Last night, my buddies and I walked into the Freehouse, one of my favorite Minneapolis establishments, to grab some drinks and food and continue our social outing. It was a little after 10:00 PM when we arrived, which is why we were surprised to see the 2nd inning of Minnesota Twins baseball in progress up on the television. This was not a replay, but a live game taking place a few blocks away at Target Field following a rain delay due to the most epic storm to hit the Twin Cities thus far this summer.
The stadium was barren. At any given camera angle, there appeared to be more players on the field than fans in the stands. This shouldn’t be very surprising. The Twins are by far the worst team in the American League, and a game against the struggling Oakland Athletics is hardly a draw for fans on any night, let alone on a Tuesday post-rain delay. But we were out, we were thirsty, we were hungry, we had money to spend, and we figured, perhaps, for once in our lives, that money might actually buy us a few bargains down at Target Field.
We were wrong.
$17. That is the floor price for tickets to watch two terrible organizations play a meaningless game of baseball in an empty stadium at fucking midnight. No bartering allowed. And for Target Field and the Twins organization in general, this is an unequivocal embarrassment.
Since Target Field was built on the promise of increasing revenue and, consequently, organizational success for the Twins franchise on the field, the Twins have made the post-season exactly one time—their first season in the new stadium back in 2010. Since then, the Twins had put together back-to-back-to-back-to-back horrible seasons, a trend briefly bucked in 2015 when the Twins contended for a playoff spot well into September before ultimately coming up short. At the time, that run created a lot of hope. After the historically bad start to the 2016 season, that run now feels like a distant memory.
Attendance has reciprocated performance. As beautiful as that stadium is, it has failed to compete with the ugliness on the field. In 2015, Twins attendance numbers dropped for the fourth consecutive season, a trend they are unsurprisingly on pace to continue in 2016.
Which is what made last night such a great opportunity for the Minnesota Twins to finally do something good—an opportunity to make up for some of its organizational failures, to open up the gates, to partially apologize to the taxpayers who funded this beautiful ballpark, to generate some positive publicity for the organization for the first time since Opening Day. With one generous gesture, the Twins had an opportunity to say to their fanbase, “We have really failed you, and we acknowledge that. Come enjoy a cheap game on us. You’ve been loyal, and you deserve it. Spend the savings on our vendors, and try to enjoy yourself as much as possible on this unique night of baseball.”
But like the Twins have done so many times over the past six-and-a-half seasons, they blew it. Instead of appeasing a resentful fanbase, they sent us away even more resentful than before. Instead of my buddies and I walking away from Target Field after a rare Twin’s win, a few domestics, and a renewed sense of good will towards our struggling franchise, we returned to the Freehouse more frustrated than Joe Mauer during one of his many batting slumps.
I live four blocks away from the stadium and have yet to attend a game this year, and after last night’s experience, that trend will likely continue through the season’s end. It’s not because I hate the Twins. I’m a loyal fan. It’s not because of a begrudging attitude towards the organization either, all though last night was annoying. It’s because the Twins don’t give fans like me a reason to come out.
The Pohlad’s have generated hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue off of the construction of Target Field, a project mostly built on public money. Yet the Minnesota Twins still rank 20th in the league in payroll, a factor that partially explains why the on-field product is so underwhelming—why the Twins consistently fail to compete with AL teams like the Red Sox and the Yankees, or even small-market divisional opponents like the Tigers and the Royals. This wasn’t supposed to happen in the post-Target Field era, but nevertheless, it has.
I’ve been to Target Field enough times now. It’s a beautiful stadium. I love it. I’m glad we built it. I’m glad we have it. But I’m also over it. At $17 a ticket, Target Field alone is not enough to draw me out on a Tuesday night after a rain delay to watch one of the most unwatchable teams in baseball. I need a team worth watching, or I need a cheaper ticket.
My experience last night felt like a personal ‘fuck you’ from the Minnesota Twins to their fanbase. I don’t know if it was out of a lack of awareness or a lack of respect, but either way, that is not the message that you want to send to loyal fans that have stuck with the Twins in spite of the organization giving them so little reason to do so over such a sustained period of time. The Twins continue to baffle me at almost every organizational level, and as much as I’d like to think that the tide will soon turn, that the Buxton’s and Sano’s and Berrios’s of the world will soon right this ship and make Target Field a local destination worth coming out to, with everything that I’ve seen from the Twins over the last several seasons, I think that I’ll reserve that good will until they can prove that they actually deserve it.