Apr 7, 2014; Minneapolis, MN, USA; A general view of Target Field on opening day in a game between the Minnesota Twins and Oakland Athletics. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Twins Game Attendance: The Honeymoon is Over


The Twins were 3-3 heading into opening day at Target Field, which frankly seemed a bit surprising considering the way they started the season. There seemed to be a faint hint of optimism about the team.

Could Chris Colabello could give us the “feel good” story of the season? Is Jason Kubel back? Would Jason Bartlett‘s injury spare us from having to witness his flailing attempts to hit major league pitching/catch a ball in the outfield?

Things were looking up. What was predicted to be an anemic offense was scoring runs. In fact, even after a dismal three-game sweep by the Athletics at home, the Twins still rank 8th in the majors and 2nd in the AL in runs scored. It wasn’t always pretty, but the offense was doing enough to keep the Twins in games.

Of course the problem, and this may seem familiar at this point, was the pitching. The Twins pitching staff currently sports a 6.31 ERA, which puts them dead last in the majors, and is nearly half a run worse than the 29th ranked Arizona Diamondbacks.

This is a familiar story line in Minnesota. One that fans have witnessed time and time again in this latest run of three-straight 90 loss seasons. What seems a bit different this year, is that the memo has gotten out to a large portion of the public.

It’s a small sample size (so is everything at this point in the season), but here are the attendance numbers from the first three home games of the season per ESPN.

Game 1: 35,837 (90.7% full) – % is based on regular season capacity

Game 2: 22,973 (58.2% full) – % is based on regular season capacity

Game 3: 20,650 (52.3% full) – % is based on regular season capacity

In the middle of Patrick Reusse’s latest piece, he pointed out that the Twins still had more than 3,000 tickets to sell on opening day, which on one of the first nicer days of the season, certainly didn’t seem to be a good sign for the Twins management. Reusse also noted that if the Twins offense doesn’t perform this year, it is all Joe Mauer‘s fault. Apparently, the logical assertions made in his article were limited to citing the ticket sales.

At first the numbers from games two and three really looked pretty alarming, but I found that they were roughly consistent with 2013. However, comparing the past two years to the two seasons previous is where the disparity really starts to become obvious. 

2013

Game 1: 38,282 (96.9% full) – % is based on regular season capacity

Game 2: 22,963 (58.1% full) – % is based on regular season capacity

Game 3: 24,752 (62.7% full) – % is based on regular season capacity

2012

Game 1: 39,414 (99.8% full) – % is based on regular season capacity

Game 2: 31,413 (79.5% full) – % is based on regular season capacity

Game 3: 31,782 (80.5% full) – % is based on regular season capacity

2011

Game 1: 40,714 (103.1% full) – % is based on regular season capacity

Game 2: 39,936 (101.1% full) – % is based on regular season capacity

Game 3: 38,484 (97.4% full) – % is based on regular season capacity

When looking at these numbers, it is hard to even claim that the honeymoon with Target Field is over, when the reality is that it was probably over a year ago. Fans are upset by the product that has been put on the field, and with the current Twins payroll hovering around $85 million, just good enough for 24th in the majors, they have every right to be.

Look, I get it.

Even if the Twins had spent much more in free agency, they still probably wouldn’t have been competitive this season. If I were the Pohlad’s, I wouldn’t want to throw away tens of millions of dollars for a few more wins either, but as we trudge toward what will likely be a fourth-straight 90 loss season, fans are fed up, and no amount of “How about the great concession stands,” “Did we mention the 2014 All Star Game,” or “Just wait until the reinforcements get here” talking points are going to bring the fans back.

Only winning will do that.

Unfortunately, though the pitching will likely improve, it is just as likely that the offense will regress to their meager expectations set before the start of the season, and it could be a long year.

Accountability is the buzzword now, and barring a meteoric Byron Buxton/Alex Meyer call up, there will be few reasons for fans to come out to see this team. The front office can continue to wax poetically about about the future while listing the cumulative salary figures when talking about Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes, but it seems as though the fans see through that now.

It’s hard to know who to blame, because the team isn’t good enough to really blame the coaching staff. The Nolasco and Hughes signings got people paying attention, but then nothing significant followed. For the Twins this was big spending, but within the context of baseball today, this was run of the mill, and the onus there either falls on Terry Ryan or the Pohlad’s, or both.

Either way, the fans are holding the front office accountable for the embarrassing product they have put on the field, and they will do it by staying as far away from Target Field as possible. We will see if this accountability is contagious, and begins to be seen in the decisions the organization makes going forward.

Tags: Minnesota Twins