Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Bottom Line Brings Twins Changes

Update: With the Twins now done with their home schedule, the attendance for 2016 came in at 1,963,912. That number is the worst mark since 2004, but better than the pace Minnesota was on just over a week ago. While announced attendances over the past few games were significantly more than the amount of people in the stadium, season ticket sales saved the Twins. You can bet that 2017 will see another dip in season ticket sales, and that Minnesota will be asked to prove it.

The Minnesota Twins have just over a week's worth of baseball games left in 2016. As the season draws to a close, Paul Molitor's troops are certain to lose 100 games, and they may end up posting the worst record in team history. Although we've seen Jim Pohlad move on from long time General Manager Terry Ryan this season, the reality is that it's the bank account that reigns supreme.

Here's what we know right now. In the middle of the summer, the Twins gave Terry Ryan his walking papers. They were long overdue, and they should be considered performance related first and foremost. For far too long, his approach had become outdated and the results hadn't been fruitful. After firing his head man, Pohlad quickly went on record to suggest that Manager Paul Molitor would remain in 2017 regardless.

At that point, we were quickly reminded that Pohlad's expertise is solely rooted in dollars and cents. He's not a baseball man, Molitor isn't worthy of a vote of confidence, and the chips falling where they may still means that Pohlad's scope ends with the fans walking through the gates.

With six home games left, the Twins have a recorded attendance number of 1,831,020 fans. That boils down to roughly 24,400 fans per game. At capacity, Target Field tops out at 39,504 fans per game. That's a figure that the Twins haven't seen often at all this season. In reality, the stretch run has consisted of roughly 14,000 season tickets being accounted for every night, while the in game crowd likely falls somewhere below 10,000 people.

You can probably look at the numbers above and make the educated conclusion that the Twins aren't proud of those results. Target Field is a gorgeous venue, and baseball during a Minnesota summer and fall are some of the best ways to spend your time. What those numbers don't show on their own however, is a reality that has the current Twins club being less supported than any team in recent memory.

Since Target Field opened in 2010, the Twins have never had less than 2.2 million fans over the course of a season. That number came last year, when the Twins narrowly missed the playoffs after four straight 90 loss seasons. The first two years at their new digs saw the Twins draw over 3 million fans per year, and the third year brought in over 2.75 million. Minnesota's number for 2016 though, won't compare to anything Target Field has seen before.

When the dust settles on the year, the Twins will likely be right around 1.9 million for a final attendance figure. You'd have to go back to 2001 at the H.H.H. Metrodome to find a Twins team that drew that few fans over the course of an 81 game home slate. The 2001 Twins were coming off of four straight 90 loss seasons, but boosted their attendance to 1.7 million (after not topping 1.43 million since 1993) while winning 85 games and finishing second in the AL Central that year.

To Pohlad, and Team President Dave St. Peter, the fact that this collection of Minnesota Twins will draw the smallest crowd since 2001 is a problem. It's a problem because it doesn't even sniff previous Target Field attendance numbers, and it gets beat by the last eight seasons at the Metrodome (which was an absolute dump). The honeymoon phase with Target Field appears to be over, and expecting to draw simply because of the atmosphere is no longer a realistic proposition.

Over the winter, Pohlad and his business partners can roll out as many new food options, patios, and perks as they so choose, but without a commitment to a competitive product with a purpose on the field, the fans dollar will continue to speak. It's a great thing that the organization has decided to go in a different direction than the one Ryan was treading water in, but nothing forced them to make that decision more than the financial implications that this season presented. While wins and losses highly dictate the turnout, it's ultimately the turnout that continues to control operations.

As you make your last trips to Target Field in 2016, be glad that it's the paltry crowds that have forced change, and hope that change brings the people back. A new Baseball Operations President and General Manager will be tasked with righting the ship, and if they succeed, the Minnesota Twins will once again run like a well oiled machine.