Pohlad family in it for long haul
Ownership defends decision to part ways with Hunter, Santana
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The Pohlad family has owned the Twins for nearly 24 years, and the plan is for that not to change anytime soon.In a state-of-the-franchise interview granted for a handful of local media on Friday, Jim Pohlad expressed his family's commitment to long-term ownership of the franchise. Pohlad's father, Carl, 92, is still considered to be in charge of the Twins franchise. But Jim Pohlad said that there is another generation of the family that really enjoys the association with baseball and wants to keep the franchise for the foreseeable future. "Whether or not fans want to hear that," he said. Fan reaction to the Twins trading away ace pitcher Johan Santana and unable to re-sign seven-time Gold Glove winning outfielder Torii Hunter this offseason has been unquestionably negative. But Pohlad, who has taken on a more active role in running the ballclub recently, defended the organization's decision to let the two players go. The length of the contracts seemed to be the sticking point for the Twins with both Santana and Hunter. Pohlad said the organization didn't object to paying Santana over $20 million a season, as witnessed by their four-year, $80 million offer to the pitcher. But he also said that the team wouldn't be willing to just hand out guaranteed five- and six-year contracts like the two players received, declaring it to be too big of a risk. "For the Twins to offer any players so-called legacy contracts, we'd have to look long and hard at that, and it would have to be a real special situation," Pohlad said. "That doesn't mean that Torii or Johan is not special. It's just that the terms of that or the length, we're not in a position to do that on a regular basis." And when asked if he had considered giving Santana a deal just to appease fans, Pohlad was quick to say no. "There's more productive ways to make a gesture than paying a huge salary over a long period of time to one player," Pohlad said. Asked for what better ways he could find to spend that money, Pohlad said he would "rather give it to charity." "I'm not saying that to be funny," he added. "I just don't want to go and throw away money. ... There are a lot more productive uses for that money." Hunter and Santana were just two of many topics that Pohlad and Jerry Bell, president of Twins Sports, addressed in the hour-long session.
Another issue that was brought up was the decrease in payroll for '08. The losses of Santana, Hunter and Carlos Silva this offseason have left the Twins' payroll at somewhere near $55 million, well below their 2007 Opening Day figure of more than $71 million. That payroll also falls short of meeting the team's guideline of spending 52 percent of their revenues on player salaries.But Pohlad said that the budget is not set in stone just yet. He said the team would be willing to add costs through a trade or a signing if they felt it would improve the club. So with all the cutbacks and the changes in the roster, Pohlad was asked if he feels that the Twins are in a rebuilding stage. "No. We're prepared for a winning year, a contention year," Pohlad said. "I don't believe the word rebuilding has ever come up since the 2007 season ended." Among other things confirmed in the session was that the team's payroll could reach $100 million in a new stadium and that the Pohlad family felt that a roof for the team's new stadium was not a necessity. "From May through September, our climate is no different than any of the other northern-tier cities," Pohlad said. "Once again, that's money that would be much more productive going elsewhere."
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.