The Twins came up with $15 million to complete the land purchase for the new ballpark. They will spend another $20 million-plus beyond the original budget to get a first-class facility.

Jerry Bell, owner Carl Pohlad's point man on the new ballpark, said at noontime Friday: "I'm feeling pretty good. My cost overruns are going to look like a drop in the bucket compared to what the Pohlads are going to spend late this afternoon."

The expenses to which Bell referred involved the signing of Justin Morneau and Michael Cuddyer to long-term contracts. The official announcement came at 4 p.m. at the Metrodome, 90 minutes before the gates opened for TwinsFest.

Morneau became the franchise's first-ever recipient of a six-year deal, and his ransom was $80 million. Cuddyer is guaranteed $24 million for three years, and likely to total $33.5 million when an option is picked up for 2011.

The strategy to sign these players came from Bill Smith, the Twins' new general manager, and his assistant, Rob Antony, who conducted the negotiations with the agents.

What these deals had at the core, though, was an admission by Carl and his son Jim that investing heavily in a new ballpark -- the original commitment of $130 million and the added $35 million to $40 million -- was not going to offset a growing public negativity toward the Pohlads and their ballclub.

The Twins rebuilt the roster with young players in the late '90s and returned to the plus side of .500 in 2001. Over the next six seasons, the Twins did not lose one player that they really wanted to keep because of economics.

David Ortiz? Eric Milton? Corey Koskie? A.J. Pierzynski? Jacque Jones?

It wasn't that the Pohlads' payroll policy was too restrictive to retain them. It was Terry Ryan, the Twins' general manager, feeling as though they could be replaced at a better price.

Ryan was grossly wrong in the case of Ortiz, and astute with the others. This history of the Twins keeping the players they wanted to keep did not prevent this winter's overwhelming perception that they have conducted a revolving-door operation based on Pohlad parsimony.

Center fielder Torii Hunter became the first player of this decade to leave as a free agent when the Twins very much wanted to retain him. Pitcher Johan Santana will be the second such player to depart, either with a trade in the next couple of weeks or as a free agent after this season.

Considering Hunter is a top-three center fielder and Santana is a top-three starting pitcher, it's not a surprise the public should gather large gobs of hyperbole about cheapness and sling it at the Pohlads.

So what happens to the hyperbole now that the owners showed a willingness to deal with the game's current economics by parting with scores of millions for Morneau and Cuddyer?

They have Morneau through 2013 and Cuddyer through 2011. They have Joe Mauer signed through 2010, and Delmon Young can't be a free agent until after the 2012 season.

There are the Twins' 3 through 6 hitters for at least the next three seasons. When the ballpark opens in 2010, the salaries for Morneau ($14 million), Mauer ($12.5 million) and Cuddyer ($8.5 million) will total $35 million. Young will be arbitration-eligible and making $6 million or $7 million, minimum.

Are we still going to be calling the owners cheap?

Hunter spent 15 years with the Twins organization and nine as the big-league center fielder. Santana came as a minor league draftee in 2000 and has been here for eight seasons. Both received market-level contracts at the same points of their career as have Morneau and Cuddyer.

To suggest that the Pohlads cavalierly will have waved both out of town without showing proper appreciation to the players or to the sporting public is ridiculous, but that's what happens when fans figure the way to sound bright is to say the same thing that every other fan is saying: "The Twins don't want to compete."

Actually, they want to, and that's why Young was here a week after Hunter was gone, and why Morneau and Cuddyer are now extremely well-heeled young men.

Patrick Reusse can be heard weekdays on AM-1500 KSTP at 6:45 and 7:45 a.m. and 4:40 p.m. •