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Twins Budget

There’s some question about how much money the Twins are going to spend on payroll next year. They’re on the hook for about 80 million dollars, and they spent $115 million this year (2011) on players. In order to properly plan for next year, the number crunchers in the Twins frontoffice need to guess at how much money they’ll make next year. This is not easy, as winning produces its own revenue. But you need to win a lot. If you can’t guarantee about 90 wins, your gate receipts won’t go up (see previous post on this topic).

Some will say the new stadium will keep attendance high, but this is a fallacy. Attendance did drop a bit this year, and it will drop even more next year as the standard new stadium honeymoon is about two years (source 1, source 2 p28). Unless the Twins are at or near the top of the AL Central Division all year, the Twins should expect a precipitous drop in attendance.

And I don’t see the Twins being able to win 90+ games next year even if they spent a bunch of money and Morneau/Span/Mauer came back completely healthy. If I were the Twins frontoffice number cruncher, I would be pessimistic. I would predict a 10% decline in gate receipts (about $10 million). In order to preserve the current EBITDA, the Twins shouldn’t spend more than $105 million on payroll. In fact, I would suggest aiming for the $100 million mark. Thus, the Twins will have less than $20 million dollars to spend on free agents.

That’s if I were the analyst. If I were the GM, I would take a completely different direction and start reconstructing the organization. I would spend next to nothing on free agent players (though I would bid up Clint Barmes). I’d be trading veterans and some of the lesser prospects (Ben Revere) and I would be openly relying on AAA/AAAA players all year. The organization is completely dry and the Twins can’t afford to get into a situation where they spend all their money on free agents to reload every year. They will lose this strategy. Smith needs to start planning longterm.

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Cliff Lee a Twin?

The rumors are churning that Bill Smith is looking at Cliff Lee, and even offered two top prospects (Aaron Hicks and Wilson Ramos). I hope not. Firstly, Cliff Lee’s great numbers this year are bound to regress. Even if he stays as good as he’s been, a high-end catching prospect and a high-end centerfielder is too high a price to pay. Catchers always get hurt, and Joe Mauer’s longevity is not assured. I just don’t see the margin.

Smith looks like he’s spending his capital this year in order to win. But I see him weakening the organization with this trade (and other stuff he’s done this year, like some ill-concieved longterm contracts). This trade would really be the kicker, his shopping list is too large and he’s ignoring the huge downside.

It’s a tough call. The Twins need some starters, and Ryan Mullins and Jeff Manship aren’t exactly a great solution; but Smith needs to find a cheaper solution with some realistic margin to it.

Fair Weather Fans

Fair weather fans get a bad rap from the truly obsessed. But I like fair weather fans. If it weren’t for them, there’d be no economic incentive at all on team owners to put good teams on the playing field.

So if you’ve stopped watching the Twins lately. Good. Sure, you’ve missed some cool stuff (Denard Span got three triples in one game, which is almost as amazing as Jim Thome getting one triple the day before). But at least, turning your attention elsewhere, you show the Twins frontoffice they can’t just ignore the holes in their roster.

Just imagine all the bad teams that would still be around if it weren’t for fair weather fans. Cleveland Spiders? Chicago Cubs? Imagine a world where those teams were still playing.

Mr. Baseball Cliche Man

Thank you Mr. Baseball Cliche Man.

What would I do without you?

What was that? Morneau should have hit that ball in the air? Of course Mr. Baseball Cliche Man; I’m sure hitting in the majors is just like hitting in batting practice, Mr. Baseball Cliche Man.

Huh? Joe Mauer is not trying hard enough? Of course, Mr. Baseball Cliche Man. The Twins should have never given him that big contract, Mr. Baseball Cliche Man.

What would I do without you, Mr. Baseball Cliche Man?

Maybe I’d actually enjoy the game, Mr. Baseball Cliche Man.

Just go home, Mr. Baseball Cliche Man.

Just go home.

Target Field

Try as I might, I just can’t get excited about the new Twins stadium. To me, it’s just a place to play. I see the lemmings losing themselves over this new structure and think, ‘goodness we’re foolish people.’

I just want to grab some of them, slap them and say “You know you’re being manipulated into buying the same goods and services at a higher price, right?” Not to mention the higher taxes.

Do I want to see a Twins game a Target Field? Sure. But then again, I wanted to see the Twins play at the Metrodome too. I regularly go to games.

This is because I like the Twins. Not because of some new structure they play in. This romanticism with meaningless things is a frustrating attitude to endure.

