Startribune.com digital sports editor Howard Sinker used to cover the Twins and now shares season tickets with friends in Section 219 of Target Field. He blogs about baseball from the perspective of a long-time fan who loves the game, doesn’t always believe the hype and likes hearing what others think. Howard sometimes talks about sports with Cathy Wurzer on MPR's Morning Edition.
This isn't the place to argue whether Joe Mauer squeezed every penny possible out of the Twins, gave them a hometown discount over the $1 gazillion he could have gotten from one of the Eastern Bloc powers or whatever. I'm just not interested in that debate.
From what his buddy Justin Morneau said last season, we concluded that Mauer wanted to know what the Twins were going to do to get from being division winners to first-breath World Series contenders. The answers were Orlando Hudson, J.J. Hardy, Jim Thome and contracts for several young players that keep them in Minnesota for quite a while by modest (for baseball) standards.
Many of us had the expectation for the Twins to upgrade their payroll in concert with their move to their new cash machine at Target Field, where you'll be able to buy a stuffed burger for $12 and hefty pizza slices for $5. That's happened, with a 2010 payroll that stands at $96 million and another bump coming for 2011, with the Mauer deal and a few others playing smaller roles.
The alarms that are being sounded right now -- there always has to be an alarm, right? -- is about the danger of having one player eat up 20 to 25 percent of the team's payroll.
This is where things will get interesting. But the early indications are that the Twins are already doing some planning for that future. If the promising outfielder Ben Revere is ready for the majors in 2011 or 2012, he will likely be the replacement for Michael Cuddyer, whose contract runs through the end of '11. That'll be a $10 million savings..Aaron Hicks in 2012 or '13 would keep the Twins from spending bigger money on Delmon Young, who will...
...a) never live up to his potential.
...b) bust out and make fine trade bait.
Danny Valencia looks like the low-priced future at third base and, unfortunately, I'd still bet against the Twins picking up Joe Nathan's $12.5 million option for 2012. (I'm a Nathan fan and I'll be pulling like heck for him to make a comeback, but I'm not going to be the one who leads the brigade of optimism on that one.)
That's a start. Yes, the payroll will creep upward in the years to come after this season's dramatic bump, but it's nothing that ownership can't afford. You have to wonder if this generation of Pohlads, and their interested children, could be getting a little bit of Steinbrenner in 'em. The price of ultimate victory may be uncomfortably high from a dollars-and-cents perspective, but digging deeper into deep pockets could bring a reward that trumps the discomfort.
After all, if players can give 110 percent, the owners can too.
Whatever the case, I think the Twins made this move with an eye on being much more than Joe Mauer and 24 mostly-interchangeable parts.
I'm juiced for the season.
One more thing: You can get Twins-Cardinals exhibition tickets on the Twins website, but there's a trick to doing it. Here's the deal:
If you go to the Twins schedule and click on the "T" for those games, you'll be told they're sold out.
But if you click on a game for which tickets remain and then click on the word "schedule" -- top middle of the page -- you'll be taken to a different calendar. Click on the "T" in that calendar, and there are tickets remaining for both games. As of Sunday night, for example, you could get two tickets in Section 119, Row 24 for the second exhibition.
I'm guessing this is simply a glitch that may well be fixed. But, for now, you can consider it a Section 219 Exhibition Special. Seriously, credit for this find goes to commenter "Buffalo" on Rick Prescott's BallparkMagic blog, which has great photos from the weekend.
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