The Cleveland Indians’ dismal league-worst attendance figures are not surprising or perplexing in the slightest

by Cleveland Frowns on May 9, 2013

Yes, the Indians have won 9 of their last 10 games, they lead Major League Baseball in home runs, they’re second in OPS, and with a recharged roster and a manager that’s as good as a ballclub could ask for, sit three games above .500 after a slow start, legitimately the hottest team in the game. But that doesn’t mean CBS’s Jon Heyman or anyone should be so mystified about the fact that the club has been the worst draw in the league by far, more than 20% behind the second-worst drawing team in Kansas City.

“What’s the deal with the Indians?,” Heyman asks. “Their inability to bring in crowds is quite perplexing, really.”

Progressive Field

Heyman isn’t the only one, of course. Log into your favorite social network, and you’re sure to find expressions from Tribe fans — even ones who don’t live within driving distance of the ballpark — running the gamut from concerned, to “perplexed,” to angry about the club’s attendance numbers.

The icecaps are melting, the social safety net is disappearing, child poverty and infant mortality rates in the world’s “richest” country are climbing, news media has been choked to within an inch of its life by advertisers, and the government has effectively completed its abdication to lobbyists for all the worst things. The only people making any real money at all (aside from the ballplayers) are the ones who are melting the icecaps, and damn it, why won’t the rust belters at ground zero of the home mortgage crisis spend more of theirs on baseball tickets and expensive beer and junk food?

Tribe Town, everybody. Don’t you see how much fun Nick Swisher is having out there?

While there must be some causal connection between the general state of things and these not-at-all perplexing attendance numbers of which Cleveland should be legitimately proud, there’s also the old gratingly obvious baseball related explanations that help prove that we’re not all quite brain dead yet here on the banks of the Cuyahoga.

Of course, the absurdly tilted economic playing field of Major League Baseball is still the absurdly tilted economic playing field of Major League Baseball, no matter what the Indians manage to accomplish against odds this season, and no matter how many folks like Heyman act on their incentives to convince you to ignore that. We’re still talking about a league where the richest teams have the support to routinely outspend their small market competitors by multiples; one where the last 21 World Series since the Cincinnati Reds title in 1990 have been won by a team from a media market (with a TV contract/revenue base) bigger than Cleveland’s. And we’re still talking about a city that has lost every single home grown baseball star it’s ever had (including Albert Belle, Jim Thome, Manny Ramirez, C.C. Sabathia, Cliff Lee, and Victor Martinez), with little to no hope of keeping any of them.

The likelihood that this season represents a peak in the ballclub’s small market “contention window” certainly can’t be lost on Clevelanders, who know that Mark Reynolds, Ryan Raburn and even Scott Kazmir won’t be coming back next year if they maintain anything close to their current production. Joe Smith will be a goner, too. And by the end of next season, the club will have also lost its staff ace (Masterson), its closer (Perez), and its All Star shortstop (Cabrera), among who knows what else.

It’s going to take a lot more than an early season run, or even a late season run to get over all of this, and under the circumstances, the Indians’ attendance figures are actually among the least perplexing things in the world. For folks like Heyman and others in the media to suggest otherwise is thoroughly ignorant at best, and dishonest at worst (if you’re paying more attention to baseball, you’re paying more attention to baseball media, too, of course), a failure any way it’s cut.

  • Jeff

    Those are all the reasons that I stopped watching MLB, along with living in a region that is evenly divided between Red Sox and .Yankees fans (It’s as annoying as you might imagine.) But that really why Cleveland residents aren’t going to games?

  • http://twitter.com/clevezirm Jordan Zirm

    I get the economic imbalance in baseball, and I get that Cleveland Indians baseball was void of a pulse for much of the 2000s, and the idea that rooting for guys who will be gone the following season can be tough. But a beer is now $4, about the same price as your average Cleveland bar, and the opposite of “expensive.” A delicious hot dog is $3. And to sit five rows up in the bleachers with a wonderful view of the entire baseball diamond, I paid exactly $24 for two tickets. If you like good baseball, or you just like drinking beer outside with your friends in this gorgeous weather that we’ve been experiencing for the past two weeks, then you should be able to find your way to the ballpark for a handful of games this season. So maybe it’s not completely mystifying why no one is showing up, but, to me, it’s still a bit of a head scratcher, and I’m not sure it’s because the average fan is already drawn to the conclusion that we won’t win a World Series because of our small market circumstances.

