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Monday, September 9, 2013

The Late Summer of My Discontent

When Target Field opened, I was living in Connecticut (as I do now), but harbored a dream of moving back to Minnesota. I was naive. I thought -- even though I was an attorney licensed to practice in Connecticut only, even though I owned a home in Connecticut, and even though many of my professional ties to Minnesota had dwindled -- that I could somehow easily move across the country and re-establish things back home. For many, many reasons (the prolonged economic crisis being one of them), that didn't happen. I'd be lying if I said that a part of me doesn't dream of going back to the Twin Cities, but I am very happy personally and professionally now. But that's not the focus of this post, believe it or not (but for my self-help blog, go here). No, I do aim to write about the Twins tonight. So read on, it's all connected.

When I thought, or, rather, naively dreamed, that Minnesota was in the cards for me, I filled out a form and paid something like $200 to get in the "On-Deck Circle" for Twins season tickets. I was only interested in a 20-game plan, which was the lowest that was offered. Yes, there was a time when demand for season tickets -- any package, anywhere in the stadium -- was so significant that the Twins simply couldn't supply tickets and seats for everyone that was interested. Long story short, I ended up getting out of the "On-Deck Circle," and of course am still writing this blog from Connecticut (side note: there's no "On-Deck Circle" for my awesome Rock Cats seats, which I very much enjoy).

The amazing part of this story is that my membership in the on-deck circle, and exit therefrom, took place in 2010. Only 3 years ago. Tonight, I could click on this link and place a deposit for up to 8 tickets for a 2014 20-game, 40-game, or full season plan for the team who will host next season's All-Star festivities, a team only 3 years removed from being one of the best teams in baseball playing in one of baseball's best stadiums.

What frustrated me in 2010 was that there was a certain hubris in the Twins organization. "We can't offer you any season ticket plan this year, or maybe not even next year or the year after, but we will hold your $200 in trust in the event that something ever becomes available. Then, we'll give you a call and take the rest of your money. OK? Talk to you later."

Good Seats Still Available
And now, in September, 2013, here is the Twins' crowd tonight (first image from Brandon Warne's Twitter account) as Pedro Hernandez was taking his warm-up tosses just before the game started. Yes, many of these seats were paid for, so the Twins received that money, but they sure are missing a lot of food, merchandise and beer revenue from that American Legion-esque crowd.

The part that bothers me, aside from the fact that the Twins are cruising toward their 3rd straight 90+ loss season, is that what I would consider to be the requisite humility from the front office simply isn't present. On the one hand, they are saying the right things, as in: "The losing is unacceptable"; "We're committed to doing better"; "This isn't the `Twins Way.'" But on the other hand, these are the exact sentiments fans heard after 2011. And after 2012. Heck, there was even anger in 2010 after they were swept -- again -- by the Yankees. I swear they recycle the same press releases. On paper -- in the win-loss ledger -- there hasn't been improvement.

Thank you to @Tappen2Feet for this image
I'll be the first person to tell you that the organization is in much better shape than it was a couple years ago. To be sure, I watched it all summer with Miguel Sano, Eddie Rosario, Josmil Pinto and others. But with the exception of Pinto, those guys aren't contributing to the major league team now, and probably won't be on Opening Day 2014.

I hit a point where I need more. I need more than the promise of prospects (even though I understand that good prospects are the best way to build a sustainable winning franchise). I need actual accountability. I need results. On Twitter, I noted, after the Twins were swept at Target Field by the Yankees in a 4-game series over the 4th of July, that some managers in Ron Gardenhire's tenuous position would have been fired after that series. Not for losing 4 consecutive games, mind you, but for how those 4 games, against the Yankees, at home on a holiday weekend with fans having paid "premium prices," were representative of this organization's deficiencies.

