There was a strong indication of the disaster that looms for the Twins as a business on Friday night. The Boston Red Sox, a prime attraction, were at Target Field for the start of a warm-weather weekend series and the Twins announced a crowd of 22,786.
The paltry turnout was earned by the putrid baseball being offered. The Twins were again at their noncompetitive worst with an 8-1 loss.
Boston's David Ortiz was honored briefly before the game — the same Ortiz who had told USA Today earlier in the week that when he played for the Twins (1997-2002), the people in the Twin Cities didn't even know they had a baseball team.
Before Friday's game, Ortiz said he was referring to baseball in Metrodome, and not what has taken place since Target Field opened in 2010.
Big Papi need not to have apologized. The Twins are rushing backward to the hollow crowds that he remembers from the Dome.
The Twins won a division and sold a record 3,223,640 tickets in 2010, the first season in Target Field. They managed to stop substantial drops in attendance with a plus-.500 team in 2015, drawing 2,220,054. That also reversed a plunge in season tickets — from 26,000 in 2010, to 13,500 in 2015, to almost 14,000 in 2016.
And then this: 18-43 after Saturday's 15-4 loss to the Red Sox.
The advance sales for remaining home games and feedback from season-ticket holders tell these tales:
The Twins will be well short of 2 million tickets sold in 2016, and will fall to under 10,000 season tickets in 2017.
Put the Twins at 1.85 million in attendance for this season. Subtract a 4,500-per-game hit in season tickets for 2017 and that lowers the attendance floor by 350,000-plus.
You're back to 1.5 million in 2017, which in this era is the same as the 1,076,000 in Papi's first full season in an "empty'' Dome in 2000.
For the folks pathologically angry about the Pohlads making money operating in Target Field, it has to be good news that ultra-bad baseball has the Twins returning to pauper status by MLB's current standards.
Read Patrick Reusse's blog at startribune.com/patrick. E-mail him at email@example.com.