Minnesota has long been one of MLB’s most successful “small-market” or “small-payroll” teams, making the playoffs five times from 2002-2009 despite consistently ranking among the bottom third in money spent.
In their final two Metrodome seasons–2008 and 2009–the Twins won 87 and 88 games, made it to the postseason once and narrowly missed a second trip by losing a one-game playoff, and did so with payrolls of $57 million and $65 million that ranked 25th and 24th in MLB.
That all changed this season, as the Twins moved into Target Field and increased their payroll to $101 million, which ranked 10th in MLB and set a franchise record by over $25 million. And according to team president Dave St. Peter, thanks to better-than-expected revenue from the new ballpark the Twins are planning to up their payroll even further in 2011:
The payroll is going to go up. We don’t take it for granted. We’re all tremendously appreciative of the support but we also know we need to keep moving forward. We need to keep moving forward on the field, and frankly, we need to keep doing everything possible to make Target Field the best ballpark it can be.
Joe Christensen of the Minneapolis Star Tribune notes that the players under team control for 2011 figure to cost about $105 million and the Twins also have plenty of holes to fill, so even another bump in payroll won’t suddenly give general manager Bill Smith and company much money to throw around. However, a bump to, say, $115 million would put them in some rarefied company, as only the Yankees, Red Sox, Cubs, Mets, Phillies, and Tigers had Opening Day payrolls that high in 2010.
Not only have the Twins ceased being one of the small-payroll teams, they’re on the verge of becoming one of the big-payroll teams. As a lifelong Twins fan that’s going to take some getting used to.
According to STATS, INC., the average game in 2015 was 2 hours, 56 minutes. That’s six minutes faster than games in 2014.
The gains came in the first half, when games averaged 2:53. Second half games averaged three hours even. One can probably thank the expanded rosters in September for that, as games then see many more pitching changes. Of course, it’s likely that second half games were faster in 2015 than 2014 as well given the rules changes.
Those changes: agreement to enforce the rule requiring a hitter to keep at least one foot in the batter’s box and the installation of clocks timing pitching changes and between-inning breaks in ever ballpark.
It remains to be seen if MLB stays satisfied with that modest improvement or if chooses to go the way Triple-A and Double-A leagues did. They installed 20-second pitch clocks and started penalizing violators with balls and strikes. Triple-A’s two leagues, the International and Pacific Leagues, saw game-time decreases by 13 and 16 minutes, respectively.
I’m so old I remember when general managers used to run baseball operations departments. Now they’re basically assistants.
The latest example: the Oakland Athletics have promoted Billy Beane to vice president of baseball operations and have named David Forst general manager. Forst has been with the A’s for 16 years and has been Beane’s assistant for 12 years, so it’s not exactly a situation in which Forst will be making the final calls. The official move came today, though the move has been in the works for some time, it seems.
Someone with a lot of good front office access is going to write a good story this winter about the title inflation going on in Major League Baseball over the past year. And it’s gonna be great when one of his or her sources breaks the pattern of saying “well, baseball transactions are so much more complex these days . . . ” and admits “hey, if Theo gets a fancy title and La Russa gets a fancy title I WANT A FANCY TITLE TOO.”
Not that it’s much of a secret as it is.