• Low Expectations Are Easy to Exceed

    "Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he is never disappointed."
    – Alexander Pope

    Have you ever gone to see a movie that was hugely hyped, only to walk out of the theater underwhelmed after deeming it just OK? Conversely, another film that was “just OK” might have impressed you if your friends had all told you it was completely awful.

    Expectations can have an enormous impact on the way we perceive things. Which brings us to this year’s Minnesota Twins. Reality has finally set in for a fan base that was subjected to almost 200 losses over the past two years. Terry Ryan created no illusions of short-term promise with an offseason plan that was clearly not geared toward rapid improvement. What droplets of optimism existed last year around this time – that perhaps 2011 was a fluke, and that with better health the Twins would rebound toward the top of the division – have mostly evaporated.


    Obviously the lack of hope for this season has led to a dearth of excitement surrounding the product. The lacking buzz was noticeable on Opening Day at Target Field, where patches of empty seats spoke to more than just the chilly weather.

    I’d describe the current mood of the fan base at large as ambivalent, which is at least a step up from angry. Most who are paying attention can see a clear direction and long-term plan – more than could have been said the last couple years – but acknowledge that the odds of even staying remotely competitive this year are long. If the Twins dig another early hole, the reaction is more likely to be shoulder shrugs than outrage. Simply put: there’s not much room for disappointment with this team. How much worse can it really get?

    But there’s plenty of room for unexpected outcomes on the other side, and this is where the lowered standards play to the organization’s benefit. Any sort of modest early winning streak will be met with intrigue. If the team comes together after a slow start and begins stringing together some victories in June and July, it will be easy to form (possibly accurate) narratives about a young group beginning to jell.

    The fact that local ball fans aren’t necessarily too amped up about the current product doesn’t mean they’re not itching for a reason to change that outlook. And therein lies an opportunity for Ron Gardenhire and Co. It won't take a stellar team to reverse the trend of falling attendance. It will simply take a watchable team.

    If the Twins up being “just OK” this year, most of us are going to be quite pleased. The team should embrace that dynamic, because this will (hopefully) be the last time in a long while that expectations are so low. Perhaps the lessened pressure will prove to be just what this relatively inexperienced group needs.
    This article was originally published in blog: Low Expectations Are Easy to Exceed started by Nick Nelson
    Comments 54 Comments
    1. Nick Nelson's Avatar
      Nick Nelson -
      Quote Originally Posted by USAFChief View Post
      If by "watchable" you mean they win more than they lose, I agree. If by "watchable" you mean lose 90+ games, but do it with young players manning many positions, I disagree.
      By watchable I mean they're not as dreadfully horrible as they were the last two years, which probably means losing less than 90 games. But overall, the point was that they can win 75-80 games and have the season be considered a relative success. That's good news, especially for the manager whose job is on the line.

      But it also means that if they fail to meet their modest expectation (which I'd say is any meaingful degree of improvement), it'll really be time for the hammer to drop.

      Quote Originally Posted by ThePuck View Post
      It's the same as any other product being provided. If I go to a nice restaurant and the food and service are bad, I may blow it off as a bad night. If I come back another time or two, and it's the same, I'm not going to keep spending my money on it till I hear things have changed...which will likely result in a turnover of management and personnel.

      The only way to voice our concerns is through our pocketbooks...since money is all the Twins management cares about.
      This is a bit of a slippery analogy. Food and service are key parts of the dining experience for everyone. Meanwhile, people have varying priorities when they go out to a ballgame. Many casual fans go for the environment, the nice weather, the food and the beer. Wins are just a nice bonus. For others, being able to go see a legitimate and competitive team is paramount.

      I think most casual fans probably fall in the former category, and I doubt the Twins will have trouble getting people to come out to their amazing ballpark once this state thaws out. The problem is (to your point) that they'll have a hard time getting people to come back. It gets more and more difficult to convince any fan, casual or otherwise, to attend games in August when they've already been out to one or two and the crummy team is 15 games out of first place.
    1. ThePuck's Avatar
      ThePuck -
      Quote Originally Posted by Nick Nelson View Post
      By watchable I mean they're not as dreadfully horrible as they were the last two years, which probably means losing less than 90 games. But overall, the point was that they can win 75-80 games and have the season be considered a relative success. That's good news, especially for the manager whose job is on the line.

