Twins owner gets one last laugh

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Carl Pohlad, it is said, first broke into the banking business by foreclosing on family farms during the Great Depression. For most people, that would be a difficult job, but I almost suspect that Pohlad enjoyed the business. Certainly, in his time as owner of the Minnesota Twins, he has shown a great willingness to take from others for his own gain, and to leverage the Twins in order to help himself.

Throughout the 1990s, when the Twins were often-rumored to be moving or otherwise disappearing, Pohlad warned Minnesotans that the club could not possibly compete without a new stadium. The Metrodome was too old, he said. It didn’t have enough streams of revenue. Pohlad steadfastly refused to give his players large contracts, citing the inability of the team to pay them due to its stadium issues.

The Twins still found a way to claw their way back to credibility, thanks to some home-grown talent. In 2006, Pohlad was finally given that new stadium, one that will open in but a few short years. And now, in 2007, with the Twins’ Gold Glove center fielder, Torii Hunter, a free agent, the fans would surely see Pohlad open his checkbook and sign him up long-term, right?

Yeah, right.

The Twins not only didn’t re-sign Hunter, they didn’t even make him an offer during free agency. They refused to even consider giving him a five-year contract, something at least three teams were happy to offer. And so Hunter, who had been the face of the franchise, more even than Justin Morneau or Johan Santana or Joe Mauer, left for Los Angeles, leaving the hitting-poor Twins to find a way to replace Hunter’s glove, 28 homers and 107 RBI.

If you think that’s a surprise, you haven’t been paying attention to Pohlad. Of course the Twins aren’t going to spend money now that they have a new ballpark. Hunter’s departure likely foreshadows that of Santana, the best pitcher in the game, in order to save money. And don’t get too attached to the Twins will likely deal this offseason Morneau, either — when his contract is up, the former MVP will probably be off to the Yankees or Cubs or Red Sox, a team willing to pay for talent.

No, Pohlad got his stadium, and now he’s going to enjoy it. He and his family will take the new revenue and bank it, as Pohlad has done all these years. He’s betting that the new stadium itself will be a draw the first few years it’s open, and heck, he’s probably right. And when the gate begins to tank, well, he’ll maybe bring in a free agent, spend a bit of money, tease the Twin Cities with the promise of success, and then watch things wither anew.

It’s what Carl Pohlad does. He’s got his new stadium, and now he’s having one more good laugh at the Twin Cities’ expense, just like he did when he threatened to contract the team. It shouldn’t be surprising anymore.

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