From the Notebook

Lots to get through, fell behind a bit…

-Attended the Minnesota Organization of Blogs 6th anniversary party on Saturday. Met the man behind The Loyal Opposition. It’s always unusual meeting someone in the DFL who is more conservative than I (though economically, it might have been a tie). Enjoyed an awkward moment with AAA, then another with Kevin Ecker. (I apologized profusely for not reading their blogs anymore. To be fair, I only read four blogs. To be more fair, I should be reading their blogs…and so should the rest of you).

The list will get long quick. Obviously: Mitch Berg and King Banaian were there. So too Derek Brigham. PinkMonkeyBird ( really old handle, blogs at Freedom Dogs under a handle I don’t know) is running for office, as is Jamie Delton. John Stewart said hi and promised to kidnap and force me to enjoy a game of outdoor baseball. Talked with the Buddha Patriot. Waved at Speed Gibson. Douglass Bass wanted to talk Avatar (His Twitter Feed). And Brad Carlson threw a drive-by hello at me. I dragged along Orlando Ochoada, Minnesota’s least prolific blogger (5 years, zero posts). And I met up with the guy who used to be the producer of Race to the Right, that radio show I once co-hosted, Tommy Hyunh. After six years, the MOB hasn’t changed. There was more gray hair, a few people gained weight, some slimmed down. Those either bald or with shaved heads barely seemed to age (might be the way to go). But, still the same group of decent people from the first party I attended. (Here’s a little tidbit from the first MOB Party I actually wrote about)

-Read “I Love This Game” by Kirby Puckett (with the usual assumption there was a ghostwriter involved). The book should still be of interest to Twins fans. It’s interesting to compare Puckett with teammate Kent Hrbek. After reading Hrbek’s book, I gained more appreciation for the way he played baseball, but I left with a little less respect for Kent Hrbek the man. Hrbek never had many goals, it didn’t sound like he was a hard worker, and it’s possible Hrbek has read fewer books in the last ten years than he’s “authored.” But, Hrbek didn’t care for raw stats like RBIs or BA. He only cared for his OBP. Puckett was different. He constantly used RBIs and BA to promote his abilities and joked about being undisciplined at the plate and never taking walks. But, Kirby Puckett the man was an interesting and complex person. He wanted to go to college (and did) and he never gave up on baseball. He practiced and worked hard. There was a deep sense of morality to the man, and he even struggled with it. Later questions about the man Kirby Puckett would be raised after his retirement. The man had his demons. Kirby was emotional, and didn’t hide his feelings, as is clear from the book. His book was written before he retired, so there is no written record of how he dealt mentally with the end of his career (though he put a positive spin on it in interviews). If you can find a copy, it’s worth the read.

(And I don’t want to pass over the serious allegations Puckett was saddled with after his retirement. You have to take these revelations into context with the book and what we know about his life. I don’t think we’ll know who the real Kirby Puckett was. But as a baseball player who had fought his way from the projects in Chicago into college and then into the Majors, his book is a great example of what determination and positive attitude can accomplish.)

– Read “Our Enemy, The State” by Albert Jay Knock. If you’re looking for the right kind of book to create a political cult with (none of that Ayn Rand crap), this is the one you need to read. Knock deconstructs the American Revolution and shows how the state created by the founders wasn’t all that different from the state they rebelled against. Both states encouraged the economic exploitation of one class over another. The players simply changed.

-This goes back to several arguments I’ve had with people over the years about the value of “second place” or even “third place” and I’ll even throw out “Top ten.” I consider such accomplishments as the bronze medal and making the cut as worthy of notation and praise. Other suggest the only real accomplishment is the Win. If you don’t win, it ain’t nothing. Bullshit. Petra Majdic’s bronze medal in the cross country sprint was one of the most incredible athletic feats I’ve ever seen. She qualified and finished the race after breaking a few ribs and puncturing a lung in a practice lap. (“But it wasn’t gold” says the douche.) In a world of 6 billion people, finishing third, in whatever endeavour, is a monumental display of ability and determination. So buy that bronze medalist a drink, and shout down those who can’t acknowledge anything but first place. close rant.

-Read “Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley. I really wish I had read this book earlier in my life. It’s such a powerful little book, warning of all the trappings we find in modern life. Huxley was convinced the danger lay with corporations, whereas conservatives believe governmental power alone is dangerous. From history, we know there is often collusion between big business and despotic governments. (I was introduced to the concepts of the book by a liberal who was convinced the book was simply an anti-corporate work, rather than a deeper examination of modern life). So, read it. It’s also on the Great Books reading list (2nd version).