As @Kayla_86 noted, the upper deck is empty
The Twins can't sell me, and many fans, on the All-Star Game in 2014. I wouldn't be there anyway, and it's really just a few events. At some point, the Twins have to sell fans on at least a few established players purchased in free agency. I'll just say it: they need to spend probably $30 million in free agency in order to make this team competitive for 2014. They have to make at least some changes at the very top levels of management, if for no other reason than that is the way it works in the business world. The problem with the Twins, though, is that unlike most businesses, even when their "product" is awful, they still turn a significant profit. So understand that the impetus might not be there to make the wholesale changes that some expect.

There is no grand point to this post, so apologies if you are looking for it. I would, however, sum it up this way: The organization doesn't have the humility I would expect for a team that has been one of the very worst in baseball for the past 3 seasons, and I am not at all confident that losing records are sufficient -- on their own -- to force the organization into wholesale changes. As fans, I guess we are forced to hope that this solid group of prospects does indeed pan out. I have little faith in the Twins hitting a home run on each one of their Top 10 prospects.

One final note: 2013 was the first year since Target Field opened that I didn't make it there for a game. In fact, I didn't make it to a Twins game in Boston, Baltimore or New York, either. I -- not intentionally, really -- didn't purchase any memorabilia related to a current Twins player. Heck, I didn't even renew my Twins radio subscription for $21.95 (or so) a season. I guess I'm unwilling to pay for this product. In the end, while I'll pay to watch the minor leaguers any day of the week, I'm unwilling to pay to watch the Twins waste the rest of Joe Mauer's prime years.


  1. I can't stand going to games this year either. I have a 20 game season ticket package and feel guilty pawning them off on others. Pohlads are greedy, management is too old school and they have way too much hubris for being the second worst team of the past 3 years. To top it all off they raised beer prices. I'm very disenfranchised and hope the Pohlads sell to someone with a heart.

  2. Thanks for the comment, Jeff.
    I had no idea about the beer prices. Are you renewing for next season?

  3. Andrew, I couldn't agree with you more. In 2010 and 2011 I went to at least 10 games each season. And in 2012 I found myself there quite a bit in there hot streak in June, but since July of 2012 I have only been maybe 5 times in well over a year. I only showed up this season for a couple of bobble head giveaways and to see them in those sweet 1948 St Paul Saints jerseys, but I definitively didn't get as good of seats as usual because I knew I wouldn't be missing much by sitting in no man's land in the 3rd level. It's time for the Twins move Gardenhire and spend money like the fans have for this team in their first 4 years in Target Field. I have numerous friends who don't want to renew even for the 2014 All Star Game and all that comes with it. I couldn't agree with them more. Unless they bring in a couple of above average pitchers via free agency and/or trades I do not know if I will be at Target Field at all next Summer. I absolutely love the Twins and love going to Target Field, but if they are going to keep putting out this terrible talent and continue to lose constantly at home what's the point of spending my money? I can just watch this futility from my comfortable recliner at my house where I don't spend a dime. It could become like the mid to late 90s when I was young and only go to see my favorite non-Twins players. There needs to be change or these small crowds will continue to get smaller and the only sellout next season could be that All-Star Game.

  4. I think your feelings are very representative of a lot of Twins fans, Andrew, including myself. In fact, I've been drafting a similar article, but figured I would wait until after the season to post it.

    I made several trips up to Target Field in 2010 and 2011. I made none last year. I will have made two this season after this coming weekend.

    I used to rant regularly about the bizarre blackout rules that keep Iowans from being able to see six different teams' games on, including the Twins. Now, frankly, I wouldn't watch them if I could.

    I'm excited that my hometown Kernels are a Twins affiliate, but I honestly don't care nearly as much about the Twins as I used to. Their management has shown enough that they don't care about me, as a fan.

    The fans will return to Target Field in full voice if/when they put a competitive team on the field again, but for many of us, Twins management has lost our confidence and our trust and our interest will not reach prior levels until that management demonstrates that winning is important to them.

  5. Thanks for the comments, Nick and JC. I have a feeling many bloggers will be writing their own version of this post.