    • http://www.clevelandfrowns.com/ Cleveland Frowns

      Sure, but 20/30-somethings with breeze to shoot who can afford to believe that $4 beers are the opposite of expensive, as well as an extra whatever for tickets to a game that can be watched anywhere else on TV, are a demographic in which Cleveland lags behind other MLB cities. This is also not surprising or perplexing.

      And I think you’re underestimating the impact of the fundamental long term hopelessness embedded in MLB’s economic structure.

      • http://twitter.com/clevezirm Jordan Zirm

        The only breeze I shoot is Febreze, sir. Also, it would seem to me that going to an Indians game would be the most appealing out of all the three options we have here. The majority of its games are in the summer, you can sit outside, and if I’m not mistaken, the cost is by far the cheapest of attending any of the three. My circumstances are certainly a bit different than Cleveland main demographic, but still. The Cavs, who have been as abysmal as any sporting team out there the past three seasons, still drew 16,192 fans per game this season.

        • http://www.clevelandfrowns.com/ Cleveland Frowns

          You’re right, we shouldn’t underestimate the potential impact of Dan Gilbert’s underhanded marketing practices on the Indians’ relative share of Cleveland’s disposable sports income pie. Though in his defense, the NBA is fantastic.

  • thebearchoo

    Been to three games so far this year, and it’s pretty dissappointing because this team is pretty fun to watch. But I think the fan base has just died out and I don’t think the explanation for it is quite as simple as you’re saying. Keep in mind that the non-capped system is basically how all of Europe operates, and while it makes it more difficult to be one of the have-nots, it doesn’t stop fans over there or fans of other poor teams over here from seeing their teams in greater numbers.

    I don’t know what to think but I don’t think this is going to turn around anytime soon. My question is what happens in 20 years or so (if the economics of baseball don’t spiral out of control before then), what happens when Progressive Field starts to become outdated and they’re still seeing regular sub-10000 draws? Doesn’t look good to me.

    • http://www.clevelandfrowns.com/ Cleveland Frowns

      It’s beyond debate that as bad as “the general state of things” is in Europe, it’s still exponentially better than it is over here.

      Yes, the future of MLB in Cleveland does not look good at all absent massive structural change.

    • manc

      The big difference between European soccer and rugby and North American pro sports is the relegation system and the tiered structure of the leagues…England has the Premiership, Championship, League One, League Two, regional conferences etc. Win any of those competitions and you move up, like Hull City and Cardiff from the Championship to the Premier League for 13-14, while Reading and Queens Park Rangers are headed down.

      If we had a relegation system here, the Indians might have bounced back and forth between levels over the years.

      FA Cup final this Saturday…go City!!

  • http://twitter.com/BiffTFinancial Biff T. Financial

    Notwithstanding respective spending disparity between franchises, competitive balance is much better in MLB than in the unwatchable NBA. Of course, baseball doesn’t have the awesome hotdog cannons, fireworks, piped-in volume and lottery tickets dropping from the ceiling, but I suppose nothing is perfect.

    • http://www.clevelandfrowns.com/ Cleveland Frowns

      The competitive imbalance in the two leagues is completely different. Every team in the NBA has a much better theoretical shot at putting itself among the league’s elite.

      • nj0

        What is your statement based on exactly?

        • http://www.clevelandfrowns.com/ Cleveland Frowns

          The NBA’s salary cap, the fact that teams from places like San Antonio can build dynasties, Oklahoma City, etc.

          • nj0

            Guess I look at things differently. I don’t consider only a select few teams having a hope of winning the title in a given year a good thing.

            As a matter of fact, the way the NBA system constantly creates dynasties that render 90% of the rest of the league irrelevant for decades is what makes me clasp the MLB economic structure to my bosom, warts and all. I’d rather have a puncher’s chance every three or four years in MLB then spend decades hoping to be lucky enough to get a high pick and land a Tim Duncan or Kevin Durant.

          • http://www.clevelandfrowns.com/ Cleveland Frowns

            It’s not the NBA system that creates the imbalance, it’s the nature of the game itself (the influence that one player like a Duncan or LeBron can have on it).

            Unless you think the NBA should just pick all new teams every year.

          • nj0

            The NBA could have greater competitive balance if they eliminated some teams. They won’t do that because of money. Same reason that baseball won’t be changing their system any time soon. Not sure why it is okay for the NBA to keep on with a system that prevents competitive balance yet it is some kind of tragedy when MLB does the same.

            In addition, the “nature of the game” argument could be made for baseball as well. Producing pro players requires a massive work force called the minor leagues. To make that economically viable, teams have to pay the lowly workers peanuts. The reason they put up with this is in hopes to make big money in free agency later. A salary cap would seriously hurt their ability to make money and thus would threaten the entire system.

