Fox Sports North was hosting its monthly Twins viewing party on Tuesday night at Station 280, a sports-heavy bar on Como Avenue in St. Paul. The sign out front made no mention of FSN’s presence, sticking with “Pull Tabs Here” and “Happy Hour 3-to-6 PM” as the extra incentives for customers to make a stop.
Miguel Cabrera’s single in the bottom of the first inning drove in a run for the Tigers, cutting the Twins’ lead to 2-1. There was no groan of disappointment — no reaction at all — from the 80 or so people at tables, in booths or at Station 280’s long bar.
A woman named Caroline, maybe 40, was sitting in a booth with a friend. “Are you here for the Twins viewing party?” she was asked.
Caroline smiled and said: “I must be. I’m here.”
So why aren’t you watching the game?
“I have a sore neck; I can’t turn my head to look at a TV,” said Caroline, laughing at the spontaneity of the excuse she came up with for not monitoring the Twins’ action.
Many of the TVs in the bar were turned to the Twins and Tigers; the others were showing an exhibition game between the United States and Finland in advance of hockey’s World Cup.
There was an equal lack of attention being given to both. What there were among the customers were more hats and garments devoted to the Wild than the Twins, by a margin of several to zero.
There was no surprise in this, not with Paul Molitor’s second Twins club having been buried at 0-9 by the end of its first home series on April 14. This turned into 25-54, before the appearance of a faint pulse in early July.
The Twins were 21-13 from July 2 through Aug. 9. I was talking with Twins President Dave St. Peter the next night, when Brian Dozier led off with a home run against Houston’s Dallas Keuchel.
Steady rain came with the Twins leading 5-0 in the third inning and wiped out everything.
Earlier, St. Peter offered this slight optimism: “When talking about selling [season] tickets for next season, I will say that the person we hire to lead our baseball operation isn’t going to [be what moves] the needle,” he said. “I think how we play the last two months, if we can continue to provide some hope for 2017 … that’s far more important for ticket renewals.”
The Twins are 8-24 since then, including a hope-stifling, 13-game losing streak.
The Twins appeal for season-ticket renewals is now twofold:
One, we’ll let you wait until the end of October to make a payment, perchance you will be inspired by our choice as the leader of baseball operations.
Two, please watch the video included in the appeal where our one star, Dozier, and Molitor are asking you not to believe your lying eyes from this season.
The mystery is CEO Jim Pohlad’s commitment to Molitor, as if he carries a cache of loyalty with the Twins’ ever-diminishing audience. Molitor has tremendous credibility as a player, but as a manager?
Forget the bad pitching, the yoke around this club’s neck for six years. The fact the Twins have spent the entire season featuring lousy fielding, asinine base running and stagnation with a hitter such as Miguel Sano (the most important player in the organization) is a troubling reflection on Molitor and his coaches.
The endless blunders the manager has overseen far outweigh any positives of 2015. I don’t know how a new baseball boss could take an objective look at the way the Twins have been managed and coached in 2016 without saying to Pohlad:
“I have to fire the whole bunch.”
Still, I don’t buy being stuck with a manager as the reason former Red Sox GM Ben Cherington declined an interview. He landed with Toronto on Wednesday as vice president of baseball operations. Before that, Cherington might have looked at the Twins and saw a team with no pitching and with few prospects of star potential from Class AA on down.
I’m on board with J.J. Picollo, the No. 2 person in baseball operations in Kansas City, a guy who won’t be rattled when attendance falls to 1.6 million next season and his team’s bottom line is bleeding.
I’m not on board with Jason McLeod, the No. 3 person in baseball operations with the Chicago Cubs. He’s a Theo Epstein creation who has spent most of his front office career with unlimited resources in Boston and now Wrigleyville.
What Picollo (or anyone else) must have is the authority to do whatever deemed necessary, even if that means blowing out the major league staff.
Patrick Reusse can be heard 3-6 p.m. weekdays on AM-1500. firstname.lastname@example.org