Carl Pohlad officially became owner of the Twins when the sale papers were signed at the Metrodome on Sept. 21, 1984. Howard Fox, a survivor of the Griffith organization, soon was named team president.
Fox convinced Pohlad to fire Billy Gardner as manager and to replace him with Ray Miller on June 21, 1985. Pohlad fired Miller on Sept. 12, 1986 at the urging of Andy MacPhail, the young baseball assistant hired by Fox.
That was two managers fired by Pohlad in less than two years as owner of the Twins.
In November 1986, MacPhail was put in charge of the baseball operation and Tom Kelly was promoted from interim to the full-time manager.
The Twins played for 23 more seasons in the Metrodome. They did not fire a general manager or a manager in that time. The GM changes from MacPhail to Terry Ryan, and Ryan to Bill Smith were because of resignations. The change from Kelly to Ron Gardenhire for the 2002 season also was because of a resignation.
Carl Pohlad died in January 2009. The Twins moved to Target Field in 2010, with Jim Pohlad as the family member in charge of baseball.
There was greater revenue to be had in the new ballpark, for sure. There also was a significant increase in the cost to operate.
The combination of annual payments for the Twins’ share of construction, rent, the Minneapolis ticket tax and stadium operations (roughly $17 million) — all costs that were minimal or nonexistent in the Dome — has increased the amount of doing business by more than $40 million per year.
This does not include the extra millions the Twins have spent in improvements since this ballyard opened.
The Metrodome was a low-risk, low-reward place to play baseball. The business model is much different in Target Field. It wasn’t invested in with the idea that, by Year 8, tickets sold would fall to less than half of what the Twins drew in that initial 2010 season: 3,223,640.
The Twins will struggle to reach 1.8 million in tickets sold in 2016. They will suffer a substantial loss in season-ticket sales from the current figure of close to 14,000. If they lose 4,000 season tickets (it could be more), that’s 320,000 tickets sold.
That would put attendance in Year 8 in the 1.5 million range — and the Twins’ low in their last nine (successful) seasons in the Dome was 1,782,926.
The announcement of General Manager Terry Ryan’s firing was made Monday, and the opinion here is that it was a business decision.
Vital customers (sponsors, suite holders), season-ticket holders and the public were clamoring for a change in baseball leadership, and Jim Pohlad decided to give it to them.
He made the decision last month, in consultation with family members, and with team President Dave St. Peter.
I didn’t talk to St. Peter about this, but I did talk to a few people in sales in recent weeks, and they were rattled by what they were hearing from those vital customers.
I’ve been part of four season tickets in the Legends Club since the ballpark opened in 2010. We started as four equal partners. We’re down to two, with my pal in the business world taking 68 games (some of which he sells off) and me with the remaining 13 games.
My partner hung tough through the four consecutive 90-plus-loss seasons of 2011 to 2014. He happily renewed for this year after the 2015 improvement.
On June 9, I received a text reading: “I’m not re-upping to watch this …’’ It was a reference to equine debris.
It was a couple of weeks later, apparently, when Jim Pohlad changed his mind — through outside persuasion or personal observation of the nightly horror show — and decided that Ryan was not the GM to lead the Twins back from the abyss this time.
I was told this:
Ryan’s departure had nothing to do with a dispute with Pohlad over how the Twins should proceed to fix this mess. It was based strictly on Pohlad reaching the conclusion that Terry was not the baseball man to do the fixin’.
No matter what is being said, there is zero chance that Rob Antony, now the interim, will become Ryan’s replacement.
Pohlad is not going to fire a man that was as personally admired as Terry Ryan as evidence to clientele that the Twins are ready to change, and then maintain the same front office.
This is the seventh season in Target Field, and now a manager and two GMs have been fired. This isn’t the Dome anymore. It’s a palace for baseball, but with big costs and alarmingly diminished rewards when it’s bad baseball.