The Minnesota Twins face the New York Yankees in the first round of the playoffs, which starts Wednesday. That's the same team which has eliminated the Twins from the post-season three of the last four times they made it to the post season.
Whether the Twins make it to the World Series or not, they've already had a year for the record books -- at least money-wise.
The Twins set a new attendance record this season -- selling 3,223,640 tickets for games at the new Target Field. If you ask the fans at the game Sunday, the reason why is clear.
"I love this stadium," said Margaret Baumann. "I don't really like baseball, but I can come here and watch because the stadium's so great."
Baumann said her husband dragged her to Twins games at the Metrodome for years. But this year -- the Twins' first in Target Field -- is the first time Baumannn, an Eagan resident, has enjoyed the experience.
"I like being outside," she said. "I like the energy here, the people -- it feels like they're watching a baseball game. It was kind of dead at the Dome."
That was a common sentiment. Rick Schwantes of Coon Rapids became a regular this year.
"I probably wasn't at five games the last five years," he said, adding that Target Field is "beautiful. I like going to the Metrodome, too, but I just like this better."
The Twins lost Sunday 2-1 to the Toronto Blue Jays, and they're 2-8 in their last 10 games. They had already clinched a playoff spot, so a lot of the regulars were benched.
"[But] they're going to have to play better than they did in the last week," said Schwantes. "But they'll be ready. they'll do all right." The Yankees lost their last regular season game to the Boston Red Sox, and that means the Twins host the Yankees on Wednesday in the first round of the playoffs.
They're the same Yankees who swept the Twins last season in the first round of the playoffs, and who have ended the Twins playoffs hopes three times in the past decade.
But John Tauer, a psychology professor at the University of St. Thomas, who's also the school's assistant men's basketball coach, cautions against selling the Twins short.
“I like being outside. I like the energy here ... it was kind of dead at the dome.”Margaret Baumann, Twins fan
"From a rational perspective, it shouldn't matter a whole lot who the Twins play," said Tauer.
Tauer points out that this season Minnesota has virtually the same record as the Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays, who are also in the playoffs.
"If the Twins are thinking about last year's loss to the Yankees, previous losses, they're going to be in trouble," Tauer said. "Maybe being in a new field, it won't trigger some of those negative thoughts, and they can start fresh and end up toppling the mighty Yankees."
Either way, the Twins end this year as a success -- at least financially.
The team's president Dave St. Peter says in that respect, Target Field -- which was paid for in part with public funds -- has many advantages over the team's former home.
"At the Metrodome, we didn't control a significant number of revenue streams," he said. "We were playing baseball in the corner of a football stadium and just did not have a high number of high-quality seats. At Target Field, we certainly have an increase in our overall season ticket base. The premium seating has been sold out."
St. Peter says now the team has many more ways to make money -- from naming rights to corporate sponsorships and food vending at the field.
"We feel as though we're much better positioned now to keep the players we've worked so hard to draft, scout, develop in our minor leagues and bring to the big leagues," he said, "and that's ultimately where those incremental revenues are going."
That's exactly what the Twins should be doing, according to Howard Sinker, who writes about the Twins for the Star Tribune, since the novelty of the new ballpark will wear off after a few years.
"Then you really have to be good," said Sinker. "Next year, if it's September 15 and the Twins are 10 games out of first place, you're going to see an awful lot of empty seats at Target Field."