Sid Hartman - Time to put him out to pasture

- wadE

I was just talking with a friend from work, who is relatively new to the Twin Cities area, and he mentioned how awful the sports columnists are in this town.

I couldn't agree with him more. Once Dan Barreiro left the newspaper biz to go full time on the radio there has not been anyone who has been consistently readable (Barreiro's replacement has not gotten great reviews).

But the granddaddy of them all is Sid Hartman.

There is a certain level of amusement one gets from his habit of mentioning his "close personal friends" and calling the people he disagrees with "geniuses". Sid is an institution in this town with the only reason (that I can tell) being his sheer longevity. I have not gone back into the Star Tribune archives to see if Sid could actually write at a point in time (maybe the 70s?), but one recent article pushed me over the edge. Let's take a look, and I'll let you be the judge if it's time for Sid to be put out to pasture:

Sid Hartman: Pohlad has achieved so much with Twins
The longtime owner has done a lot for the Upper Midwest by keeping the team here, but a new stadium would ensure it remains in Minnesota.
Sid Hartman, Star Tribune

Sid has been stumping for a stadium for years now, nothing new there really.

Carl Pohlad has owned the Twins for 22 years, longer than the Timberwolves, Wild and the Vikings owners have held those franchises combined.

Well, considering the Vikings just got a new owner, the Wild are 5 years old, and the T-wolves are 16 years old (with one ownership change) that isn't too hard to believe. And we all know that the length of time a team has with one owner is a direct reflection of how good the owner is (see: Bengals, Cincinnati).

Pohlad has been around for two world championships, something the other pro sports teams have not accomplished. People forget that had he not bought the Twins in 1984, major league baseball would have been gone from Minnesota.

True, the Twins were denied the right to move by the court after contraction was first considered in 2001, but believe me, it would have been all over in 1984 had Pohlad come not to the rescue.

Thank God for Carl Pohlad, he truly is a saint who saved Twins baseball for us all!!! Or some judge would have done it... but that's just being picky.

Ask Commissioner Bud Selig and a number of baseball officials, who thought Tampa, Fla., would be a great baseball town. In fact I recall more than one call from Selig, saying Calvin Griffith wants to move the Twins and warning that a local buyer needed to be found or the Twins would be playing in Tampa. Twins minority owner Gabe Murphy had sold his interest to a Tampa group, and they eventually sold to Pohlad. Tampa Bay was awarded an expansion team in 1995.

The last thing Pohlad wanted to do at the time was to own a Major League Baseball team. A lot of community leaders such as Wheelock Whitney worked hard to persuade Pohlad to buy the team.

Oh... so he didn't even want a baseball team then... had no interest in owning a team. So he was either talked into it by others, or he thought it might be a wise investment even though he had no interest in baseball. Considering how tight Pohlad has been with his wealth, and that it's hard to intimidate a billionaire, methinks he saw the Twins as an investment.

My former boss, ex-Star Tribune editor Tim McGuire, might have fired me for conflict of interest if he knew how many times I dropped into the Minneapolis Club, knowing Pohlad was having breakfast there, and doing what I could to persuade him to save the Twins.

Oh, so it's actually Sid we should thank for keeping the Twins! Is there anything this Octogenarian can't do?!?!

Marvin Wolfenson and Harvey Ratner, the former owners of the Timberwolves, had tried to buy the team, but Griffith didn't want to sell at the time and preferred to move.

Wait wait wait... so there were local buyers besides Pohlad? So if Pohlad didn't step up, we could have seen a couple other people enter the picture.

And then came the great phone call one day from Pohlad: "OK, I've got a scoop for you. I'm negotiating with Calvin Griffith and if we can make a deal, I will buy the club."

<insert Hallelujah Chorus here>

There have been mistakes by the Pohlad administration, such as in 1997 when the Pohlad family announced it would provide $157.5 million toward a new baseball stadium, but the offer was more of a loan than a contribution; the effort to get Don Beaver to buy the team and move it to North Carolina in 1997; and then the agreement to have the club considered for contraction.

But the positives of Pohlad's ownership have far outweighed the negatives.

Sure, those negatives are so minor. Lying to the public, no, make that "cheating" the public, looking to move the team, and then finally trying to get the team contracted... so so minor. I wonder what positives could possibly outweigh Pohlad's attempts to either cheat the Minnesota Tax Payers or take baseball from Minnesota?

Pohlad bought the team for around $36 million, and he has more than $150 million invested. True, the value of the team is a lot more than when he bought it. True, he has reaped some tax benefits on the $150 million mortgage or loan he has on the team.

Ummm... I kinda thought we'd talk about the positives for the public, not Pohlad's personal positives from buying the Twins, but at least this illustrates my point above that Pohlad bought the Twins because of the financial opportunity it presented, he didn't want to own a team in 1984, and it's obvious he doesn't want it now (see: contraction, Twins).

He has been one great owner, with the Twins Community Fund being one program to help kids who would never get a chance to play baseball.