      • http://twitter.com/BiffTFinancial Biff T. Financial

        If you base this position upon disparity in winning percentage or historical access to titles (as in, how many franchises win), MLB is far and away more competitive than the NBA. Those are two relevant areas where we can compare objective data, I think. If you have others favoring NBA, I’m all ears, but I struggle to imagine what they would be.

        • http://www.clevelandfrowns.com/ Cleveland Frowns

          The point is that in the NBA, none of it really depends on what size market the teams are in.

          • BIKI024

            i think what you’re describing is the NHL, where there is hard cap.

            with the NBA, actually, most of it really does depend on what size the market the teams are in. The larger the market, the more revenues the team can make via TV deals, merchandising, etc, thus the more they have been willing to go into the luxury tax. sure the new CBA has made the tax penalties stiffer, and it has prevented some of the previously crazy spending teams to reel it in a bit, but a maverick owner can still gamble if they feel the urge to, giving them a distinct advantage over smaller market teams.

            the Spurs and OKC are aberrations, much like TB and STL (albeit they like OKC are sans a championships) but these team have had success from shrewd drafting and trading, etc., great coaching and of course a little bit of luck.

          • nj0

            Know this was probably just a typo, but STL is not sans championships.

          • BIKI024

            yups, good looks, just meant OKC and TB

          • http://twitter.com/BiffTFinancial Biff T. Financial

            Hmmm – you don’t notice alleged NBA superstars demanding to play in larger markets? Didn’t I watch the Decision with you?

            I can provide plenty of objective examples. In the last 11 seasons, the average World Series participant has been 12th in payroll. The Cubs, a major beneficiary of the competitive imbalance that you believe exists in MLB, have averaged 8th in payroll over that same time period. The Cubs have been routinely outspending the teams in the World Series year in and year out for over a decade, and the Cubs are synonymous with futility. How often are the NBA teams paying the most luxury taxes that futile (sure it may happen for a given season due to injuries or bad contract, but not a year after year for a decade). There also are many years when you could look at overall Yankee or Dodger payroll and laugh at how poor the payoff was in terms of competitive advantage.

            Here’s another: In the past three decades, the NBA has had 9 different champions. MLB has had 9 different champions since 2001 (12 years), and if you look back three decades, there are 19 different World Series champions.

            And that’s not even getting into raw winning percentage, where the overall disparity between the best and worst teams will always be much smaller in MLB than NBA.

            In summation: hotdog cannons

          • http://www.clevelandfrowns.com/ Cleveland Frowns

            I understand all of that, and attribute most if not all of it to the fundamental differences between the games of baseball and basketball. The point is that even despite certain superstars moving to big market cities every once in awhile in the NBA, something like a San Antonio dynasty could never happen in MLB.

          • BIKI024

            actually it happened with the Yankees in their run in the late 90s, most if not all of their key players were homegrown, so kudos goes to their GM and farm staff. yes they took care of their own after the tickertape parades and then opened their wallets afterwards, but just like the Spurs, both teams won via shrewd drafting, management, coaching and luck. lest not forget about the Spurs having the lowest chance of winning the draft lottery in 97 to land Timmy, them sheu smartly drafted TP and Manu in late 1st round and 2nd round respectively, all three are future HOF’ers.

          • http://twitter.com/BiffTFinancial Biff T. Financial

            Well, I think that I see where we differ, Frownie. If you’re talking about ability to create a dynasty, I think I see your point. I’d be thrilled with regular participation in the playoffs and the occasional world title. For what it’s worth, the Dodgers (2nd), Angels (7th) and Jays (10th) have among the highest payrolls in MLB and at this point probably have very little chance of making the playoffs (and other big payroll teams like Philly (3rd), White Sox (9th) are struggling). On the other side, small-market Oakland, KC, Cleveland, Baltimore and Pittsburgh are real threats to make the postseason. The Heat bought a title. The Yankees try to buy a title every year and only succeed in winning the World Series occasionally.

          • http://twitter.com/BiffTFinancial Biff T. Financial

            I have to disagree as to size of market not mattering in NBA. Which franchises have won titles since the (early) Reagan years? LA, Chicago, Houston, Miami, Detroit, Dallas, Boston, Philly and San Antonio. That’s one team that’s not in a major market in three decades, and perhaps not coincidentally, the team with the guy who is the consensus hands down best coach in the NBA (which admittedly is like being the world’s tallest little person).