-Read a selection from Werner Heisenberg’s “Physics and Philosophy” (Ch1-6 as part of the GBWW Edition two 10 year reading plan). Heisenberg explores the evolution of science from the pre-Socratics to his own musings on the implications of quantum physics. The chapter he spends on the pre-Socratics and the sixth chapter where he explores the limitations of scientific knowledge are the best and most interesting. 

-Read “Common Sense” by Thomas Paine; it’s the famous essay in support of American independence that created a popular movement strong enough to persuade the continent against the English Crown. Important for historical reasons, there are some interesting tidbits for the modern politico. On the question of reconciliation on the Health Care bill, Paine says a simple majority should never be enough to rule. His outlines for a legislative body recommend a minimum of a tw0-thirds majority before any law is passed.

-David Howarth’s “1066; The Year of the Conquest” is a great work of popular history. Despite our shared lineage, Americans don’t get the lessons in British history (or European history) that we should. The Conquest of England by William was a monumental event in the western world. The English language, English leadership, English culture, all were changed after William. This books does not dwell on the effects of the Conquest, just the mechanics. King Harold was defeated long before the Battle of Hastings. The book is great and I picked it out of a bargain bin for a couple of books.

-Read “Final Theory” by Mark Alpert. The book is a fictional account of a crisis regarding the revelation of the Unified Field Theory (basically, where the math of quantum mechanics and relativity are firmly resolved). The crisis involves some disastrous consequences to the theory (just as Einstein’s E=mc^2 led to nukes). The book is well written, interesting, as you’d expect from a mass market paperback. It will be a frustrating book for conservatives though. Murderous mercenaries are heard listening to Rush Limbaugh while evil FBI agents watch Glenn Beck. Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld (not specifically named though) provide a plausible MacGuffin to drive the protaganists into, among other things, a world of noble redneck hillbillies (who handle snakes, are stupid drunks, but appreciate the field theory as a Divine revelation). Huge chunks of the plot are so stupid and insulting it takes the reader (at least those who are Republicans or have Republican friends or who know people who are Republicans and don’t think Republicans are fanatic Torquemadans) out of the story. As for the cosmology, it’s sorta mentioned. You get a brief outline of M-Brane theory, with a good description of “The Bulk” where branes interact to create universes. But that was like five pages of a 500 page novel. It only took a couple of days to read, so it wasn’t so bad. But, still, Alpert strikes me as a jerk.

-Read Aristotle’s “Poetics” as part of the GBWW Reading Program. It’s a work artists of all kinds, including writers, should be familiar with.

-Since I’m not posting the Wednesday Heroes anymore, I’ll point you to where you can find them: http://rightwingrightminded.blogspot.com/ I’ll try to post the WH posts on twitter whenever I can.

-Saw The Wolfman with Anthony Hopkins. Fun flick. A little campy. An honorable homage to the 1941 classic.

Nick Punto Day

Today is Nick Punto day, where many Twins bloggers focus their attentions on Twins utility man Nick Punto. Andrew Kneeland is collecting all the other articles here. Below is my contribution:

I have an instantaneous visceral dsypeptic reaction to the mere mention of Nick Punto. The man is more flash than fire, the baseball equivalent of a quick handed, smooth-talking Three-card Monte dealer. His acrobatic ability, the dance of twists and turns he does to make dramatic defensive plays, hides his true defensive value. Over the course of his career he has been average to slightly above average defensively. Valuable yes, but not incredibly so, and now his defense is on the decline. When history finally makes its judgement on Nick Punto, it will be shocked he played as much, as often, as long, as he did.

Punto defenders might mention how Punto plays the game “the way it is supposed to be played” and does “the little things right.” These people would pass over his many mental errors on the basepaths. They would suggest there is something beyond raw talent. That Punto is for baseball connesiuers. He’s “scrappy.” Excuse me while I vomit. Punto does try to force things to happen on the field, and with disastrous results. Punto’s baserunning mistake in game three of the 2009 AL Division Series effectively ended the season for the Twins. It was one in a long line of big mistakes at the worst possible times Punto has made.

