Saturday, Sep. 26, 2020

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Money Unlikely to Give Twins Pause


The MLB trade deadline is August 31 and Minnesota Twins fans can be assured front office leaders Derek Falvey and Thad Levine will do all they can to improve the roster. Ownership, too, is likely to be all-in on moves that could help the club make a postseason run.

A sports industry source, who asked not to be identified, told Sports Headliners that when the late Carl Pohlad owned the team his organization deserved its reputation for being tight with money.  Pohlad’s sons, the franchise’s ownership successors, are different.

Falvey & Levine

“I’ve never seen Jim Pohlad (executive chair) not willing to spend money,” the source said. “The brothers are a different breed and willing to spend dollars.”

Just this week the Twins acquired infielder Ildemaro Vargas from the Arizona Diamondbacks in exchange for cash considerations.  During the past offseason the Pohlads made a reported four-year $92 million commitment to third baseman Josh Donaldson, one of baseball’s premiere sluggers.

The Twins have publicly stated their 2020 goal of reaching the World Series but are most recently struggling and in need of pitching help.  Targets might have included San Francisco Giants starter Jeff Samardzija.  He has a somewhat pricey contract for the rebuilding San Francisco Giants but that might not deter Twins as much as the right hander’s status on the 10-day IL with shoulder impingement.

There’s a serious outbreak of injuries among MLB teams as players cope with too brief of a timeline to physically prepare for the shortened season that began just last month. Among the Twins sidelined have been Donaldson, and three starting pitchers in Homer Bailey, Rich Hill and Jake Odorizzi (returned last Saturday).

The Twins are among the favorites of odds-makers to represent the American League in the World Series but they have faltered some following a 10-2 start to the season.  Despite playing mediocre competition of late, Minnesota is now 12-7 and lost five of eight games on its road trip that ended last night in Milwaukee.

Worth Noting

The Twins have an off day today (Thursday) and then with the hurry up MLB schedule don’t have an open date again until September 3.  With completion of their next game tomorrow evening the Twins will be one-third through their 60-game schedule.

The Big Ten’s cancellation of fall football—the cash cow for athletic departments—prompts even more speculation about reducing the number of sports offered at major universities including Minnesota.  In a media call with reporters last May Golden Gophers athletics director Mark Coyle predicted department revenue losses could total $70 million by the end of fall semester in a worst case scenario caused by COVID-19 and the pandemic.

The Gophers offer 25 sports with only football, men’s basketball and men’s hockey profitable.  With a past expense budget reportedly well north of $115 million, and revenues drying up during the pandemic, where is future money going to come from and won’t some programs be trimmed?

University regent Michael Hsu told Sports Headliners this week he hasn’t received projected athletic department revenue and expense numbers but he, too, wonders about the future and sustaining so many programs. He points out the athletic department can’t borrow money, although the University can.  However—not even including athletics—the U already faces a huge COVID-caused budget crisis.

“We would have to agree that we’re going to get that (athletic department) money somewhere in the future and I am not certain it’s possible,” Hsu said.

Golden Gophers head football coach P.J. Fleck still has the highest of goals for his program.  “We want people (players, coaches) who feel Minnesota can win a national championship one day…and we’re striving to be the best developmental program in the country,” Fleck said several days ago.

Fleck talked national title ambitions early on in his career at Minnesota.  Some people may still consider that laughable but last season’s team was a surprising and impressive 11-2, just two years after Fleck’s first squad finished 5-7.  The coach wants a “blue-blood” program that connects with the great Minnesota teams of the 1960s and earlier.

The Gophers received an endorsement in the August 15 issue of Sports Illustrated, but it soon came with an asterisk.  S.I. placed Minnesota No. 12 in its top 20 preseason national rankings but the magazine went to press prior to star wide receiver Rashod Bateman’s announcement he will forfeit his remaining eligibility to turn pro.

Among Big Ten teams, only No. 3 Ohio State and No. 5 Penn State ranked higher than Minnesota.  But in a do-over S.I. would likely drop the Gophers lower in its rankings because of the Bateman departure.  No one will ever know for sure, but his absence could cost Minnesota one or more wins next spring if that is when the Big Ten decides to play football.

The magazine made clear its liking for Fleck.  “There is a lot of sizzle in Fleck, 39, but it’s increasingly clear that there is substance underneath,” Pat Forde wrote.

Words of wisdom (and humor) from an anonymous suburban mom after her first out of town trip for a youth baseball tournament: “Do not bring toddlers; bring a shade tent/not just umbrella; dress for any weather; Best Western Plus isn’t half bad! Bug spray; three beers may not be enough; pack your patience and a hat.”

Dick Jonckowski will do public address work for part of the Class B Minnesota Amateur Baseball State Tournament games in Shakopee.  Jonckowski, P.A. voice of Gophers baseball, said Shakopee is hosting the tournament after New Ulm’s city leaders turned the event down because of pandemic concerns.  The tourney begins August 21 and ends September 6. The Chanhassen Red Birds are defending champions.

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David Shama

David Shama is a former sports editor and columnist with local publications. His writing and reporting experiences include covering the Minnesota Vikings, Minnesota Twins, Minnesota Timberwolves and Minnesota Gophers. Shama’s career experiences also include sports marketing. He is the former Marketing Director of the Minnesota North Stars of the NHL. He is also the former Marketing Director of the United States Tennis Association’s Northern Section. A native of Minneapolis, Shama has been part of the community his entire life. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota where he majored in journalism. He also has a Master’s degree in education from the University of St. Thomas. He was a member of the Governor’s NBA’s Task Force to help create interest in bringing pro basketball to town in the 1980s.

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