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Lockout, Shmockout: Part 4

And they all lived happily ever after(?)

Minnesota Twins Spring Training Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images

Hi there, Friends!

Now that the dust has settled on the lockout and the trades and the free agent frenzy, I thought I’d check in and say hello.

First of all, YAY! BASEBALL IS BACK! Spring Training has finally begun! This was not the case, however, when I was in Fort Myers just before the lockout ended, and the Spring Training games I’d planned to see were cancelled. I’m not complaining, though, because I escaped what apparently was a lot of snow the week we were gone, and got to take a whole week off of work. Also, when we drove through the grounds of the Lee County Sports Complex, we did get to see a few players walking around because they were finally allowed to be there. Stalker mode: Activated!

Me, in early March, in front of Hammond Stadium when there was supposed to be a game but wasn’t. Pardon the beach hair.

Anyway...

Once the lockout ended, the baseball world was on FIRE. And for those of us that only care about what happens with the Twins, there was even mega news for us! First we were all sad when The Twins traded Mitch Garver for <checks notes> Isiah Kiner-Falefa. No sooner did IKF shake hands with his new manager Rocco Baldelli, came huge, middle-of-the-night news that he, Ben Rortvedt and Josh Donaldson, along with his crappy calves and massive contract, had been traded to the Yankees for Gio Urshela and Gary Sanchez. And then, the Twins went so far as to acquire Sonny Gray to help with the starting rotation. AND THEN.... crickets. We waited and waited to see why the Twins had cleared all this salary space. We speculated on who the Twins might be going for next. Would they stick with our current roster to find a shortstop? Were we going to get an ace to anchor our starting rotation? Or what if they were just trying to save some money and call 2022 a rebuilding year after all? But remember when Falvey said they’re not interested in a rebuild this year? Was he full of all sorts of the beans, or were the Twins intent on actually making a splash in 2022?

So there we were, waiting to see what might happen with all this salary space, and holy hell did that wait pay off. We did it, you guys! The Twins signed the biggest (non-pitcher) free agent out there: Carlos. Freaking. Correa. (Side note: I wrote on more than one occasion that I wanted the Twins to do this, and nobody thought it would happen, but I manifested this into the universe and hoped and wished and you are WELCOME, Twins Territory.)

In my previous Lockout Shmockout posts, I was getting really negative and pissy about the ongoing battle between owners and players, and I was concerned about how a delay (not to mention the Twins godawful 2021 season) might deter fans from coming back. Luckily, it seems that baseball as a whole (owners, players, stadium workers, fans) walked away from this situation mostly unscathed. Games that were previously going to be cancelled to start the season are now going to be made up on off-days or as double headers, and we get our whole 162 game season. The frenzy of trades and free agency that happened completely distracted us from the fact that we were angry with the owners and MLBPA for delaying things. Any anger or resentment I had about the lockout delay seemingly disappeared overnight, just like Josh Donaldson and IKF did.

But did baseball really escape unscathed?

I thought it did. That is, until I was putting together the school’s Twins game outing that I mentioned last in my last lockout post. If you didn’t read said post or just need a refresher, the TL;DR version is that I was questioning whether I should even bother putting together our game since it was to take place during the first homestead of the season and it was likely to get cancelled.

Because I am the eternal optimistic-yet-realistic Minnesota sports fan that hopes for the best but expects the worst out of each baseball season, I still organized the game. Typically, our school’s Twins game outing is a massive success for our school, selling around 300 tickets and raising a good amount of money each year. But this year? We sold just over 100 tickets.

Based on this small sampling of tickets sold, attitudes toward the lockout (or the Twins/the state of MLB in general), show that some of the interest among the not-as-die-hard fans could have been affected after all. Of the people that told me they were waiting to see how the lockout went before ordering, most said that by the time the lockout ended, they’d made other plans or weren’t interested anymore. Of the tickets we did sell, many of the families that will be in attendance are the people that go every year, no matter what. In the end, we did get one more order for tickets after Correa signed, because this family thought it might be fun to “see our new lineup” (as the mom said) after sitting on the fence during the ordering period for our tickets.

Therefore, in my not-so-scientific-conclusion, I was kind of right about what would happen if the lockout caused any sort of delay for Spring Training or in the actual season. If there’s no baseball being played (or if there were to be any sort of delay), people would have no problem finding better things to spend their time and money on. In the case of our school, the casual fans figured the school’s Twins game wasn’t worth waiting for and found a better way to spend a weekend afternoon in early April. The trading/free agency frenzy did help save people’s interest as much as it could, but some people are (rightfully) soured a bit or bored with the game. The signing of Correa (and other big contract deals around the league) seemingly did help with fan interest.

But will it be enough?

Most fans were pleased with the outcome of the deal struck between the players and owners. (BUT WHY DO WE STILL HAVE THE MF-ING GHOST RUNNER THIS SEASON?????) So it will be interesting to see if there’s a little desperation coming from the teams if the season comes with a slow start. One example of said desperation: The Twins had tickets on sale last week with no fees, and then extended the deal an extra day (or two?) to sell some more tickets. As of the time that I’m writing this? There are PLENTY of tickets available on the Twins website for the home opener - when in years past, it has often been played in front of a sellout crowd. I feel a little silly now looking at the tickets I am still able to buy, knowing that I had set a timer to get online and order the minute they became available. “But Marea,” you may be saying, “the home opener is always cold and it’s April, and it’s just against the boring Mariners.” True, true. HOWEVER... Even the other premium tickets, say June 7 against the Yankees, still have a boat load of tickets left on the Twins website.

Sniff Sniff.... Anyone else smelling that desperation?

Only time will tell how the casual fan bounces back from the lockout this season. If the Twins have a 2019-Bomba-Squad-like April, I have a feeling people will be scrambling for tickets by May. However.. if they have a record like the 2021 Twins? The Twins might have to do more than ditch ticket fees to fill the seats. In any case, I’ll likely see most of you at a game or two, because we, the writers and readers of Twinkie Town are now, and forever will be long-suffering, ride-or-die Twins fans.

Happy almost baseball season, friends!

xoxo,

Marea