The Swinging Bunt
Joe Mauer, the $184M Man. Must be pretty good to be a Minnesota Twins fan right now, like a spoiled rich-kid, I’ll say. Not since the long distant days of Kirby Puckett and Kent Hrbeck have things been so good on the diamond in the Twin Cities. As Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci points out, the Twins as an entire organization and the people of Minnesota as an entire fan-base will celebrate the two greatest moments in the club’s last 18 seasons in a span of 21 days. Yesterday the American League’s Most Valuable Player, 3-time batting champ, and 2-time gold glove catcher Joe Mauer officially signed an 8-year $184 million contract to remain in the only place he’s ever lived and be cheered by the same fans who’ve watched him perform since he was in high school. In exactly three weeks from that press conference, and just 20 days from now, downtown Minneapolis will unveil it’s brand new $522 million ballpark, Target Field, when the Twins host the Boston Red Sox, April 12th. Man, pretty exciting stuff; like a 17-year old with a new driver’s license getting a Mercedes on Christmas morning!
OK, so two arguments I’ve heard against the deal: Mauer now takes up too much percentage of payroll, and thus Mauer won’t be able to be surrounded by enough talent to win a championship; and that Mauer overall is not a top-3 player in baseball, and thus unworthy of a $180M-plus price tag. The latter is a debate for another time; come with all the numbers, VORP, WARP, RISP, and other Sabermetric Stats you want. Simply put, Mauer’s the man!
Last season the Minnesota Twins spent about $65M on player salaries. This season alone that number jumps over 30% to $95M, while the Twins already have $68M on the books for 2011. In just this off-season alone the Twins went and re-signed, including Mauer, five of their own to long-term extensions. Twins fans get used to seeing Mauer and Justin Morneau knocking in Denard Span for runs in support of starters Scott Baker and Nick Blackburn… because you’ll be seeing all those guys through at least the 2013 season. Quite the nice foundation, I’ll say. Folks, read between the lines! It may sound crazy, but the Twins are just NOT the organization threatened by contraction less than a decade ago, the same way they’re not the Washington Senators anymore. The Sports Business Journal projects that between different sportscape features such luxury seats, club seats, and Target Co’s naming rights, the Twins can expect at least a $50M increase in revenue next season. In sharing the Metrodome sans modern amenities with the Vikings as co-tenants they could have never generated such a stream of income. As Verducci points out, if the organization follows through on their philosophy of spending just over 50% of revenue on payroll, than the club can feasibly withstand a $110M payroll in the very near future without spending a penny more than their current ideology calls for.
I agree, when a franchise makes the decision to spend $184M on a single player, they cannot miss. If Joe Mauer blows out his knee in August and never gets back to his All-World level catching, playing left field, DH-ing, whatever… than egg on Minnesota’s collective face. However, as an organization, your fans’ best interest is just as important as the teams’ in certain circumstances – like this one. The club needs their fans to go through the turn-styles, watch the games on T.V., buy the merchandise, etc… all for any type of countable revenue. The Twins know that. Please, they’re not dumb; again, case specific, the Twins realize they needed the fans’ hard-earned dollars totaling over $500M to get Target Field built in the first place! Threatened by contraction, legislators and the public (granted some willingly or not in these types of votes) stepped up and made it pretty clear what they wanted… for the Twins to be a successful ball-club on the field, and for them to also be viable revenue generating resource for the Minneapolis/St. Paul area, as well.
Twins fans, team ownership, and their front office have all put their money on the line for Joe Mauer to stay in Minneapolis. Is it a risk? Sure… but ask anyone in Minneapolis, and I’ll bet they’ll tell you, Joe Mauer is their best bet.
Scanning the Blogosphere
WNST.net: Jeremy Guthrie yields 2 runs over 5 innings; O’s fall to Marlins 5-2.
SI’s Photos: From 2006, “Cribs: Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer”
SI’s Michael Rosenberg points out, “The Big Ten may not look pretty, but conference produces winners.”
SI’s Andy Glockner gives his “Complete Sweet 16 Breakdown.”
The Bleacher Report ranks the “Top 10 Hottest Baseball Reporters.”
ESPN.com: Pat Forde looks at, “Tourney’s Early Winner and Losers.”
The Atlanta Journal Constitution: Columnist Mark Bradley wonders, “Paul Hewitt to St. Johns? The New York tabliods are abuzz.”
Video of the Day
Two for your viewing pleasure this evening.
First — “Hello! … Amare Stoudemire! Elevates and Detonates! A devastating dunk here in Oakland. Maybe the top dunk of his career, that was savage! … Holy Goodness!”
And second — “I know what good dancing looks like, I just hope I can do it!”
Tweets of the Day
ESPN NFL Insider, Adam Schefter – Adam_Schefter
RT @SpreadHDGFX someone better tell McNabb about the new OT rules … Hey, someone better tell all the players. Someone won’t realize.
