If you’re a Twins fan who has engaged in discussions about baseball basically anywhere, you’ve run into anti-Pohlad arguments before. The arguments have been around for decades now, and a slow off-season, even after replacing almost the entire front office, hasn’t done anything to stop them. I’ve seen more than a handful of people say, in more or less words, “Nothing’s changed. What this team really needs is new ownership!”
Whether or not you agree, I can tell you this: The Twins aren’t getting new ownership for a long, long time—and I don’t necessarily think that’s a problem.
The Pohlad family has owned the Twins for 33 years, since the late Carl Pohlad bought them from Calvin Griffith in 1984. After the initial success of winning two World Series championships, things got dismal. The team sucked, baseball players went on strike, Kirby Puckett went blind, and it became impossible for Carl to make back his money while the team was playing in the Metrodome (Fun Fact: Under the Twins’ original lease at the dome, all profits from concessions sold at Twins games actually went to the Vikings, not the Twins). Hence, there was a period of time when Carl wanted to sell or move the team, or even have them contracted entirely by MLB.
However, after the Twins got better in 2002, and especially after they secured a new stadium in 2006, the Pohlads have shown no intention of selling the team. In fact, when Carl’s sons Jim, Bob, and Bill took over, they seemed at least slightly more invested than their father had been. The brothers gave money and encouraged the front office to keep stars like Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Michael Cuddyer, and Joe Nathan around for the opening of the new stadium. After Carl died in early 2009, the Pohlads gave an extra $55 million towards the construction of Target Field. Without that extra money, there’d have been no canopy over the upper deck, no Minnie and Paul sign in center field, a much smaller scoreboard, less limestone, less public infrastructure surrounding the park, and many other details missing.
A third generation of Pohlads already seem invested in baseball, and maybe even slightly more than their fathers too. Joe Pohlad, who looks strangely a lot like Brian Dozier, has worked in several different capacities for the Twins, and currently runs the GO radio and media channels that work with the team. Another of Carl’s grandsons, Tom, spent time working at MLB headquarters in New York City, and was once described by a Twins official as the guy "one day we'll all be working for."
So when Charley Walters of the Pioneer Press asked Jim Pohlad last December, after the worst season in Twins history, if the family had received any offers to sell the team, this was the response:
“I don’t think people view us as a seller because we’re not,” [Jim] said.
“I mean, who knows what ‘ever’ means,” Pohlad said, adding his family intends to keep the Twins indefinitely. Pohlad and his brothers received the team from their late father, Carl.
“(Ownership) appears to be fully ingrained in the fourth generation now — for sure in the third,” he said, mentioning there are Pohlad grandchildren who might someday want to continue the baseball ownership legacy.
“The whole idea is ingrained in the family.
Yeah—they’re already talking not just about Carl’s grandchildren owning the team, but his great-grandchildren owning the team too.
It’s clearly not about money. The Pohlads own the Twins because they are rich—they aren’t rich because they own the Twins. Though the franchise has increased in overall value in the last 33 years, Jim has already said they’ll be lucky to break even in 2016 or 2017. When asked back in 2009 how much the family has ever made off the team, Jim replied, “We've basically taken no money out of the team since we've owned it. Obviously, a lot of the years there wasn't any [to take].”
So if it’s not about the money, what is it about? They just like baseball, I guess, and they’re also stinking rich.
On perhaps a deeper note, though, Twins president Jerry Bell once remarked the Eloise Pohlad—Carl’s wife, and undoubtedly the biggest Twins fan ever in the family—liked the team particularly because it was a family thing. "Instead of wandering and going off into different business ventures out of town and so on, baseball was something they could do together," Bell told MLB.com in 2009.
Yes, the Pohlads are annoyingly rich, and certainly aren’t perfect. They’ve at times appeared clueless—Jim’s “Total System Failure” interview from last year comes immediately to mind, as do his comments about the new GM needing to be “lovable”. The family still only put a total of $185 million into the construction of Target Field and surrounding infrastructure, compared to the public’s $350 million contribution. They were sued by the IRS for a gross valuation misstatement of Carl’s estate, and they also still technically have the resources to pour a crap-load of money into the team if they really wanted to, but they don’t, and by all accounts, never will.
But hey—in the grand scheme of things, it could be a lot worse. The Twins could be owned by someone like Jeffrey Loria, who not only destroyed the Montreal Expos, but went on to the Marlins to only pay $125.2 million of the $634 million total to construct Marlins Park, be investigated by the SEC for improper dealings, and trade away all the team’s stars a year after the new stadium opened. The Twins could be owned by someone like Frank McCourt, who gouged fans and ran the Dodgers into bankruptcy before MLB forced him to sell the team. They could still be owned by Calvin Griffith, who was also known for being cheap, and even worse, made racist comments that caused all-time great Rod Carew to demand a trade. Heck, Donald Trump tried to buy the team at one point in the 1980s, and had he been successful, the Twins would most likely not even exist at all.
The Pohlad family is dedicated to keeping the team in Minnesota. Although maybe done late and reluctantly, they were willing to make changes when the wheels fell off the organization last year, and were smart enough to get outside help in doing so. They’ve contributed a good deal to local employment, businesses, and charities, including perhaps the single biggest donation to fight against Minnesota’s proposed state constitutional amendment banning gay marriage in 2012. (Side note: Minnesota became the first and only state in the country to vote down such an amendment before the US Supreme Court declared all of them unconstitutional in 2015.)
The Pohlads aren’t perfect. They aren’t the best owners in baseball. Whether you like them or hate them, though, it doesn’t really matter—they don’t appear to be going anywhere for a very long time.