The official attendance for the 2015 Twins (83-79) was 2,220,054. This will be labeled for history as a decline from 2,250,606 for the 2014 Twins (70-92).
This has caused folks to observe that Minnesota’s sporting public didn’t really get into the Twins’ improbable and ultimately failed attempt to claim the second wild card position in the American League.
In truth, the locals did take a much-increased interest.
The Twins entered 2014 coming off three seasons in which they were a combined 96 games under .500. Yet, the good fortune of the All-Star Game being played in Target Field (with season-ticket holders having priority to buy tickets) allowed the Twins to sell 17,000 season tickets.
As a team, the Twins once again were also-rans and the no-show numbers among those 2,250,606 ticketholders were large. The Twins confirmed this, although it wasn’t necessary. All you had to do was look at the missing thousands when they announced crowds of 25,000.
The season tickets fell to 13,000 this season. That’s 4,000 unsold tickets per game, or 324,000 for the season, from 2014.
There was a very good chance the Twins weren’t going to reach 2 million in official attendance – and much less in actual bodies – if this season had gone as poorly as the previous four.
The Twins confirmed that the no-show rate was down substantially in 2015, thanks to a competitive club and also to a tremendous summer for weather. Oh, and the Red Cow burgers and Barrio tequila bar in the lower deck of left field seemed to help, too.
Again, confirmation from the Twins was appreciated but unnecessary. All you had to do was look and see that the number of people in the ballpark was much closer to the crowds being announced.
There were also more people watching on Fox Sports North ... an increase of 25 percent in the ratings.
Basically, this winning season came along just in time for the Twins. If the 1-6 start in April had become the Twins’ reality, they would have been fighting to sell 2 million tickets and season tickets would have taken another dive for 2016.
Now, after seeing some of those Miguel Sano home runs, a glimpse of Byron Buxton’s amazing speed and range in center field, and an attitude that eclipsed their talent … well, the Twins should be able to halt the season-ticket slide.
Baseball crowds are fascinating in the 2010s. By my observation, there are 15 percent know-it-alls, and 20 percent who love the Twins and stretch their budgets to take the family to three or four games a summer, and 5 percent to see the visiting team, and 60 percent who are there because they are looking for something to do on a nice day, and they heard the Twins were better this year, and there’s beer and food, so what the hey.
You’re right. I’m in the 15 percent.
And all the feedback I get – by e-mail, Twitter or in comments – comes from other members of that 15 percent.
We’re only three days removed from season’s end, but the fellow know-it-alls seem largely united on these points:
One, manager Paul Molitor and his boss, GM Terry Ryan, want Sano to play in the field rather than settle in as a designated hitter early in his career (he turns 23 in May); so two, Joe Mauer is making $23 million per year for three more years and thus he’s not moving off first base; meaning three, the Twins have to trade Trevor Plouffe to make room at third base.
The know-it-alls not only accept these points, they seem excited about the prospect of unloading Plouffe … mostly because of a fixation with the fact that he raps into a high number of double plays (28 in 2015).
Be careful what you wish for, know-it-alls.
Plouffe led the Twins with 80 RBI in 2014 and with 86 RBI in 2015. Don’t believe what Brian Kenny tells you. Runs batted in are meaningful. No matter how many times you get on first, second or third base, somebody almost always has to get you home.
The GDPs aren’t the only complaint about Plouffe. He wound up hitting .244 -- not good, but today .244 (with power) is the new .264. Check out the batting averages for the Houston Astros, now quarterfinalists in the 2015 World Series tournament.
Plouffe will be 30 next season. He’s turned into an adequate third baseman, and he brings power to a lineup that needs it – even with the addition of Sano.
Here’s the biggest thing: It’s Sano, who weighs 255 pounds (or more). He had to lose 20 from spring training to get into the 250s for this season.
A baseball man who watched Sano play third baseregularly at Chattanooga during the first half of this season said: “He’s remindful of Michael Cuddyer as an infielder.’’
That wasn’t a compliment.
And at this size, you put Sano at third base with its every day physical requirements in the major leagues, and he’s going to spend additional time on the disabled list.
If you trade somebody for a pitcher, make it the spare center fielder, Aaron Hicks.
Plouffe should stay. Mauer has to stay. And the solution is Sano plays 20 games at third and splits time (50-60 games) with Mauer at first.
That’s being offered from one know-it-all to many others.