NFL Network Insider, Jason LaCanfora – JasonLaCanfora
i luv the new OT changes. Hope we see it in regular season, too. incentives for going for the throat to end a game. Good stuff.
New York Times NFL Insider, Judy Battista – judybattista
Here we go: Rex Ryan said he would consider deferring the OT coin toss because he has so much confidence his defense could hold.
Bloomberg Television Sports Business/Media Reporter, Michele Steele – MicheleSteele
Nike sponsors 13 of the Sweet 16 teams; Adidas sponsors 3 that are still in it – Tenn, Baylor and St.Mary’s ; E and W regions all Nike now
–CBS College Basketball Analyst, Seth Davis – SethDavisHoops
Gotta love Samhan RT @OmarSamhan: I’m trying to win sweet 16 gm and have to be up till 2am finishing paper for class! Gotta love mid majors
–Newark Star Ledger Columnist Steve Politi — NJ_StevePoliti
College coaches amaze me. McCaffrey makes 800K at Siena and can win 20 a year rest of his life. He wants to mess with Seton Hall why?
–New York Times Best-Seller, ESPN Radio 1050 New York, Ian O’Connor – Ian_OConnor
great line by Letterman on the benefits of new health care: “It covers the Kansas Jayhawks’ choking”
–ESPN NFL Insider, Chris Mortensen – mortreport
If Ben gets charged, along with the other incident in which he wasn’t charged, his status as a two-time SB winning QB won’t get him a pass. – mortreport Steelers are prepared to go with Dixon, if necessary; not ready to jettison Ben even though their concerns are real; Maybe Leftwich.
—NFL Director of Media Relations, Michael Signora – NFLfootballinfo
Today’s USA Today snapshot: What is America’s favorite sport? Pro Football at 35%, followed by pro baseball, 16%.
SI NBA and Boxing Writer, Chris Minnix – ChrisMannixSI
700,000 PPV buys for Pacquiao-Clottey
— WNST Comcast Morning Show Producer, Glenn Clark – WNST
— WNST Comcast Morning Show Host, Drew Forrester – WNST
— TheBigLead.com Editor, Jason McIntyre – TheBigLead
Preakness in B’More lost 35k fans last year due to infield rules. This year: Unlimited beer refills 4 infield partiers: http://is.gd/aUmx2
The Day’s Final Thought
The University of Oregon Athletics Department is, in every way shape and form, a program for the 21st century.
It’s got everything a potential stud student/athlete or sought after coach could ask for: a big-time conference affiliation in the Pac-10, recent success in both football and basketball, outstanding facilities – perhaps the best in the NCAA, and above all, they’ve got “The Swoosh.”
So why is Oregon, proud wearers of all shades green, proving to be kryptonite for a stable Athletics Director and a big-time basketball coach? Despite a co-Pac-10 Championship and Rose Bowl appearance for the football team last season and a brand new $200 million basketball arena set to open next year, UO Athletics is facing more issues than ever. Last year’s starting QB, Justin Masoli, has been suspended for the entire ’10 season after pleading guilty to burglary charges and last year’s star RB, LaMichael James, has been suspended for next year’s opener for pleading guilty to a misdemeanor harassment charge. And, of course, we remember LaGerrette Blount’s actions in Boise early last season. On the hardwood, in Mike Bellotti’s final move as Athletics Director last week, UO alum Ernie Kent was dismissed after 13 seasons and two Elite 8 appearances after failing to meet “program” expectations. Bellotti’s tenure at Oregon ended with his resignation last Friday after spending the last 20 years in Eugene serving as Offensive Coordinator and Head Coach of the football program and the last academic year as A.D.
Oregon currently has an Athletics Program with no leadership, but there is someone pulling its strings.
Perhaps as a true sign of the times, program decisions are not made without the consultation of its highest spending boosters, in UO’s case, Phil Knight, Oregon alumnus and Nike co-founder and Chairman. Don’t get me wrong, without a doubt, its Knight’s Nike’s that have kept Oregon from being, well, Oregon State in terms of relevance in sports over the past 10-15+ years, but is it really healthy for major University decisions to be made only accounting for the self-interest of one person? We’ll find out.
Let’s not be naive, Oregon isn’t the only place boosters have major, major influence over a program. It goes on all over the country. T. Boone Pickens, oil tycoon, has become synonymous with Oklahoma State University and the tremendous improvements in facilities for which his contributions are directly responsible. And I’d guess Under Armour founder and former Terp Kevin Plank and Baltimore Ravens owner and Comcast Center regular Steve Bisciotti are on Debbie Yow’s speed dial at Maryland.
All I’m saying is that as we push forward in a new age of college athletics where the mighty dollar controls absolutely EVERYTHING… no matter whose it is… the University of Oregon’s upcoming personnel decisions will be an interesting case-study.