Remodeling the Mt. Rushmore of Minnesota Sports Disappointment
Post date: May 21, 2019 8:30:4 PM
A few months back I wrote a blog called the Mt. Rushmore of Minnesota Sports Financial Disappointment. One player from each of our 4 major sports teams who got the big payday, but didn’t play as well as we expected (in terms of playoffs and championships). You can read the original blog here
Even as I was writing it, I struggled with a few decisions. For example, Parise vs Suter. Their contracts are exactly the same. Ultimately, I chose Parise, only because he was born in Minnesota. In my mind, being ‘one of us’ gave him the edge in the disappointment department. In response, I received some fair criticism from readers that thought it should have been Suter.
I also had some difficulty deciding between Garnett and Wiggins. I admitted in the blog that Wiggins could just as easily have been chosen. Garnett led the Wolves to their only conference final. Having said that, the metric was money vs championships (not moral victories) and Garnett made more money than Wiggins and the decision came down to that.
In addition to rethinking those nominations, I also had some internal conflict over it. As you may know, I’m a teacher. If someone offered me 90 million dollars to teach for 3 years, would I sign that contract? You’re damn right I would! Where do I sign and how soon can I cash the check? How can we be mad at Wiggins, Cousins, Parise or Mauer for signing their deals? As fans, its ok to be bothered by a player's on field performance or lack thereof. But their contracts? That’s not their fault. That blame needs to be put on the person who gave it to them.
Therefore, I decided to demolish my first attempt at a monument and construct a new one. This time it’s meant for those who were responsible for the biggest disappointments in Minnesota sports history.
I originally had this whole thing written up blaming Wild owner Craig Leipold for the Suter/Parise 13 year, 98 Million dollar deals. According to Michael Russo of the Athletic, Leipold was the one who went after Suter, who in turn got Parise on board. Contracts that long aren’t even legal anymore. If Suter/Parise play out their entire contracts with the Wild, they will have played in the NHL for 20 years. That’s almost as long as the North Stars were in Minnesota.
Are the Suter/Parise contracts really the biggest disappointment in Minnesota hockey history?
Not even close. Hands down, it’s the North Stars leaving for Dallas. Before you get out the pitch forks and start calling for Norm Green’s head, read my blog about the North Stars moving to Dallas here. Dallas can suck it.
Bill Lester was the head of the Metropolitan Sports Commission for 25 years. Private sources tell me that he had all the power in making the decisions that affected the North Stars. They may have thought they were doing the right thing by trying to force the North Stars downtown, but the reality is they were forcing them to go bankrupt, or move. In addition, it cost Minnesota more to try and get an NHL franchise back to the cities, than it would have to keep the North Stars here. You can keep hating Norm all you want, but in my mind, the Metropolitan Sports Commission is to blame for the North Stars leaving. Because Bill Lester was in charge of that committee during that time period, he is our NHL nominee for the monument.
In 2017 Andrew Wiggins signed a 5 year 147 million dollar contract extension. I understand that Minnesota isn’t the most ideal destination compared to other teams in the NBA and sometimes you have to take a chance. The problem is that right now, it looks like a HUGE mistake. Wiggins is clearly not playing to the level that contract demands. In addition, it's fully guaranteed and there are 4 years left. Unless Wiggins starts playing at a higher level, that’s 4 years of Karl Anthony Towns seemingly in his prime that might be wasted. In addition they don't have a ton of cap room to do much else. Look at it this way, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green both make a lot less than Wiggins. Think about that for a minute.
So who is responsible for that contract? It would be easy to point the finger at Thibs. He was President at the time. Scott Layden? He was GM. Unfortunately, this one is on the owner. According to John Krawczynski when he was writing for the AP, Glen Taylor told Wiggins BEFORE they started contract talks that he was willing to pay a huge amount to keep him. That doesn’t sound like much of a negotiation. I believe not giving Kevin Love the max deal in 2012 may have played a part in this and Taylor wasn’t going to let that happen again.
In addition to the Wiggins contract, Taylor was suspended for one year by the NBA in 2000 for the illegal Joe Smith deal and the team lost 3 years of first round draft picks. He also hired David Kahn. Because of all this, Glen Taylor earns the next spot on our remodeled monument. I think Glen is a good owner. I believe he has good intentions and truly wants to build a winner. I also love the fact that he is willing to spend money to do so. Having said that, I think he needs to leave the basketball decisions to someone else.
