The Passing of Mr. Pohlad
(First of all, I apologize for using such an unflattering picture of Carl Pohlad in this post, but you will understand why I made the choice in a few moments of reading).
Yesterday, I heard the news that Minnesota Twins owner Carl Pohlad passed away from natural causes (essentially old age). Before I critique his presence as owner of my favorite sports franchise now and forever, I would like to extend my condolences to anyone who knew Mr. Pohlad on a personal level. From what I have gathered about the man over the years, he was very close to his family/friends/Twins staff/players, so I’m sure they are all grieving his loss right now. Also, I cannot personally begrudge a man who served his country during World War II and, if not for a case of Poison Oak, would have hit the beach at Normandy in 1944.
However, in all honesty, I think that the Twins as an organization are better off in the hands of Carl Pohlad’s son Jim Pohlad’s hands (and have been for the last few years). There are two reasons why I never really could throw my support behind Carlos as an owner:
First, of course, was his stinginess with his money. Although I don’t blame Carl for trying to spend with the big boys (Yankees, Red Sox, Angels, etc.), as do you spend your personal earnings at work (?), he was notoriously one of the more penny-pinching owners of the 1980s and 1990s and severely hindered the Twins’ chances of contending any earlier than they did. Pohlad took over ownership of the Twins in 1984, and really only had a few great seasons. The Twins lucked out in 1987 and won the World Series, then (when Carl finally signed a few key free agents like Jack Morris and Chili Davis) put together a solid team in 1991 and again captured the title. However, from that point until the new millennium, Carl refused to spend any money on the team and turned it into the laughingstock of the American League. It wasn’t until the early portion of the 21st century, when Carl’s involvement in the operations of the team (because of his advancing age) started to be turned over to son Jim, that the Twins really began to aggressively pursue a winning tradition. Before that, Carl was just completely unwilling to “open the purse strings” in the slightest.
Secondly, I lost a lot of respect for the business side of Carl Pohlad on three different occasions. Though, on one side of his mouth, Carl said he wanted to keep the Twins in Minnesota, he came dangerously close to selling out to North Carolina businessman Don Beaver in 1997. Then in 2002, Pohlad conspired with baseball commissioner Bud Selig to contract the Twins franchise and receive a large cash payback from MLB. Luckily, the contraction idea was terminated at the eleventh hour and the Twins (ironically) went on to win three consecutive division titles. Finally, just a few years after that, the Twins again came close to leaving Minnesota when they couldn’t get a new stadium. Only a Metrodome lease kept the team grounded.
So, though I don’t want to begrudge Mr. Pohlad or his family, I don’t think he was a very good owner for the Twins when all is said and done. The last mistake I think he made was not transferring official duties to his son, Jim, much earlier. As pictured above, the last few years of his life were spent with his eyes seemingly “pasted” shut and an inability to even stand up. Running a major league baseball team is a young man’s work, and Carl held out a bit too long out of pride.
I think that the Minnesota Twins, overall, are in better hands under Carl’s son Jim, who has proven himself very shrewd at balancing the financial aspect while also keeping the team competitive.