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May 3, 2001
The Daily Prospectus
Bud? You there, Bud?
Last night's scene at the Metrodome in Minneapolis was a blot on the Twins' great start. Some imbeciles in the left-field seats decided that the sixth inning would be a good time to test their arms, and began throwing objects at Yankees' left fielder and ex-Twin, Chuck Knoblauch.
As bad as the incident was--and I don't want to minimize it--it's important to note that it happened in a building filled with baseball fans. It wasn't a sellout, but the 36,825 who bought tickets for last night's game comprised the second-biggest crowd in baseball Wednesday.
It wasn't just last night. The Twins drew more than 80,000 fans for the Yankee series, and are averaging well over 25,000 fans a game on this homestand.
How'd that happen? After all, isn't the Metrodome a horrible place to watch a baseball game? Aren't the Twins supposed to be doomed unless they get a new ballpark, preferably one built with lots and lots of taxpayer money? That's what the used-car salesman tells us, right?
Commissioner Bud Selig should be pointing to the Twins as a shining example of how success in baseball isn't solely determined by payroll. He should be talking about how great it is that fans anywhere will support a team that's exciting and entertaining and successful, even if they don't play in a $350-million gift from the public.
Selig should be capitalizing on this to promote the game. That's what the nominal leader of the sport should do: help feed excitement over the product and help it be successful.
Instead, we're getting silence, because the Twins' success and the big crowds at the Metrodome don't fit with Selig's predetermined posture, and he'd prefer to ignore them. The Twins play in a small market and do not have a taxpayer-funded mallpark, and therefore are destined to play lousy baseball in front of tiny, apathetic crowds. No one will go to games at the Metrodome, because it doesn't fit the image of Camden Yards and all the retro parks that have followed.
From Baseball Prospectus 1999:
"A young, exciting, successful team could reignite the city's affection for the team. For all the bleating about how the Twins need a park to survive, the Twins drew enormous, raucous, handkerchief-waving mobs during their 1987 and 1991 championship seasons.
If Bud Selig's #1 priority was growing the game of baseball, he would be promoting the hell out of the Twins. He would be encouraging local fans to support the team and finding ways to get exposure for the team and for players like Doug Mientkiewicz and Torii Hunter.
Selig doesn't want that. He wants to take money from taxpayers and give it to his industry. He wants guaranteed risk-free profits for all of the ownership cohort, regardless of level of investment and level of competence, preferably while taking money away from the players who actually bring fans to the park and the ownership groups who invest in their product.
Selig wants to call black white and then have a discussion over whether it's eggshell or ivory.
The Twins don't fit his paradigm, and he damn well isn't going to stand up and point that out. Hope and faith? Selig hopes Twins fans go away again, because their faith could ruin all of his plans.
God bless them.
Joe Sheehan is an author of Baseball Prospectus. Contact him by clicking here.