The team’s owner doesn’t want to pay big money free agents. He lets his best and most popular players leave because he’s reluctant to pay competitive salaries. His team’s total payroll is consistently in the bottom half compared to other major league teams. To keep money in the family he has his relatives working in the front office.
Raise your hand if you thought I was talking about Carl Pohlad. Pohlad has been criticized for not spending money (in my opinion deservedly so). Jack Morris once told a story on KFAN radio about leaving the Twins. He said that Carl told him he couldn’t afford to pay two superstars, and he wasn’t getting rid of Kirby, so Jack should start looking elsewhere. Sure, they signed Mauer to a big deal. But because they spent so much on Joe, they refused to spend much more on anyone else. So yes, Pohlad could be a candidate here. However, that’s not who I was referring to.
The Twins had a reputation of being cheap long before Pohlad bought the team. That philosophy was pioneered by his predecessor, Calvin Griffith. Jim ‘Mudcat’ Grant once said, “Griffith was so cheap, he threw nickels around like they were manhole covers.” (NY Times). Griffith hated free agency. After his teams did well in the late 60’s and early 70s he refused to pay competitive salaries to keep those players. He either let them sign elsewhere, or traded them. Rod Carew was my favorite Twin as a child. He traded Carew because he was going to attract more money in free agency in the offseason AND because Carew was outspoken about racist remarks Griffith had made.
Who is cheaper, Pohlad or Griffith? This may be the only time I will ever defend Carl Pohlad.
There isn’t any one event in Minnesota sports history that was more detrimental to a team than the Herschel Walker Trade. You can read my summary of the deal here.
There are events in history that are traumatic or elicit so much emotion that we remember exactly where we were when they occurred. For my parent’s generation it was the Kennedy assassination. For me, the big ones were Magic Johnson’s announcement, September 11th, and Columbine.
This may seem weird, but in addition to those, Herschel Walker running out of his shoe is also on my list. I was at the bowling alley in Rosemount. I remember thinking, this is it. We’re going to the Superbowl. A lot of Minnesotans felt that way. With a few exceptions, the Dallas media was overwhelmingly against the deal. Jimmy Johnson defiantly declared he had just committed ‘The Great Train Robbery’. Of all those opinions, only one would prove to be correct. Herschel only lasted a few years with the Vikings and not having those draft picks for 3 years really hurt. What Jimmy Johnson did with those draft picks (3 Superbowls) hurts even more.
On one hand, it’s hard to criticize a GM for rolling the dice and trying to add a piece that they think will take the team to the next level. On the other hand, not being aware of the conditional picks we would eventually give up, is just foolish. The Vikings GM who got fleeced (fleeced is putting it nicely) in this deal was Mike Lynn. Because it is most likely the biggest blunder in Minnesota sports history, Mike Lynn will be representing the Vikings on our monument. Oh...and Dallas can suck it.
There you have it. The Mt Rushmore of Minnesota Sports Disappointment. The good news? Admission is free to view this monument. The memories however, do come at a cost. As always, feel free to agree, disagree, respond and debate.
-Andrew Wiggins signs contract extension with Minnesota Timberwolves- John Krawczynski – The Associated Press Oct 11, 2017 https://www.nba.com/article/2017/10/11/minnesota-timberwolves-andrew-wiggins-agree-extension
-Bumper to Bumper on KFAN - Dan Barreiro interviews Jack Morris - June 19, 2018
-Crease and Assist - A Legally Compliant Hockey Blog
-Halfway into Parise - Suter deals, here’s the full story of how it all went down - Michael Russo - The Athletic - Jan 7, 2019 https://theathletic.com/753348/2019/01/07/zach-parise-ryan-suter-deals-wild-halfway-point-craig-leipold-chuck-fletcher-full-story/
-Calvin Griffith, 87, Is Dead; Tight-Fisted Baseball Owner - RICHARD GOLDSTEIN – New York Times - OCT. 21, 1999 https://www.nytimes.com/1999/10/21/sports/calvin-griffith-87-is-dead-tight-fisted-baseball-owner.html
Minnesota Legislative Reference Library – Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission
-Lester Resigns After 25 years of Leading Metrodome Commission - Ed Stych - Minneapolis / St. Paul Business Journal - Jul 19, 2012 https://www.bizjournals.com/twincities/blog/sports-business/2012/07/bill-lester-leaves-metrodome-commission.html
-Longtime Metrodome Chief Leaves - Richard Meryhew and Paul Walsh – July 19, 2012 http://www.startribune.com/longtime-metrodome-chief-leaves/163042006/