  • Deputy Glitters

    I’m not sure if anyone else feels the same way, but for myself, I lost a lot of the love I had for attending games when they dropped Jacob’s Field for Progressive Field. Pre-switch, the stadium had an old-era feel where going to the park felt like a getaway. Even saying the name “the Jake” gave you the feeling that you were almost going down to a buddies house or a familiar pub. I remember going back after the name change and being nauseated by the inability to look anywhere without seeing “Progressive” plastered EVERYWHERE I looked. I just got the sense that I was being beaten over the head with it. Did anyone else experience this same type of thing?

    • jamick6000

      yeah all the advertising everywhere is pretty annoying.

    • http://www.clevelandfrowns.com/ Cleveland Frowns

      I can’t see through the glare of the 30,000 blazing Chief Wahoos to really notice anything else but I have no reason to doubt this report.

  • Chris P.

    so i was playing with the mlb historical payroll database on usa today’s website and figured out what percentage of that year’s total payroll each team paid between 2000 and 2010

    and then i had some fun and put the teams wins next to it. so i had 330 data points!

    then i made a plot chart! it looks random!

    • Chris P.

      then i drew a curved line on it right about through the middle in microsoft paint!

      • http://www.clevelandfrowns.com/ Cleveland Frowns

        Nice work.

        • Chris P.

          No! Wait! There’s More!

          then i thought that was dumb. because who give a crap if you win 83 games because you don’t make the playoffs. you gotta win like 93

          so… i ended up with this. if we exclude that ridiculous 120 win mariners team there’s a pretty clear break around where i drew the line. that line is about 3.333333% of salary or 1/30th of mlb salary

          and if you’re left of it, i count 12 dots.

          if you’re right of it, i count 33.

          75% of the “playoff-ish” teams come from payrolls that are above the league average.

          which in a fluky sport like baseball, where if the worst team played the best 10 times they’d win 3 or 4 – is pretty close to dominant. It’s only not a problem because

          1) baseball is more random than the other sports

          2) they expanded the playoffs to give teams who have a fluky season a better shot. and when the sport is fluky, well, random teams win once they’re in.

          in other words, baseball’s structure blows and if you disagree with me, you’re wrong.

          • http://www.clevelandfrowns.com/ Cleveland Frowns

            This is beyond debate.

          • acto

            50% of that chart is half mental.

          • Chris P.

            Yeah. When I made it I was positive I’d find what I wanted to find… Then… Well.. Kinda had to make something out of nothing.

            Then, damn, I figured I’d at least be absurd.

            I’ll tell you one thing I did sort of pull out of nothing… After I figured it all out, and didnt have crap to work with, I took those curved lines and copied them at like 10 more and less wins, thinking you could win or lose 10 baseball games on crap like bad calls and ezekiel carrera sacrifice bunts or whatever, and only like 20 seasons out of 330 were over that and they were all Tampa Bay and Minnesota flukes.

            Almost the exception that proved the rule. But by the time I did that I was more concerned with Ernest Angley again and trying to get some sort of lunch at the cathedral buffet together again.

            You know, picking winnable fights, etc…

      • SteamingPileOfCraphonsoThorpe

        Sorry for such a late comment, just catching up on my Frownie goodness, but how is it that someone did not take this graph and turn it into a Dong Graph®? One stroke (pun intended) of the mouse and many LOL’s to follow!

  • http://www.clevelandfrowns.com/ Cleveland Frowns

    From Deadspin: The umpire who blew the home run call last night is a certified horrendous umpire. http://deadspin.com/5906057/better-know-an-umpire-angel-hernandez

    • BIKI024

      BEEP BEEP BEEP

  • Biff

    I agree with you, Frownie. In addition, I would add that the Indians are just a gross organization. Everything from the team itself to the ballpark atmosphere to the way the product is marketed just feels outdated and classless. As a friend put it this morning, “I feel the same way when I walk in to an Indians game that I do when I go to my grandmother’s house.”

    • BIKI024

      homeboy’s grandmother’s house smells like beer and hot dogs??

      you think Progressive Field is outdated?? it’s still one of the nicest parks in MLB, and I’ve probably been to damn near all of them. classless?? the beer guy yell at you for not buying a beer?? if you want outdated (and classless), I suggest you check out Dodger Stadium, you may even get beat up too while you’re at it.

    • http://www.clevelandfrowns.com/ Cleveland Frowns

      Yeah. 5,000 or so Chief Wahoos will tend to do that to a place.

      All the Biffs in the house today.

