Startribune.com digital sports editor Howard Sinker used to cover the Twins and now shares season tickets with friends in Section 219 of Target Field. He blogs about baseball from the perspective of a long-time fan who loves the game, doesn’t always believe the hype and likes hearing what others think. Howard sometimes talks about sports with Cathy Wurzer on MPR's Morning Edition.
Tuesday's announced attendance at Target Field was the smallest since the ballpark opened and the first time it fell below 30,000.
The announcement that the All-Star Game will be played at Target Field in 2014 is supposed to be a salve for the ugly product that the Twins are putting on the field -- a combination of terrible starters, an offense that too often goes clueless in key situations and an overworked bullpen that would be suspect even if it worked under ideal conditions. And the defense isn't very good, either.
"Stay with us and you'll be rewarded with (the opportunity to buy) All-Star Game tickets" will be among the messages the Twins will put forth after Wednesday's party when the commissioner, the mayor, the owners and top team officials put on their happiest faces to formally announce what's been assumed for a long, long time.
One can only hope that the Twins put as much into fixing their product for April 2013 as they will into dressing up for July 2014.
Right now, I want to hear an owner who forcefully tells his fans that bad decisions and bad performance have contributed to a ball club that he's unhappy to have associated with his name. So far, all I've heard is elevator music -- Terry Ryan is the GM and he'll decide the manager's future and nobody likes losing and obviously there will be changes in 2013.
Here's the story that ESPN1500's Phil Mackey wrote from Doogie Wolfson's interview with Jim Pohlad last weekend. There are a handful of strong-sounding phrases and others where I'm not quite sure what the message is beyond the owner's assertion that "losing sucks."
And Ryan told Jim Souhan on Tuesday that he won't fire Ron Gardenhire or ask him to make changes in his coaching staff. and that he doubts he'll pursue any of the handful of elite free-agent pitchers who could be available.
I want someone to throw high-and-inside at the All-Star Game news conference, where the Twins officials who can give the answers will be gathered.
Here's a starter list of what I want to know:
*How long do you expect season-ticket holders to keep faith with an undertalented, underperforming team?
*Explain further how the jobs of the field staff are secure with a team that is again threatening to lose 100 games -- this time without a "perfect storm" of injuries to key players to explain it away? (Keep in mind that if the Twins were in the AL East or West, 100 losses would be a foregone conclusion.)
*Is the ongoing problem with injuries and roster management primarily the fault of the medical staff, the field staff, the front office or a shared responsibility? More importantly, how will you fix things?
*Do the Twins believe that the "ballpark experience" compensates for lousy baseball? If so, based on what model? Don't say the Chicago Cubs because you can go on StubHub right now and find $2 tickets for Wednesday's game. (As of 8:15 a.m. Wednesday, about 10 percent of Wrigley's capacity was for sale on StubHub.)
*As management insiders, do you have the sense that players are tuning out the coaches and manager? Do you read anything between the lines when Justin Morneau says, "There's far too much talent for us to get beat the way we're getting beat."?
The Twins have pretty much become unwatchable. They lost badly in three of the four games in Texas and were within a few more Jeff Gray pitches of giving away the game they won on Sunday. (I can't remember a pitcher giving up two home runs while I was waiting at one traffic light.) They played badly in Seattle and Oakland during the previous stops on that road trip and lost 5 of 6 games on the homestand before they left.
Of their last 19 games, they've lost 16.
Of their last 200, they've lost 123.
There's no way to sugar-coat this: Fans are picking up the pace of not paying attention. Keep in mind that Tuesday's record-low attendance included all the tickets that were sold and didn't get used. (I had four of those and I've got to tell you, the Lynx played an exciting game, Novak Djokovic doesn't mess around with overmatched opponents and the Chicken Pad Thai at Wok in the Park is worth a trip to St. Louis Park.)
And I see little that shows urgency at 1 Twins Way.
It's frustrating for me because I want to make time for this team. I want to think that better days are ahead. I want to watch the September games with hope. Really, I'm not a tough audience. But the investment isn't worth the reward right now, and I know I'm not the only one who feels that way.
Let me know if I'm missing something. That could be the case because, like many other people, I haven't been watching as closely as I used to.
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