There is a lot of discussion happening right now about how major professional sports leagues will reopen, with Major League Baseball looking like it will be the first operation to really put together a plan for getting games played in the next month or two.
As these discussions keep happening, one area where Minnesota clubs will have an advantage is in the local ownership groups.
The Pohlad family with the Twins, the Wilf family with the Vikings, Glen Taylor with the Timberwolves and Craig Leipold with the Wild are all among the wealthiest owners in sports and some of the smartest business minds around. They are all going to have to help lead their teams back into action.
And on top of that, they all are looked to for their financial contributions to help charities, medical staffs and other people around the state who are affected by the shutdown.
The fact is that their franchises have all gone up in value dramatically under their regimes because of smart ownership decisions.
Taylor paid $88 million for the Wolves in 1994 and the latest valuation by Forbes had the team worth $1.375 billion.
The late Carl Pohlad spent $32 million to take over majority control of the Twins from Calvin Griffith in 1984. The team, now owned by his three sons, was estimated to be worth $1.3 billion heading into this season.
The Wilf family spent $792 million to get the Vikings from Red McCombs in 2005 and now the team is worth $2.7 billion, the most valuable franchise in the state.
And Leipold spent $260 million to buy the Wild and the lease on Xcel Energy Center from Bob Naegele Jr. in 2008. The team has an estimated value of $510 million now.
Charity key right now
The Vikings ownership group, led by Zygi Wilf, has donated more than $5 million to various causes around the coronavirus — both in New York and New Jersey, where the Wilfs began their business careers, and in Minnesota.
They made a lot of big donations to places such as the University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital, Second Harvest Heartland and the Minnesota Disaster Recovery Fund.
Taylor, who also owns the Star Tribune, said in March he had been paying close attention to the coronavirus since January because the Taylor Corporation has business interests in China where the virus first appeared.
He also made a donation of $1 million to a relief fund for part-time gameday staff who work at Target Center in March when NBA games were initially shut down.
Meanwhile, Twins President Dave St. Peter said recently that the front office and staff has gotten nothing but support from chairman Jim Pohlad in recent weeks. “Jim Pohlad has been a rock. He has certainly been incredibly supportive of our people and yes we regularly communicate with Jim Pohlad as well as other members of the Pohlad companies,” St. Peter said.
Leipold told the Hockey News last month that he has been in close contact with Wild employees as the NHL continues to monitor when it might be safe to start team activities again.
He had also made an immediate promise to pay all part-time arena workers through April after games shutdown in March.
Dye talks Barr
The Vikings drafted linebacker Troy Dye out of Oregon in the fourth round. Dye is just the kind of player this team has targeted for years under Rick Spielman and Mike Zimmer — he is an intelligent player who was a four-year starter and led the Ducks in tackles every season, something that had never been accomplished at the school.
Dye said that one of his favorite players in the NFL is Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr.
“Now that I’m his teammate I am going to pick his brain and really get to know what he does and how he does it,” Dye said. “But the thing that really stands out to me is that he’s a big, long athletic guy that is able to cover space really well. He understands the game and you can see in his reads and in his keys that he flows really well.”a
Twins depth could be key
One thing to keep an eye on as baseball considers an attempt to start the season in June or July is that rosters could easily be expanded past the 26-man limit so that teams can rest players if they’re playing a lot of games without off days to make up for missed contests.
The Twins could benefit in one big way, which is that their farm system is rated as one of the best in baseball while the big-league club won the AL Central last year by going 101-61.
General Manager Thad Levine said earlier this year that there’s no question having that kind of balance is unique in baseball.
“I think we’re in a very fortuitous spot as a franchise right now where we have what we feel is one of the five to six best teams in the major leagues, but we’re also blessed to have one of the top-10 farm systems,” Levine said.
• The Vikings are tied for the 10th-hardest 2020 NFL schedule based on 2019 winning percentages. Their 2020 opponents went 131-123-2 (.516) in 2019. The Lions have the NFC North’s toughest schedule, tied for fifth overall, at 134-121-1 (.525).
• Gophers defensive coordinator Joe Rossi on the recruiting trail: “It’s definitely exciting. I think it has been different and you have to adapt. Coach [P.J.] Fleck has put together an elite plan, and then obviously the recruiting staff, we’re following it. Working the phones, working the video chats, the FaceTimes and the Zooms, everything we’re allowed to do. We’ve had some real positive results.”
• Baseball America, naming the Twins’ best draft picks of the past decade, called a tie between two Puerto Ricans, Jose Berrios (supplemental first round pick in 2011) and Eddie Rosario (fourth round in 2010).
• Former Twins slugger Byung-Ho Park is off to a great start for the Kiwoom Heroes in South Korea, hitting .375 with two homers, five RBI and four runs scored in four games. Teammate Taylor Motter, another ex-Twin, is hitting .200 with a homer, three RBI and two runs scored in four games.
• The Spokane (Wash.) Spokesman-Review reported Minnehaha Academy standout Jalen Suggs will now headline the highest ranked recruiting class in Gonzaga basketball history, at No. 11 in the nation, according to 247 Sports. Suggs is also the highest-rated recruit that Gonzaga coach Mark Few has ever signed.
• Former Gophers football coach Jerry Kill told SB Nation that it wasn’t easy to leave Virginia Tech to become the offensive coordinator at Texas Christian, but his friendship with Horned Frogs coach Gary Patterson made the difference, saying: “It gives me the chance to finish out my career with my best friend. I know him better than anybody does — he knows my positives and negatives and I know his.”