Twins owner: GM and manager are safe, payroll may drop

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During a lengthy interview with LaVelle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star Tribune Twins owner Jim Pohlad predictably confirmed that manager Ron Gardenhire and general manager Bill Smithwill be back in 2012, saying: “We’re not a knee-jerk organization.”

When asked about holding people accountable following a 63-99 season that ranks as one of the worst years in Twins history, Pohlad cited “the perfect storm of injuries and players not performing”:

We need to address how can we keep the players healthy. We need to address how can we encourage the players during the offseason to get to a point where they’re going to play up to their capabilities. I’m not saying that the medical staff or the training staff has done anything wrong. I’m just saying let’s look at the injuries and see how they can be prevented in the future.

Pohlad told Neal that the Twins “are very pleased with the job [Gardenhire] has done” under “very difficult conditions.” He stopped short of praising Smith, saying instead that “he also has had a very tough situation” and then citing his 15 years in the organization. Neal brought up Smith saying he’s more administrator than talent evaluator and asked if he’s “the right man to turn things around.” Pohlad initially replied with “what’s Billy’s title?” and then said:

General manager, so he’s in charge of managing the baseball operation. I mean those are his words, like you said. I don’t remember reading that, but if those are his words that’s really his job, to manage the baseball department. We don’t look to Billy solely–I don’t know if any organization does, maybe they do at some place–we don’t look solely at him as the premier judge of talent. He has a whole bunch of people that he gets input from on the judgment of talent.

Not exactly a ringing endorsement of Smith, but Pohlad is absolutely right that the Twins’ front office decision-making involves a lot more voices than just the general manager. When asked how much money Smith and the front office will have available this offseason, Pohlad indicated that the payroll “is going to come down naturally because it exceeded where we wanted it” for this season “but it’s not going to be slashed.”

For a team that just spent $113 million to lose 99 games and is heading into Year 3 of a new ballpark that was supposed to allow a sustained, significant payroll increase the idea of cutting payroll isn’t what Twins fans want to hear.