Twins no longer a small-payroll team thanks to Target Field

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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.

Braves clinch NL East title

Ender Inciarte
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So much for a last-minute, nail-biting finish to this division race. The Braves cemented their division title with a dominant 5-3 finish over the Phillies on Saturday, laying claim to the NL East title for the first time since 2013.

The Braves asserted themselves right off the bat after amassing a four-run lead from Johan Camargo and Freddie Freeman, both of whom cleared the bases with two-run singles in the first two innings. Ronald Acuna Jr., meanwhile, found another way to make his presence known after swiping his 15th stolen base of the year and joining Alex Rodriguez, Orlando Cepeda, and Mike Trout as one of the youngest players to collect at least 25 home runs and 15 stolen bags in major league history.

Not to be outdone, Atlanta right-hander Mike Foltynewicz delivered one of the strongest starts of his season to date. The righty set down six innings of no-hit ball against the Phillies, and, with just 62 pitches under his belt, looked ready to go the distance before he lost his bid on Odubel Herrera‘s leadoff single in the seventh.

Unfortunately for the Braves, the Phillies not only upended Foltynewicz’s no-hit attempt, but the shutout as well. In the eighth inning, Cesar Hernandez and Rhys Hoskins wrestled two RBI singles from Atlanta’s bullpen and brought Philadelphia within one run of tying the game. Hoskins was the last Phillies batter to reach base, however, as Jonny Venters and Arodys Vizcaino tossed a combined 1 2/3 scoreless innings (backed by a final RBI hit from Kurt Suzuki in the bottom of the eighth) to cap the Braves’ win — and the NL East title.

With the loss, the Phillies sit seven games back of a wild card spot in the National League. They’ll need to outpace the Diamondbacks, Rockies, and Cardinals in order to make 2018 their first postseason-qualifying year since 2011.