When Minnesota Twins owner Carl Pohlad died January 5, 2009 something strange happened in Twins Territory.
Gone was the old miser, a man who once sought contraction (and a payday) for his own team by selling to Major League Baseball.
He ran the team like his many other businesses, as a money-making venture. Wins and losses were secondary to dollars and cents and the product on the field reflected this for many years.
After Carl's death, his son Jim inherited day-to-day operations of the team and instantly optimism for the Twins' future rose.
Jim Pohlad entered the picture with perfect timing. 2009 was the last season the Twins would ever play in the Metrodome.
The Twins were moving to a new home, Target Field, a $522 million beacon of hope for Minnesota baseball.
Target Field wasn't just a new place to play baseball, it was a sign of change.
Gone were the days when the Twins had to let players like Johan Santana and Torii Hunter leave for more lucrative contracts.
Fans were told that payroll would increase with the increased revenue Target Field would provide, and Jim Pohlad stuck to his word.
On March 21, 2010, the Twins resigned Joe Mauer to an eight-year contract extension worth $184 million. Major League Baseball was immediately put on notice that the Twins were not small-market any longer.
Incredibly, the Twins' team payroll went from $65,299,266 in 2009 to $97,559,166 in 2010 and $112,737,000 in 2011.
It seemed as if everything worked out as planned. Target Field and Jim Pohlad were not going to allow the Minnesota Twins to slip back into the small-market mentality that plagued the team for so long.
Then 2011 happened.
This isn't about why or how the season went so badly. This is about the Twins' organizational response to the poor season.
To say the Twins panicked would be an understatement. The team with the $112 million payroll was decimated by injury and limping it's way to a last-place finish.
More interestingly, the organization saw even Target Field was not enough of a draw to keep the ballpark full at the end of the season.
I have no idea if the Twins made or lost money after the 2011 season was over. What I do know is that Jim Pohlad is much more like his father than previously suspected.
The 2012 season is playing itself out like a page from Carl Pohlad's old playbook.
Fans were told the payroll was going to drop, down to $94,085,000 presently, but not to worry. The drop in payroll did not mean a drop in play on the field.
I was hoodwinked. I bought into it hook, line and sinker. As long as the team has Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau, they have a chance every night.
The Twins had been successful enough with lower payrolls and lesser talent that it was not a stretch for me to believe that this team not only could win, but would win if they stayed healthy.
But this season was never about winning and losing for Jim Pohlad and the rest of the Twins organization.
This season was about being able to lower payroll and get away with it. It was about the ability to make money despite putting together one of the worst teams in the league.
This is not over either. The team will continue to shrink its payroll as the season wears on and in the years to come.
They will tell us that it is about taking a step back and evaluating talent for the future success of the Twins organization.
Of course the fans will buy into it.
As long as the Twins have Joe Mauer and the hope of a brighter future, fans will continue to file into Target Field for years to come and that's the bottom line for the Twins.
Once again the Twins are being run like a business and not a professional sports team.
Bravo Jim Pohlad, your dad would be so proud.
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