Even these mistakes could be forgiven were Punto merely a player confined to the bench. As a utility guy Punto is acceptable. But this is not how he is used. For several years now, since 2005, Nick Punto has been an everyday player accumulating over 2300 plate appearances with an OPS of .651. The Nick Punto fans, mainly found among the Twins management, must love the man. There’s no other explanation for how much playing time he gets. Unless, of course, a Faustian contract is somehow involved.

It’s hard to express how little I appreciate Nick Punto, the baseball player. But, to put it into words, here is what I think: Nick Punto has been worth about 1.1 wins above replacement, on average, over the course of his career. This is entirely due to his defense, which barely makes up for his woeful offense. The same value could have been found in the farm system or from waivers for far less money. Punto’s style hides the deep voids in his game. Unashamedly, I will be very happy when his days as a Twin come to an end.

Another great column on Nick Punto was written by long retired blogger “The Wiffler.” It articulately illustrates the absurdity of Nick Punto’s career, and his relationship with the unwashed masses known as “Twins Fans.”

For Sale:

A whole lot of Steve Tolleson autos.

Seth? any interest? (And thanks for the link Seth).

And I’d like to thank the Twins for having Steve at Twins Fest this year, those twelve hours the autographs had some speculative value were great.

From the Notebook

– Read Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” over my winter break. I had been avoiding Dickens for a long time because I’ve always found nineteenth-century British authors to be difficult reads. But Dickens is a masterful and entertaining author. I loved it. So, I’m now looking to add some of his more substantial works to the reading pile.

-Read David McCullough’s companion book to his biography of John Adams, “1776”. The book is, unsurprisingly, excellent. 1776 follows George Washington and his army as they struggle through the first year of the Revolution, from Boston to New York to New Jersey. There is nothing negative to say about this book.

-Got bored and read Clive Cussler’s “The Lost City” at the gym this month. It’s one of his Kurt Austin Adventures. The book pits a NUMA special agent against an evil family of arms dealers. It was stupid even by Cussler standards.

-Finally finished Economics in One Lesson by Henry Hazlitt on my new Sony Reader. The book itself was a good primer on several economic issues, including the “sophistry” of Keynesian Economics. The book is in my Conservative Canon and for good reason. Even though the examples are dated, in the era of Obama the lessons themselves are fresh. Also, I’m now a big fan of the Sony Reader and the very idea of digital ink reading devices.

-I accidently deleted a comment caught in my spam filter that wasn’t spam, sorry. It was something to do with my baseball Hall of Fame ballot. I normally don’t look too closely when emptying the spam filter but just as everything was disappearing from the screen I noticed one comment was actually “real” and not spam. Shucks.

-The Twins acquired Clay Condrey earlier this month. Nothing shocking here. A veteran player with subpar numbers who has a good sinkerball and throws a lot of groundballs with few strikeouts or walks. This might as well be a Twins fetish. I don’t think he’ll be a factor positive or negative, even if he makes the club.

A Twins Blogger Returns; Another Twins Book

The pressures of trying to actually learn things in school, along with getting the best grades possible (these things being very, very foriegn to me), are cutting into my available writing time. Instead of posting on this blog I’ve been sticking to flame wars on Twitter and personal TMI revelations on Facebook. This has kept the blog somewhere between “abandoned” and “Detroit” in the technical terms of activity in the blogging world.

So, while I don’t do podcasts and don’t write regularly about the Twins and don’t pay any attention to the few regular readers who still click over here from time time, there is someone else out there who will, probably, do those things.

Josh Taylor, a regular contributor to my old Twins podcast, and a great Twins blogger who called it quits about 8 months ago, is back. Now on WordPress, I can’t express how much I look forward to constantly disagreeing with him about everything.

* * *

I read through the free preview for the Offseason GM Handbook, written by Twins Bloggers John Bonnes (TwinsGeek), Seth Stohs (SethSpeaks), Nick Nelson (eponymous) and Parker Hageman (OvertheBaggy), and I have to say the work is impressive, and incredibly informative.

The great part of offseason baseball punditry is the the unending myriad of topics and discussions to have about where a franchise goes, how fast they get there and how terrible it is the New York Yankees have so many fans.

I’ll be purchasing a deadtree copy when they become available, otherwise the ebook can be obtained from http://twinscentric.com/ for about ten bucks. (Also, the same free preview I read is available, consisting of about 1/3rd the book).

(All these things going on in the Twins blogosphere (and the Twins organization itself) are making me rue the day I ever decided to get a graduate degree. Then I remind myself how bleak the market looks for a guy with a liberal arts undergrad degree.)