While sitting in a meeting room at Target Field on Wednesday, Twins owner Jim Pohald looked back on the 2015 Twins, a team that finally turned things around after amassing 383 losses over the previous four seasons.
Pohlad occasionally is spotted at the media elevator after games, so he has been seen with a long frown on his face after many of those losses. But a wave of young talent, the guidance of first-year manager Paul Molitor and a different spirit in the clubhouse produced an 83-79 record in 2015. The Twins were in the playoff race until the final weekend of the season, when they were swept by Kansas City.
So Pohlad is more upbeat about where his team is headed.
"That was the objective of the season, to play meaningful games late in the season," Pohlad said. "So it was very enjoyable. It was like old times. After four years, you almost had forgotten what that was like."
The Twins on Wednesday completed their annual organizational meetings in Fort Myers, Fla., where they discuss every major and minor leaguer they have and begin to plot offseason strategy. Pohlad expects to sit down with General Manager Terry Ryan soon to get an idea of his plans for the roster. One thing that came to light Wednesday is that the 2016 payroll could reach $120 million, fueled partially by raises and arbitration eligible players.
"Once you get competitive you want to take the next step, which is to make the playoffs," Pohlad said. "Then you get there and you want to take it to the next step, which is the World Series."
With Major League Baseball's playoffs in full swing, Pohlad sat down for 30 minutes to offer his opinions on several subjects.
On Molitor's first season as manager: "From my personal standpoint, Paul far exceeded my expectations. There were some unknowns about Paul, in my mind. And he overcame any issues I might have had. I had no experience in watching Paul deal with the public. And with the media. Not a lot at all. And I think he was fantastic in that regard. "
On how the team takes the next step: "I think we just continue to encourage Terry to do whatever he thinks it takes to take that next step. We have not sat down and had the end of the year debriefing. You know Terry as well as I do. It's not a situation where we sit around and give input. Terry pretty much knows what he wants to do. I'm sure he's known that for a pretty long time."
On how far he will push the payroll next season: "Everyone brings payroll up because everyone wants to talk about it. But we're willing to do whatever it takes. I will tell you that I'm not a huge fan of long-term contracts. It's having to commit for so many years and there's really only downside to the club. There's hardly any instances where it has been upside, across baseball."
On if he wants Torii Hunter back in 2016: "It's a mutual decision. It's a decision the team has to make and Torii has to make. The question is who goes first in that regard? Personally, I would be very interested. But it is Terry's decision, and I have not spoken to him. I don't know where he's at on it. But Torii has to decide what he wants to do, and we have to decide what we want to do. Hopefully, we'll both be on the same page."
On attendance: "We exceeded our budget, not to say our budget was aggressive. There was still a decline from other years. We said all along it would happen, of course we didn't anticipate four years of a poor product, and you could feel the renewed excitement."
On what kind of season ticket response he expects: "The question is what is normal for a franchise like ours, that is what we are trying to assess. I think it will bounce back."
On the perception that music on their flagship station (96.3 FM) is being interrupted by baseball: "It's going to go both ways. The baseball people are going to wish the postgame show was longer and not interrupted by music. And music people wish that music would go longer and not be interrupted by baseball. That might always be the case. I'm not sure if we know yet if there is a formula that could blend it so seamlessly that nobody is unhappy. I will say that, financially, it has been very successful for us to be on FM."
On if he's wanted to check out one the team's postgame dance parties: "I would get an award. I would have gotten a dancing award and it would not have been a good one."