While the NBA, NHL, NFL and MLS have all come up with some kind of plan for how to resume their seasons, Major League Baseball owners and players continue to be in a big labor dispute that has really hurt the image of the game over the past few weeks.
The latest offer from MLB to be made public features a 60-game season with 100% of prorated salaries for players with games starting on July 19.
Twins owner Jim Pohlad said in a Wednesday interview that everyone wants baseball back, and the faster the two sides can reach an agreement, the better.
“Everybody wants it back as soon as possible,” Pohlad said. “The fans want it back as soon as possible, MLB wants it back as soon as possible and the players want it back as soon as possible. So from a baseball standpoint and a brand standpoint, I think it is really important that it gets back as soon as possible.”
While Commissioner Rob Manfred said last week that he was 100% certain there would be baseball played this summer, that became less certain this week as the MLB Players Association and the owners continue to be far apart on a deal.
Pohlad’s optimism about a season being played has changed over time.
“It’s really hard to say. All I can do is sense optimism coming from the commissioner’s office,” Pohlad said. “And that has gone back and forth.”
Pohlad said communication with the commissioner’s office has been steady with the club, but not directly between himself and Manfred.
“There are weekly calls [with] just a control person on the call, and those are update calls for the most part,” Pohlad said. “They don’t call for a lot of action, but they are updates and we have those. Then there is infrequent contact with the commissioner on a one-on-one basis.”
With the country going through various stages of lockdown over the coronavirus and with Minneapolis being the center of a nationwide discussion about social justice and racism, Pohlad said the role of baseball has never been clearer.
“Baseball at its best is an activity, a diversion for people for enjoyment, social interaction, competition, so I think in all those respects with what everybody has gone through, it is very important,” he said. “But we can’t in any way minimize the importance of the health of people in the country as a result of the pandemic and the fight for social justice. Because those are two way more important issues than baseball.”
The Twins and the Pohlad Companies — run by Jim, Robert and Bill Pohlad — made a recent contribution of $25 million which they said will be used to help fight systemic racism in the United States.
Jim Pohlad said this has been one of the most important times for his family in terms of finding ways they can help the community. The Pohlad Family Foundation already has done a lot of charitable work involving homelessness and housing, but with the coronavirus and now the growing discussion on racism, the family has looked for even more opportunities to help.
“Well, it’s really important. I mean, hugely important for us,” he said. “There are a lot of difficult decisions to be made during all of this time, starting probably [when coronavirus concerns surfaced] in mid-March, and there have been a lot of difficult decisions. But the decision to support a movement toward social justice, racial justice came about relatively recently and the moment with George Floyd has just magnified [getting more involved] for us and for everybody, we hope.”
State of the Twins
Pohlad reported that the Twins are financially stable, even though they currently have almost no revenue coming in. He said he believes the club can weather whatever happens this season.
“The Twins are in satisfactory financial condition right now,” Pohlad said. “I mean, there is no club that can say they’re in great financial condition because we have a lot of expenses and virtually no revenue, so that’s not a good situation. But we’re confident of the organization’s ability to make it through all of this.”
Last season the club drew 2.29 million fans, their most since 2013, and had visions of attracting at least 2.5 million this season. But Pohlad said he believes fans aren’t likely to return to Target Field in 2020.
“Baseball has deferred to the public health officials on that one,” Pohlad said. “I would think that it would be unlikely, for sure in the regular season, to see any fans in the stands. If the playoffs happen and if the Twins were to be in the playoffs, I just don’t know. I can’t say [for sure] about fans, [it’s] possible and you can judge your degree of probability.”
The Twins were coming off one of the most enjoyable seasons in a decade, winning 101 games and hitting the most home runs in MLB history. With the addition of former MVP Josh Donaldson at third base and a bolstered rotation, this club has World Series aspirations.
So how hard is it to not have games scheduled at this point?
“The offseason breeds optimism at every club, but the Twins were coming off a great season last year and I thought we made some really key, good signings,” Pohlad said. “We were excited about our prospects, about the returning team and the new players. I would say that we were highly anticipating the 2020 season and the success that we believed the Twins would have.”
If baseball does get restarted, the Twins are going to have as good a chance to win the World Series as any club. Not only do they have a great major league club, but their minor league prospects are as good as any organization in baseball.
Pohlad said for the most part, the Twins have tried to operate as normally as possible, but that has been difficult even with events such as the MLB draft.
“We have operated as normal as we can be, given the fact that we’re not playing any games,” he said. “I think that people have, clearly, less to do, some more than others. So I think that we’re operating normally but in a weird environment. I have been very pleased with the Twins and our organization throughout the Pohlad Companies, of how everybody has adapted to the change that is required here.
“I think that we’re a highly communicative organization, so everybody has stayed in contact with one another and is doing a good job.”