Why now? Why the Twins?
What would make Major League Baseball propose that Minnesota have its
franchise stripped from the sport, along with the Montreal Expos?
Despite the fact the Tampa-St. Petersburg and Miami-Fort Lauderdale markets
have shown far less support for the Florida teams in their brief big-league
histories, eliminating the Minnesota Twins actually might make more sense in the
short term to baseball's owners than eliminating one of the Florida teams.
The Miami Herald reported in today's editions that one scenario under
discussion would have Florida Marlins owner John Henry purchase the Anaheim
Angels from Disney, Montreal owner Jeff Loria buy the Marlins, while the Twins
and the Montreal Expos are eliminated. The Herald's sources indicated the plan
had less than a 50 percent chance of being implemented, because numerous parties
would have to reach financial agreements and potential legal action.
The No. 1 reason why eliminating the Twins might make sense to other owners
is Twins owner Carl Pohlad. He might have sounded the first warning of this
possibility when late this season he suddenly said -- without a buyer in sight
-- that he again was willing to sell the franchise should anyone make him a
Pohlad, 86, is the richest owner in the sport in personal wealth --
especially since selling $800 million to $1 billion in banking assets to Wells
Fargo Bank earlier this month. But he has alienated fans with his unwillingness
to spend and with empty threats of moving or selling the team. He also has drawn
the ire of larger-revenue owners for pocketing revenue-sharing money in order to
show a modest operating profit instead of directly investing that money -- about
$20 million last year -- into player payroll. The Twins have had the lowest
payroll in the majors each of the past two seasons.
There certainly would be no crying in baseball if Pohlad were out of the
By contrast, Montreal owner Jeffrey Loria, 61, is considered by baseball an
up-and-coming owner who has a passion for the role and a long-term desire to
compete. But Montreal is clearly baseball's weakest link economically and the
surest franchise to go in any contraction scenario. If Loria were allowed to
stay in the game by, say, buying the Florida Marlins, that would be welcomed by
And Florida owner John Henry might suffer most from being too closely
associated with the man he bought the team from, South Florida pariah Wayne
Huizenga. Huizenga shocked many fans by dismantling the 1997 World Series
champions. Henry merely wants out of Florida, not out of baseball. And baseball
would welcome his continued ownership after buying, say, the Anaheim Angels from
Since Disney and Pohlad are the owners who most want out, this would be their
The other major reason eliminating the Twins makes sense is the nature of the
Beyond Pohlad's possible desire to sell, the failure of the team and a local
task force of business leaders to achieve a deal for a new stadium this year
dealt a severe blow to the team's economic outlook.
The Twins' proposal -- generous by industry standards -- promised half the
money would be raised privately and asked the state for a $100 million
interest-free loan. The bill got as far as the floors of the state House and
Senate but no further.