      But it also means that if they fail to meet their modest expectation (which I'd say is any meaingful degree improvement), it'll really be time for the hammer to drop.



      This is a bit of a slippery analogy. Food and service are key parts of the dining experience for everyone. Meanwhile, people have varying priorities when they go out to a ballgame. Many casual fans go for the environment, the nice weather, the food and the beer. Wins are just a nice bonus. For others, being able to go see a legitimate and competitive team is paramount.

      I think most casual fans probably fall in the former category, and I doubt the Twins will have trouble getting people to come out to their amazing ballpark once this state thaws out. The problem is that they'll have a hard time getting people to come back. It gets more and more difficult to convince any fan, casual or otherwise, to attend games in August when they've already been out to one or two and the crummy team is 15 games out of first place.
      well, we've already seen a good percentage drop in attendance from 2011 to 2012. I imagine it'll be somewhat similar this year.

      Additionally, from what I've heard (and correct me if I'm wrong) but this year there was a decent drop in season ticket sales as well. We have another year like the last two, you don't think that trend will continue?

      It seems it's already affecting things...yes, many fans won't care one way or another...the park will never truly be empty, but the dropoffs are pretty steep already, percentage-wise, and the new stadium smell still lingers in the air...
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      And I think it would have been worse w/o the All Star game incentive......that's one thing keeping season ticket sales up, imo. As for going fo the beer, not at those prices.
    1. ThePuck's Avatar
      ThePuck -
      Quote Originally Posted by mike wants wins View Post
      And I think it would have been worse w/o the All Star game incentive......that's one thing keeping season ticket sales up, imo. As for going fo the beer, not at those prices.
      exactly...
    1. USAFChief's Avatar
      USAFChief -
      " Many casual fans go for the environment, the nice weather, the food and the beer. Wins are just a nice bonus." I think you have that backwards. I think most casual fans go because of the "buzz." New stadium, place to be, it's on the news, people talking about it at work. They want to be part of it. OR Winning team, excitement, it's on the news, people talking about it at work. They want to be part of it. Remove the new stadium, remove the winning team, remove the buzz, and most casual fans tune out. You and I care about 2016--although in my case, it's way down my list of priorities--and might find reasons to continue to invest time and money, but I don't think most casual fans do. And I don't think expectations have anything to do with it. I don't think 75 wins is going to generate any buzz, or lure many casual fans to the park or get them to watch for 3 hours every night on FSN.
    1. Ultima Ratio's Avatar
      Ultima Ratio -
      Quote Originally Posted by Nick Nelson View Post
      This is a bit of a slippery analogy. Food and service are key parts of the dining experience for everyone. Meanwhile, people have varying priorities when they go out to a ballgame. Many casual fans go for the environment, the nice weather, the food and the beer. Wins are just a nice bonus. For others, being able to go see a legitimate and competitive team is paramount.
      This sounds plausible, but as we've been edified in the thread about why we watch baseball, it is illusory. Attendance and viewership will not drop (and cannot drop) because the only reason people care about baseball is due to an emotional affinity in the subconscious mind which motivates action and informs prejudices/beliefs. It's called deterministic material monism. It's not cool.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      Wait, there's a name for caring about something that actually has no real effect on me? Is there research on why people care about sports teams? I mean, I own no stock, and I know none of the people. There is no logical reason for me to care. The best reason I can think of is that it gives me something to talk about with others that care, and increases a sense of community. But it is kind of a waste of time and emotional energy, I think. I've eliminated most sports watching from my life, and am much happier.
    1. ashburyjohn's Avatar
      ashburyjohn -
      Quote Originally Posted by mike wants wins View Post
      I swear thepuck and I are not the same person.....really.
      I'm waiting to see thepuck's take on this, before forming my own opinion.
    1. ThePuck's Avatar
      ThePuck -
      Quote Originally Posted by ashburyjohn View Post
      I'm waiting to see thepuck's take on this, before forming my own opinion.
      That's funny :-)
    1. ThePuck's Avatar
      ThePuck -
      Quote Originally Posted by mike wants wins View Post
      Wait, there's a name for caring about something that actually has no real effect on me? Is there research on why people care about sports teams? I mean, I own no stock, and I know none of the people. There is no logical reason for me to care. The best reason I can think of is that it gives me something to talk about with others that care, and increases a sense of community. But it is kind of a waste of time and emotional energy, I think. I've eliminated most sports watching from my life, and am much happier.
      Baseball is the only sport I'll watch no matter who the teams are. For NFL or NCAA college football, I really only care about a couple teams. If they aren't playing, I can take it or leave it. Hockey is the same way. I don't even watch basketball...especially NBA...it's a shell of the game it used to be.

