At one point last summer, this newspaper's Readers Write column turned sports-angsty after the Minnesota Twins sacrificed their 2018 season with a series of future-oriented trades. A betrayal, the letter writers said. Explained one: "[The team] pleaded with taxpayers year after year: We need you to build us a new stadium so we can be competitive."
More letters followed in October after the dismissal of manager Paul Molitor, a Hall of Famer born and raised in St. Paul.
Take heart, seasoned skeptics: Competitiveness has arrived. Just more than a quarter of the way through the 2019 schedule under new manager Rocco Baldelli, the Twins have one of the top records in the majors, winning about two-thirds of the time. The statistically oriented website FiveThirtyEight.com, as of Monday, projects them to finish with 95 wins. Teams with 95 wins can expect to make the playoffs.
We are, of course, aware of our power to jinx. It's said that when cabdrivers start giving you stock tips, it's time to sell, so when editorial boards start talking sports — well, never mind.
To sustain .600 ball, according to an analysis by the Society of American Baseball Research, a team must have either outstanding hitting or outstanding pitching — not necessarily both. The current Twins have both. As of Monday, they ranked ninth of 30 major-league teams in pitching (by earned-run average), first in runs scored and second in home runs.
We mention all this — without casting aspersions — for the sake of any readers who do not pay much attention to professional sports unless they believe they'll be rewarded.
We mention it also because, so far this year, Twins fans haven't been claiming their rewards. Attendance has been poor enough that the team was motivated to offer $5 top-deck and standing-room admission through May. Unpleasant weather is the likely cause, though longer-term trends are in play, too. However, Twins President Dave St. Peter did tell the Star Tribune's Patrick Reusse (without specifying a time frame) that TV ratings are up by 30%.
The weather and attendance have renewed chatter about whether Target Field should have been built with a retractable roof. That debate is academic — the stadium is neither roof-ready nor in need of aesthetic besmirchment.
Just go enjoy the baseball. It's really quite good.