In purely baseball terms, the early part of the season has been great for the Twins. They're hitting home runs at a record pace. And their 17-10 start through the end of April has them positioned with the second-best record in the American League and the third-best record in MLB.
That has not, however, translated into one critical area: attendance.
In 14 home dates through the end of April — including three in March when the Twins opened at Target Field — the Twins averaged just 17,007 fans. That was down from the 21,072 they averaged through April 2018, and the 19.3% decrease in attendance from last year to this year through April represents the second-biggest percentage decline in the majors behind Toronto.
The seven smallest crowds in Target Field history all came in the first 14 home games this season, including Tuesday's announced crowd of 12,181 that featured far fewer fans in the actual stands.
Across the board in MLB, attendance declined less than 1% from last year through April to this year through April, per USA Today. But overall MLB attendance dropped 4% in 2018, so the Twins are not alone in this attendance battle.
There are plenty of reasons and theories for the early attendance dip for the Twins this season. Let's examine some of those here:
• The weather was not good: The Twins played twice in March at Target Field on days in Minneapolis that didn't reach 40 degrees, and things didn't get much better from there. Only one of the Twins' 14 home games this season has come on a day when the high temperature in Minneapolis even reached 60.
There were five glorious April days when the high in Minneapolis was 70 or better. The Twins were on the road or off on all five of those days. Those cold temperatures surely pushed away some would-be fans, even as the Twins started the season playing well.
• The Twins ceded control of the weather: Of course, the weather didn't used to matter when the Twins played in the Metrodome. There were 81 guaranteed home games every year. Given budget and space constraints when Target Field was approved and conceived, it was built as an open-air stadium.
I've loved that decision from Day 1, but I'm also concerned that the open air is not aging well. The priorities of a growing number of fans have shifted from focusing on the action to circulating throughout the ballpark, eating, drinking and having a good time. That's not much fun when it's cold, raining or both. And it's even less fun when poor weather causes your plans to get canceled.
The Twins have tried to combat that with more indoor spaces and flexible ticket options, but fans haven't turned out this year.
Compare the Twins to the Brewers — who play with a retractable roof in Miller Park — and you see some stark contrasts. Milwaukee had some lean years after the park opened attendance-wise, but from 2012-17, years the Brewers missed the playoffs, the park still drew at least 2.5 million fans five times.
This year the Brewers are averaging 34,063 fans in 16 home games. That's double what the Twins are averaging at Target Field. No doubt the indoor comfort helped sell tickets in Milwaukee in April.
• There's often a lag between performance and attendance: Milwaukee is also benefiting, of course, from winning 96 games last season. The Twins put a subpar product on the field for almost all of 2011-18 — with a couple of upward blips, including the wild-card berth in 2017 — and there wasn't much optimism from the fan base heading into 2019.
As a result, the Twins are paying for it at the gate. Season ticket sales are driven largely by past performance, and the record-low crowds so far at Target Field in 2019 tell you how far those numbers have fallen.