The young catcher's hot-hitting has drawn national attention and sparked discussion regarding his future with the Twins. The cynics talk as though he already plays for the Boston Red Sox. On the other hand, the romantics picture the homegrown talent playing his career as a Twin because he is "Minnesota nice." Both sides raise valid points, yet overlook what the most relevant facts have to tell us.
Twins current payroll: $65 million/year
MLB Highest Salary (Alex Rodriguez): $27 million/year
Highest '09 signing and most comparable player (Mark Teixiera): $22 million/year
League Minimum Salary: $390 thousand / year.
The Twins could pay Mauer and Morneau $27 million each, and still have enough of their current payroll left to pay 22 players league minimum and Nick Punto the remaining $4 million. The suggestion may appear to be purely hypothetical speculation, but is it really that much of a change from the current roster? In all likelihood, the Target Field Twins will be a triple-a team with two stars and a few overpaid veterans.
The Pohlads always have run the franchise as a business. They know that they need fans to make money. I doubt Dave St. Peter wants to try to market the Twins should either Mauer or Morneau leave. Inversely, generating fan interest with that pair is considerably easier. Rightfully, fans love Mauer and Morneau, and in the AL Central, the team will always remain competitive enough to keep interest. St. Peter doesn't think fans expect much. In an editorial in today's Star Tribune, he declares, "It doesn't take much to improve the experience of our fans. The bar hasn't been set very high." That says it all. St. Peter and the Pohlads know that if a they can generate interest for a mediocre team in the Metrodome, then they can attract fans to watch a glorified AAA team at Target Field.
Here's the fun part, though. Now we don't have to tolerate it. The organization has no leverage over fans. If they don't field a decent team, we don't have to watch. We've built their stadium and they're stuck with us. Once Target Field opens, it's far easier for the franchise to convince Minnesotans to watch the home team than it would be to convince another metropolitan area to build a stadium. And no matter how much crap Dick Bremer tells us about being a "small market" the people making the business decision realize that the Twin Cities is actually a lucrative location.