play and who is not going to be ready to play. In order to try to adjust to that, it’s been very demanding. We’re very pleased with the job that Ron has done.
Q So you definitely are bringing him back next year. What about the coaching staff?
A That’s not my decision. That’s Gardy’s. … We’re going to sit down at the end of the season with Gardy and Billy [Smith, general manager] and everybody and they’re all going to talk through all this. But it’s not happening now because the season is not over.
That was back-to-back punts, but the best one is that it is Gardenhire’s decision to come back. You’re the owner, you have the ultimate authority. Don’t be such a pussy by saying it isn’t your decision; as the owner you can make any decision yours. George Steinbrenner is vomiting in his grave hearing an owner de-ball himself like that.
Q How do you feel about the job Bill Smith has done as general manager?
A He also has had a very tough situation, but we’re going to sit with him and we’re going to ask him what he can do to make the organization better next year.
Q Do you plan on bringing him back next year as GM, then?
A Yes. … He’s been involved with this organization for a long time. Do we throw out the last, what’s the number, 15 years and forget all that over one season? I mean it’s been, really, an unusual season. … Our organization isn’t a knee-jerk- reaction organization.
OK, fine, but let’s look at the Bill Smith era as a whole, shall we? Since assuming the role of general manager in 2007, he got lucky by dumping the future money-bomb known as Johan Santana, but he got nothing for him – Carlos Gómez, Deolis Guerra, Kevin Mulvey, and Philip Humber. He also traded pitcher Matt Garza and shortstop Jason Bartlett for Delmon Young and Brendan Harris (now both gone).
Yet, these moves returned the Twins to the playoffs in 2009. This marked the team’s fifth playoff appearance of the decade. It also marked the fourth consecutive time the team failed to advance beyond the first round.
Q Billy has been quoted as saying that he’s more of an administrator than a talent evaluator. I’m curious to know why you think Billy is the right man to turn things around? What’s Billy’s title?
A General manager, so he’s in charge of managing the baseball operation. I mean those are his words, like you said. I don’t remember reading that, but if those are his words that’s really his job, to manage the baseball department. We don’t look to Billy solely — I don’t know if any organization does, maybe they do at some place — we don’t look solely at him as the premier judge of talent. He has a whole bunch of people that he gets input from on the judgment of talent.
The general manager is not a talent evaluator. Now the Nishioka signing makes sense.
Q Your season-ticket base, I believe, is around 25,000. Are you bracing for that number to decrease next year?
A No, I mean we’ve said all along that as Target Field matures — you can look at every single other new ballpark and there is a period of honeymoon — and sometimes after that honeymoon period, be that three, five years, whatever that number is, there is a leveling off. But we believe that we can keep the Target Field experience at the top and be a winning team. And those two elements, together, should guarantee that we’ll have strong ticket sales. If it’s in single-game tickets or season tickets, I mean in the end it’s all counted as your attendance in total.
That may very well be, but who was the last team with a new ballpark to lose 100 games? See, Minnesota fans are “fair weather” fans, and if the team sucks, they will spend the summer at their lake cabins.
Q I did some rough addition, I’m a journalist not a mathematician here, but between [pending free agents] Joe Nathan, Michael Cuddyer, Jason Kubel, Matt Capps and the trades of Delmon Young and Jim Thome, you have about $40-$42 million coming off of your payroll after this season. How much flexibility will that give you as far as being able to improve this roster for next year?
A Well if what you just said, if that’s true, that gives us tons of flexibility. That money is not just going to go back into our pockets. We want to win. We care about winning and we’re going to try to win. In a lot of cases payroll dollars tend to reflect that.
In other words, that money is going right back into their pockets. Get ready for the days of Scott Stahoviak, Pedro Munoz, and Rich Becker.
Q In recent years you guys have not been known to make the big-time, flashy, free-agent singing. I think Thome was an impact signing based on his résumé, but you haven’t signed that top-notch, free-agent type of player. With so much money coming off the books, will you look to the free-agent market to sign a impact player this offseason? Do you think we need just one player?
