State leaders say talk in baseball circles that the Minnesota Twins could be
eliminated is being taken seriously, but some warned that it better not be a
hollow threat in the team's bid for a new stadium.
``It ought not be used as a ploy because that would really backfire,'' Senate
Majority Leader Roger Moe, who has been supportive of stadium proposals, said
Major League Baseball is considering contraction, in which a couple of
struggling franchises could be folded. The Twins, Montreal Expos, Florida
Marlins and Tampa Bay Devil Rays are teams considered vulnerable.
The Twins didn't make owner Carl Pohlad available for an interview with The
Associated Press, but Pohlad told the St. Paul Pioneer Press in a story
published today that he hasn't asked his fellow owners for a buyout. But he said
it could happen if the other owners want it.
``I've furnished a team here for 15 years and put $150 million cash into it,
and I'm not going to do it anymore,'' Pohlad said. ``I'm tired of it. A business
has to pay for itself. Nobody in this town in the last 15 years has given as
much as I have to baseball.''
Pohlad, who bought the Twins in 1984, has spent several years trying to
convince lawmakers that he can't turn a profit without a new, publicly
Momentum seemed to shift in his favor in the 2001 session, when stadium
financing plans moved through House and Senate committees and wound up a few
steps away from Gov. Jesse Ventura's desk. Backers hoped to finish the job in
Within the next few days, officials from the Republican-controlled House, DFL-led
Senate and Ventura's administration expect to launch a stadium task force to
The contraction talk will be part of the context.
``I'm not sure that totally changes the mix of what's appropriate state
action and what's not appropriate state action,'' said House Speaker Steve
Sviggum, R-Kenyon. ``But I consider it to be serious.''
Likewise, Ventura ``is as anxious as most citizens are about this latest
report,'' his spokesman John Wodele said.
``We're taking it very seriously. We have no way to know. Nobody has
contacted us so we have to take it at face value,'' Wodele said. ``If Carl
Pohlad says it is a possibility, he is a very trustworthy person, he is not
loose with his comments.''
Wodele said Ventura is still hopeful that a privately financed ballpark can
be built and the prospect of contraction doesn't mean he'll change his tack.
Pohlad could also sell the Twins and let the new owner or owners fight
contraction or lobby for public money for a new ballpark, and in the Pioneer
Press story said he preferred that to a buyout.
Minnesota Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor, who has considered buying the team
with other investors, said Wednesday he hasn't been contacted by the Pohlads. He
said there's ``nothing special at this point,'' adding, ``I'm a Twins fan, so I
support keeping baseball here just like everyone else.''
Moe and Sen. Dean Johnson, who sponsored a stadium bill in 2001, said they
want assurances from Major League Baseball that the loss of the Twins is a real
possibility and not a card being played in the stadium effort.
And they want word before next session, which convenes Jan. 29.
``Major League Baseball needs to give a true, verifiable assessment as to the
status of baseball in Minnesota - pure and simple,'' said Johnson, DFL-Willmar.
Moe, DFL-Erskine, alluded to a failed 1997 deal in the height of a stadium
fight at the Legislature, when Pohlad agreed to sell the Twins to a North
Carolina businessman who was to move the team. Minnesota lawmakers didn't flinch
and the team stayed put.
``If there are discussions within organized baseball (about contraction),
they better be serious. This better not be another hairy arm,'' Moe said.
``We've been there; it backfired the last time.''