Ah... there's that public positive. Without Carl Pohlad some kids would have NEVER had a chance to EVER play. Riiiight. I'm sure no other owner would have ever done any sort of charitable work such as the Twins Community Fund. I bet Carl came up with that one all by himself!

No threats to move

And not once have you heard Carl or his son, Jim, who is also involved in the Twins, threaten to move the team.

Whoa whoa whoa!!! Hold up right there. "No threats to move"?!?!?!? What the f&$# do you call the (failed) attempt to sell the team to Don Beaver in 1997? Don't even begin to tell me that threatening to sell to a guy who had zero chance of actually buying the team doesn't count as a threat to move the team. While technically "he" didn't threaten to move the team, there was no other reason for that attempt to sell than to blackmail the state into paying for a new stadium. A local buyer wouldn't have caused concern, but a buyer from baseball hungry North Carolina certainly would generate some panic. That's some tough journalism there by Sid. Of course he wouldn't want to say anything bad about his buddy he used to have breakfast with at the Minneapolis Club. Tough life for some of these people.

Carl Pohlad is 90 years old and in good health for that age. His mother lived to be 106. However, once Carl is not around, I know the big wheels in baseball will press the Pohlad family to sell the team to Major League Baseball, like it did when the Montreal Expos were purchased and eventually moved to Washington, D.C. Pohlad kept baseball here, and now his family might be involved in letting the Twins relocate.

Good god. Pohlad really is the C. Montgomery Burns of the Twin Cities. What's next, is he going to blot out the sun? (I wouldn't put it past him!)

At any rate, everything that I have read and heard indicates that Pohlad's son, Jim, IS actually interested in the Twins and would like to take over owning the team after his father shuffles off this mortal coil.

Info from a news conference with Jim: "The most significant news from the meeting was Jim Pohlad's revelation he is willing to carry on as Twins owner for the foreseeable future. He said his personal goal remains the same as it has been for several years: to make certain the Twins remain part of the Minnesota community. To be sure, he said the family's position is unchanged: it will sell to a buyer who meets their price tag and pledges to keep the club in the Twin Cities."

Well then, Tim of Eagan -- Governor Tim Pawlenty -- then it will be put up or shut up time when it comes to building a stadium. And maybe the opportunity to build a stadium won't be available at that time, because there is a group in Las Vegas right now that would buy this team and move it in 2007.

Today's media crutch of scaring the news consumer isn't lost on old Sid.

Who is the new Don Beaver in this scenario? Steve Wynn? MGM Casino? Have you been to Vegas? Yes it is the fastest growing city in America, but does baseball really want to put a team in the gambling capital of the world? If Minneapolis doesn't have the economics to support a team, do you think Las Vegas (minus the casinos) has the ability to support a team? Do they have the white collar jobs (again, minus the casinos) to support a team? Sid, get off the bully pulpit.

I bumped into Senate Majority Leader Dean Johnson, DFL-Willmar, on Tuesday night. "Have you talked to the governor about the stadium?" he asked.

No, I haven't talked to the great governor, because he talks out of both sides of his mouth. If he would take some leadership, there would not only be a new Gophers football stadium, but new stadiums for the Twins and Vikings, too. The Twin Cities would be just like Phoenix, where they built a new baseball stadium, hockey arena, NFL stadium and spent a ton of money remodeling the Suns basketball arena.

Oooh... that's a shot right there (or in the immortal words of Ashton Kutcher's character on "That 70s Show"... BURN!!!). I can't help but applaud taking Timmy to task over his lack of leadership, but a governor alone isn't going to get new stadiums built.

I also like the comparison to Phoenix. I suppose being a "Cold Phoenix" is better than being called a "Cold Omaha". I'm sure the folks in Phoenix are happy they spent "a ton of money" for the remodeling the Suns arena.

I've mentioned this on this site before, if Pohlad really thinks the public should pay some (if not most or all) of the money for a stadium, why shouldn't they get a cut of the profits? If the tables were turned, you damn well know he would be demanding his fair cut!

But wadE, Carl Pohlad has said that he bought the Twins to save them, and he wanted to be the man who saved baseball in Minnesota. Well let's go to the horse’s mouth, and you tell me whether or not that is true:

"How much shall I pay for a legacy? Shall I pay a couple of hundred million dollars just for the privilege of showing baseball in the state of Minnesota? No. You wouldn't do it and neither would anybody else."
- Carl Pohlad

Just one comment. If I were worth $2-$3 Billion, I would think it would be worth it. This isn't a man who loves baseball, let alone baseball in Minnesota. This is a man who fought and worked hard for every penny he's got and he'll be damned if he is just going to "give" it away just to not be remembered as the guy who got his start foreclosing on family farms. The only person Carl Pohlad seems to care about is Carl Pohlad (or at least anyone else with the last name of Pohlad).

So Sid, don't try to snow us over with this angelic picture of Carl riding in on the white horse and saving baseball when all he's done is hold it for ransom for the past decade. And for the editors at the Strib, isn't it time you all had an honest talk about retirement for your close personal friend?

We geniuses think so.

- 04/14/2006

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