A No, I do not. [general laughter] No, we’re going to have to look at that, but it’s probably not just that. It all depends upon the health of the people going forward. But my guess is we’re probably going to have to do more than one impact player. We’re going to have to bring in more than one.
Q But you foresee going after that?
A In my view, and I’m sure Bill [Smith] would echo this, they’re going to have to look at the free-agent market or trades. Surely that can’t be ruled out.
Pohlad and Smith have no idea why this team tanked, so asking them how to fix it is like asking the captain of the Titanic how to avoid ice.
Q Will you be able to bring back Cuddyer and Kubel next year?
A I don’t know. We want to win. That’s the goal. We’re going to bring back or sign players that are going to help us win.
You could almost make a drinking game out of this. Everytime Pohlad says “we want to win,” take a pull.
Q What is wrong with Joe Mauer?
A Joe Mauer told me the day we signed his contract down in Florida that he would always give me his best. That’s what he told me then and I believed him then and I believe it now. As far as what’s wrong with him, he had a bad year health-wise, injury-wise, just like everybody else did.
Q Are you worried that Mauer has something wrong with him that hasn’t been detected yet?
A No, I’m not worried about that.
Q How much more have you expected out of him? You’ve invested a lot of money to lock him up and he, whether it’s fair or not, is the face of this franchise.
A I agree with that, and he is the face of the franchise and he’s signed for the next seven years. He will be the face of the franchise going forward.
Ahhh, we finally get to the whole Mauer problem, the $23 million singles hitter. Well, maybe that’s not fair…he did slug almost four homers in 300 at-bats. Of course, there’s something wrong with him, and nobody knows what it is, and if nobody figures it out, Twins’ fans need to get ready for seven more years of high-dollar non-performance.
Q I know you’re still scouting Japan, I know Terry Ryan was recently in Japan. Does Tsuyoshi Nishioka’s disappointing season make you more cautious of signing players from that country? Or will you continue to look to Japanese players as a possible option?
A We’re going to look to any country that has players that we believe can help us win.
Q I think last season you put in a bid on Hasashi Iwakuma, who was a starting pitcher in Japan, and of course you weren’t awarded the bid. I think he’s a true free agent this offseason. Is that someone who could still be on your radar for this offseason?
A I think probably everybody is on our radar.
Seriously, I think Pohlad really wanted to answer that one a bit more truthfully; something more like “Are you f–king kidding me? I’ll take players from Mars if they can help this sorry-ass team.”
Q I know the continuity in this organization has been one of the strengths, being able to hire and promote from within and keep certain things in place. But how can you just wash this whole season off because of injuries and not think, ‘We may have to change some things here?’
A I never said anything like that. … I never said we don’t have to change things. Please don’t get that impression. … We want to know how things are going to be better next year. Like you said, if there’s no convincing argument or here’s the plan and the plan isn’t all convincing, then we’re going to react. We’re going to say, ‘Go back and do it again or something.’ I don’t even know. I don’t really anticipate that that’s going to be the case.
NON-DENIAL DENIAL ALERT!!! NON-DENIAL DENIAL ALERT!!! Anytime, and I mean anytime you hear a manager/leader/politician say “I never said that” and “Don’t get the wrong impression” within two sentences of each other, you are in the bowels of a non-denial denial. The problem is not that you got the wrong impression, you committed the cardinal sin of getting EXACTLY the correct impression. Don’t be surprised if there’s a house-cl;eaning coming, and one that will be completely unsuccessful; culture comes from the head down, and nobody gives that theory more “head” than this owner.
Q Just for the sake of being clear for the readers, do you foresee where your payroll may land next year? There’s been some whispers about it’s going to have to come down from $115 million.
A I mean it’s going to come down naturally, because it exceeded where we wanted it. But it was an unusual year contract-wise. But it’s not going to be slashed. It’s going to be right up there. But I don’t know exactly what it’s going to be.
I don’t want to say that sounds like a lie, but…go back to the question where Pohlad doesn’t even know the result of not re-signing the free-agents. He dodged then, and he dodged now. There’s a very real possibility that the Twins are worried they’ve over-extended, the bet on a contending team to fill the new ballpark is looking like a gutshot straight draw, and Pohlad might very well be considering a decade-long fold.