When the Twins announced this week that they were making enhancements to Target Field, the team's hitters waited for one that didn't materialize. Twins first baseman Justin Morneau said via e-mail Thursday that the team's hitters are "very disappointed" with the organization's decision not to move in the fences at Target Field for next season.
Team President Dave St. Peter confirmed that decision this week, as the team unveiled $4 million to $6 million in ballpark improvements, including a new high-definition scoreboard in right field.
According to ESPN.com's park factors, Target Field was the toughest home run park in the majors. The Twins hit 52 home runs at home and 90 on the road, while their pitchers surrendered 64 homers at home and 91 on the road.
"Right-center to left-center is ridiculous," Morneau said in an e-mail reply to the Star Tribune. "[It's] almost impossible for a righthanded hitter to [homer to the] opposite field and very difficult for lefties. It affects the hitters a lot, and you start to develop bad habits as a hitter when you feel like you can only pull the ball to hit it over the fence. You take those habits on the road."
The Twins' 53-28 home record was the best in the American League; they went 41-40 on the road.
"We had a lot of discussions in the clubhouse with the manager and general manager, but right now there is no plan to alter the dimensions," St. Peter said. "We have to remember we won 53 games in this place, so I think we liked how Target field played."
Morneau conceded that point.
"Home wins are the most important thing at the end of the day," he said. "But I believe we would have done that no matter what with the team we had. I think we had a team built around power and offense and were not able to take full advantage of it."
When reached on his cell phone, Morneau said he hoped his comments didn't sound selfish and stressed that he was thinking beyond individual statistics, toward the team's future success.
Morneau hit only four of his 18 home runs at Target Field. He didn't play after suffering a concussion July 7, but this proved a season-long trend for several others. Joe Mauer hit one of his nine homers at home, Delmon Young six of 21 and Jason Kubel eight of 21.
There were two notable exceptions. Jim Thome hit 15 of his 25 homers at Target Field, and Michael Cuddyer hit seven of 14 there.
But Thome is a free agent, and Cuddyer has one year remaining on his contract. Mauer and Morneau are the two lefthanded-hitting franchise cornerstones.
Mauer is entering the first year of his eight-year, $184 million deal, and Morneau still has three years remaining on his six-year, $80 million deal. During Mauer's 2009 MVP season, he hit 16 of his 28 home runs at the Metrodome, including 10 to the opposite field. Mauer secured his fourth Silver Slugger Award on Thursday, as the league's top hitting catcher, despite hitting 19 fewer home runs than in 2009.
Mauer said this "was a year of trying to figure things out [in the new ballpark]."
"It was probably a better place for pitchers, but we also won a lot of ballgames there," Mauer said. "So if our team's winning, that's really the bottom line. ... [As a catcher] there's a different way of attacking hitters [at Target Field]. I know, especially late in the season ... it was almost calling an entirely different game here as in Chicago."
Morneau, who has met with Twins officials on the subject, said he hoped they'd install a new fence between the left-center and right-center field alleys, trimming some distance to home plate.
Target Field's dimensions are actually similar to the Metrodome's, but the 23-foot right field wall extends farther toward center than Metrodome's infamous baggie, and an angular fence leaves more square feet of outfield space, especially in left-center. All season, hitters spoke of swirling winds and the ball not carrying well in Minnesota's open air.
In 2009, the Twins hit 96 home runs at home and 76 on the road, while their pitchers surrendered 93 home runs at home and 92 on the road. Besides the dimensions, Twins hitters voiced concerns about the glare issues with Target Field's batter's eye.
"Right now, that's the focus," St. Peter said. "We certainly want to address anything that falls into the safety category for players. ... It's never going to be perfect. Sun and glare is a part of the batter's eye in probably 25 ballparks. It'll be no different here for some of those late-afternoon starts, but can we find a way to make it better? That's what we're working on."
'90 percent' factor
Asked how his recovery from a concussion is going, Morneau wrote: "I am feeling a lot better. Not 100 [percent] yet, but I haven't really done much to test it, as there hasn't really been a reason. Around [Nov. 1-15] is when I usually start up again, so I am not behind. ... If I had to put a number on it, I would say 90 [percent]."