MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- People around these parts are definitely into the Minnesota Twins these days.
Why aren't they in the Metrodome?
It's the second straight year the Twins have been, well, good after eight straight mostly-miserable seasons.
The TV ratings are up, the winning percentage is way up, heck, even confidence in LaTroy Hawkins is high.
Through 50 dates -- they begin a 10-game homestand Friday against Toronto -- the Twins were averaging 21,668 per Metrodome game. At this point last year, the daily average was 22,998.
That's not too far off the pace, but one would think -- after a winter in which bumbling Bud Selig nearly lopped the Twins off Major League Baseball's list of teams -- fans would be filling up the place.
With a 14-game advantage, as of this writing, over the other stiffs in the American League Central, the Twins are smoking. They've been getting closer to turning their won-lost record into the AL's best, which would mean -- since the Junior Circuit gets to be the home team in this year's World Series -- home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
And we all remember what happened when the Twins had that before.
So what's the dilly?
It seems that they're playing too well for people to justify paying to watch 'em for a night -- or day -- under the Teflon sky.
Forget about the Dome being a dump to watch baseball in. It was packed in 1987 and 1991, and even this year there were very few empty seats when the Yankees dropped in for a three-game series in May.
Forget about the novelty of last year's sudden success wearing off. This team has everything the 2001 version had, with more power, more spunk and a much better bullpen.
Forget about the frustration with baseball's tenuous labor situation. If there is a strike, it's not going to wipe out the postseason. Go with my gut on this one.
Nope, the Twins' division lead is just too big. Why should anyone show up when they know what the outcome is going to be and what the standings are going to look like afterward? Where's the drama?
Yes, it seems there's always an excuse, especially here in Minnesota.
Let's see. What other ones will arise from the Upper Midwest Sports Fan?
Look around. The lots around the eastern edge of downtown Minneapolis aren't crowded enough.
Not enough cars to idle behind after the game. We need more congestion, people.
Anywhere in the North, no matter what the subject, all discussions eventually funnel into some kind of talk about the weather. This one is a given to come up.
Far too few advertisements scattered around the stadium facades, concourses and walls. There needs to be more clutter, more to odes American commercialism, more distractions from the playing field.
The tickets are too cheap. Too many group discounts. Too many dollar-dog nights. Too many giveaways. Sure, the diluted beers and diet sodas are still properly overpriced, but generally fans aren't given enough opportunity to empty their wallets. The Twins have got to start charging what the rest of the league does. Let's catch up, huh?
The team has too much of it. Folks are starting to figure out who these guys are. Let's switch back to like five years ago, when -- great Scotts -- Aldred was pitching and Stahoviak was manning first base. Now those were the days!
Now maybe, just maybe, fans -- many of the same who spewed venom at Selig over the winter for his contraction threat -- will run out of excuses when the calendar flips to August and realize there's a winner playing at 34 Puckett Place.
Maybe it won't happen until the first week in October, when the Twins are battling (choose one: the Yankees, Mariners, A's, Red Sox or Angels) in the wild-card round of the playoffs.
Remember that ground has not been broken for a new stadium, hence the lack of guaranteed future in Minnesota for the franchise. So it's probably a good idea for those who consider themselves supporters of Twins baseball to translate their allegiance into a ticket purchase instead of settling for the Dick Bremer-Bert Blyleven broadcast.
A few years from now, they might not have the option.
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