Saturday, July 23, 2016

New Stadium Caused Twins Failure

Pat Reusse at the STRIB suggests Target stadium lead to the firing of Terry Ryan. He suggests that the expenses associated with the new stadium has fundamentally changed the Twins business model. That the patience the Pohlad's had with rebuilding at the Metrodome no longer was possible with the need to drive ticket sales with immediate success on the field.

The reality is that business model is almost guaranteed to fail. Baseball is a zero sum game, for every winner there has to be a loser. So a business model that depends on consistent winning means being above average on the field all the time.Nine teams go to the playoffs each year, 21  don't.

The teams that are successful with that business model, like the Red Sox and Yankees,  have revenue streams so large that they can  sign players, their own and free agents, at the peak of their careers and continue to pay them as fading veterans. What would the Twins record have been over the last few years if they had signed Nathan, Santana, Hunter, Morneau, Cuddyer, Hardy and Liriano? Financial considerations were part of all of those players leaving and new revenue from Target stadium is not enough to change that part of the equation.

Of course, you can ask why can't the Twins be consistently above average with the right people making the decisions. And the answer is that baseball is set up to punish success. If your success depends on drafting and developing your core of players, each time you win you are pushed down the ladder on where you draft.  Its tough to build a championship core solely with players taken that late

You can see this with the Twins. For ten seasons, from 2002 to 2011 they drafted in the top of the first round only once, in 2008 when they took Aaron Hicks at number 14.  Their next highest pick was at round 20, where they took Denard Span, Chris Parmelee and Trevor Plouffe. Span and Plouffe are the most successful of any of the players taken at that level in the last 15 years.  Both are solid major league players,  but  neither one is the kind of player you build a championship team around.

In short, if you are going to rely as the Twins in the past have on drafting and development to build a core, then you have to have to have the patience to accept the cycles required to periodically rebuild. With five years of high draft choices and some solid international signings the Twins look like they might be ready to break out and compete in the near future.

Houston started its rebuilding process in 2008 when they took Jason Castro with the 10th pick. They added George Springer and Carlos Correa to their core with high pickes in subsequent drafts and emerged as a contender last year.   That is the player development model the Twins should be following. But the new business model, driven by an expensive stadium, doesn't allow them to wait.

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