North Stars Staying Put
New Ownership, Identity Announced
By Paul Shirley, Star Tribune
September 25, 2017
Minneapolis, MN – Its official – the North Stars are going nowhere. And no, we’re not referring to the standings, Mr. Smarty-Pants. The organization officially announced today that controlling interest of the team will pass from Ray C. Bollard, the longtime and elderly owner of the North Stars to a group of Minneapolitans led by Robert Castle, chairman of The Castle Company. Completion of the deal is expected sometime in January, pending League approval.
With rumors of a potential move to Canada swirling all about the ball club and with the team seemingly drifting rudderless as a result, news of the resolution to the ownership issue could not have been more welcome to the team’s fan base. But just as relieved are the team’s employees and players, whose play no doubt has been affected by all the uncertainty, whether they care to admit to it or not.
“We Can Finally Move Forward”
“It’s a huge weight that’s been lifted off our shoulders,” replied the North Stars GM, who has been given the additional title of President of Baseball Operations as part of the new ownership arrangement. “Since nothing was definite and the whole ownership process was long and drawn out, we could not officially respond to all the rumors that were being reported on and passed around as if they were factual. But now we can finally move forward and concentrate on bringing championship baseball back to Minnesota. Our fans have been very long-suffering and we want to reward their patience with exciting new developments that will mark a new era in our history.”
Perhaps most prominent of the developments, at least initially, will be the team’s new identity, featuring new uniforms and logos for the 2018 season. A specific date for the unveiling has not been announced, but according to the team’s website
, it will be sometime in October, most likely following the conclusion of the World Championship Series.
Potential New Faces For 2018
But fans should also notice some significant changes to those who will be inside those new togs next spring. If the North Stars refrain from active participation in the free agent market this off-season as anticipated, it’s entirely possible that no less than seven players from AAA Hoover will be with the major league team come opening day. Part of this is due to the team’s desire to shed salaries. The perceived lack of performance from the more established players is also a motivating factor. But another reason is that the North Stars have so many players down in AAA that appear ready to take the next step.
“John Humphrey (14-4, 3.04), James Gorman (9-6, 2.78) and even Mark Lee (11-6, 3.01), who was up here briefly in August, all have a real shot at making the starting rotation next year and we would like to see them do it”, confided Landers. Indeed, beyond James Brauer’s (17-8, 2.94) outstanding season, the rotation depth drops off precipitously. David Otero (6-10, 3.84) looks to have a lock as the 2nd starter, at least for the time being. Stephen Bushnell (4-2, 3.66), who started the year in AAA but returned with a splash in August and signed a 3-year deal with club, will also be in the mix. Jesus Centeno (8-17, 5.96), Jacob Bowley (4-12, 5.18) and Christopher Ortega (4-11, 5.99) are largely viewed now as afterthoughts, but one of them may hang on as a middle reliever if the team does not go after an inexpensive LHP in free agency or via a trade.
As to the position spots, the outfield featuring Joseph Ingrassia (.249, 6 HR, 43 RBI), Raphael Paz (.210, 11 HR, 35 RBI) and William Zaragoza (.234, 8 HR, 43 RBI) was a veritable wasteland. Look for AAA outfielders Antonio Galindo (.301, 13 HR, 55 RBI) and John Ward (.333, 15 HR, 71 RBI) to step in with only Ingrassia returning, at least for one more season.
Another area of weakness has been at the catcher position, but the North Stars appear content to leave Brett Garden (.285, 6 HR, 30 RBI) in for now as a placeholder until top prospect Jesus Gonzalez is ready. AAA catcher David Novoa (.260, 7 HR, 49 RBI) will most likely replace outgoing Israel Montelongo (.220, 3 HR, 37 RBI) as the backup.
If 2B Miguel Ucelay (.296, 5 HR, 60 RBI, 81 SB), 3B Ko-taro Mashai (.241, 28 HR, 93 RBI) and SS Darryl Fugate (.268, 18 HR, 84 RBI) are virtual locks to return, who will man the other hot corner is anyone’s guess at this point. Roderick Bradburn (.274, 13 HR, 41 RBI) saw the bulk of the work at 1B but was dropped down in the depth chart in favor of prospect Thomas Pedraza (.255, 5 HR, 20 RBI) late in the season. With Marc Elsner (.272, 13 HR, 59 RBI) appearing poised to move up to the parent club as well, something will have to give. Look for the team to try and make a deal to move one of these players before opening day.
Changes For The Better?
What all this will mean for the 2018 edition of the North Stars remains to be seen. But with the potential for so many rookies joining the ranks, there are bound to be growing pains as the team – dare I say – rebuilds? Although optimistic, at least the North Stars GM is not looking through rose-colored glasses.
“No one is happy with a last place finish, that’s for certain,” reiterated Landers. “But we’re not looking for quick fixes either. The high payroll was a major issue in the protracted ownership negotiations, so it’s not going to be ignored. But the mandate I have been given is to put a competitive team on the field while making our expenses more manageable and that is what I intend to do. I’ll stand on my head if I half to. Here I’ll even show you.”
At least he didn’t offer to drop his pants.