      Baseball though, every time I went through Baltimore on my way to or from a deployment, I'd make sure I'd catch a game if the Orioles were in town. I'm not an Orioles fan and at no game that I've watched there were they playing any team I like, but I didn't care. Good times.
    1. ashburyjohn's Avatar
      ashburyjohn -
      Quote Originally Posted by ThePuck View Post
      Baseball is the only sport I'll watch no matter who the teams are.
      This belongs in that other thread yesterday, but baseball is also the sport that I'll enjoy watching at just about any level of skill. Small-time HS football makes me cringe when a good runner just walks by a smaller defender and goes for an easy touchdown, likewise when a middle-school basketball center is a man among boys, but to me it's not unpleasant to watch a kid with a great fastball mow down his opponents, or to see a different kid launch a moonshot against a skinny pitcher who hasn't got facial hair yet. Fans of other sports will differ, naturally.
    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      Quote Originally Posted by jokin View Post
      I can see it already happening. Plenty of walk-up seats available for purchase on opening day. Season ticket sales way down. Media interest cratering is a direct reflection on where the local sports meida producers think the sports consumer interest is at. To wit, today might be the first game at Target Field where the "announced" crowd could be under 30,000 when the season still "matters" (Of course the actual crowd will probably be closer to 20,000).
      22900 "announced" and the place looked empty. (More "Twins Way" wins like today might staunch the blood-letting, but at this point, a 20% drop in attendance down to ~2.25M seems likely)
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      I think that the title premise:

      "Low Expectations Are Easy to Exceed"

      is totally spot on. The Twins have been having low expectations since the strike (that is '94) and the (non-) contraction (that is 2001). At that point having a "home team" was exceeding expectations. So the mediocrity of the 2000s has been exaggerated and exalted (it is amazing to win a couple division titles here and there and does not matter what happens afterwards, compared to not having a team). That caused a lot of problems and added a lot of teflon to the ones who have been exposed the last 2 seasons... And still there are Twins' fans and media that defend Gardenhire and his buddies and Ryan. Based on those low expectations.

      Unless someone is going to set the bar high as far as expectations go, this team will never excel. If players like Mike Cuddyer were fine with the loss in game 163 at the Cell and laughing afterwords at the local media, saying that "there is always next year", while avoided contact at the plate that would have tied the game (but might had messed up his hair), and this is fine with the media and the fans (who loved Cuddyer), nothing will change.

      Yes it is all about expectations.
    1. old nurse's Avatar
      old nurse -
      Quote Originally Posted by USAFChief View Post
      " Many casual fans go for the environment, the nice weather, the food and the beer. Wins are just a nice bonus." I think you have that backwards. I think most casual fans go because of the "buzz." New stadium, place to be, it's on the news, people talking about it at work. They want to be part of it. OR Winning team, excitement, it's on the news, people talking about it at work. They want to be part of it. Remove the new stadium, remove the winning team, remove the buzz, and most casual fans tune out. You and I care about 2016--although in my case, it's way down my list of priorities--and might find reasons to continue to invest time and money, but I don't think most casual fans do. And I don't think expectations have anything to do with it. I don't think 75 wins is going to generate any buzz, or lure many casual fans to the park or get them to watch for 3 hours every night on FSN.
      The dome was not sold out when they were winning, so it was not simply the winning that drew the fans to Target field.
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