      • The Cuuuuuuuuuuuuuuugs

        Wait, something is wrong with wearing head dresses war paint to sporting events?

  • BIKI024

    it’s true, Reynolds is definitely a goner, there are several big market teams with glaring holes at 1B/3B/FH and he is playing his way into a nice 4-5 year contract at $45m+. mazel tov mark! in the meantime, keep mashin and let the sabermetrics work in the Indians favor while we have him. I believe we have him at $7m, which is a STEAL!

    and as legendary Cubs fan Ferris Beuller said: life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it. terribly tragic story about another fellow Cubs fan who passed away yesterday from choking on a hot dog, absolutely brutal.

    point is, yes we know that there is serious inequity in MLB economics, and yes we know the deck is stacked against the Tribe, but nothing is better than enjoying a nice day at the park. if we win, it makes it slighly more enjoyable, but otherwise it’s still nice to sit back and relax and enjoy taking in a game that Americans have done with their friends and family for nearly 140 years.

  • p_forever

    if the indians want to boost attendance, they should add more noon, weekday games. that time slot is appealing to a demographic that is likely to have money and leisure time to burn – upper middle class business people. most will really like the idea of playing hooky for a few hours – who cares whether you stay for the whole game, etc (you aren’t exactly going after the dedicated fans in this scenario). they can take their clients/use the whole thing as a big networking event and make their corporate bosses foot the bill.

    plus you’ll also get the 20/30 somethings that like to drink “cheap” beer – i mean – they are for sure looking for excuses to do that in the middle of a workday, right?

    i mean – i realize this is just making the whole MLB grosser, in a way (concentrating your efforts on this one demographic, and thereby making the team less all about the whole community) – but i think it might work wrt boosting attendance.

    • Steve

      Umm, those are easily the least attended games. There are a lot fewer frat boys living off daddy’s trust fund in Cleveland than on the north side of Chicago.

      • p_forever

        i mean – it will take awhile to catch on. nor do i think it will be a wrigley – wrigley is actually not just all about frat boys (i lived in chicago for awhile and am not one and had no money when i lived there so i for sure know this is true). i am suggesting if we made this change cleveland’s business community would come to embrace it (maybe) and that is one community that has the money to spend buying tix for lots of games, particularly because they will not even be spending their own money – they will be buying tix for clients/business development/to woo new young recruits, etc. what i am suggesting would be much grosser and more awful than wrigley in any way. yes we would never pack the ballfield. but we would consistently get more people than we currently get consistently, and they are people that would spend money on food and beer and indians gear and etc. without thinking twice about it.

        we only have 3 or so day games a year right now. they are anomalies-no one knows what to do with them. once it became the norm people would change their practices accordingly.

        • The Cuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuugs

          I agree on the principle, but they need to be marketed way better than the “business-man’s special” that people keep shooting out there.

          Only need to get $20,000 in there for it to be worth doing, so why not shoot for it?

        • Steve

          All of this is a bunch of wishful conjecture.

          The Indians have been moving around gametimes for a couple years trying to find the best slots to draw fans. They moved weekday day games up from 1 to 12, they moved Sunday games from 1 to 3 and back to 1. They know what they’re doing, and they know that weekday day games usually draw meager crowds.

    • http://twitter.com/BiffTFinancial Biff T. Financial

      Noon/1 pm weekday games do well in places like New York, Boston, Chicago, San Francisco and St Louis but are notoriously poorly attended in smaller markets. While the idea sounds good, I don’t think that attendance data support that as a sound strategy to boost attendance in smaller markets.

      • p_forever

        i dunno – it’d be something to try, anyway. how many smaller market places actually tried this idea by putting a significant number of games at that slot? the idea of noon/1pm being the *norm* is a lot different than the idea of having 3 day games a year, right?

        and right – it doesn’t need to be marketed as solely a “business man’s special” (gross marketing for lots of reasons). jeez – it should be the stay at home mommy special. most kids are in school until 3pm. you can go out, hang with the other mommies, stay thru the 7th inning, and be home in time to meet the school bus.

  • Steve

    All of this is well and good, but it’s not like places like KC and Pittsburgh are doing much better than Cleveland, and their fans are easily outdrawing Indians’ fans. The issue just isn’t that the team has low attendances. It’s that they are significantly below #29, the gap between the Indians and Royals is larger than the gap between the Royals and #22 Pirates.

    The question isn’t “why are we doing poorly?”. We all already know that answer. It is “why are doing almost off the charts poorly and so much worse than teams that have been bad for an entire generation or seemingly hate their fans (ahem, Miami)?”

    • BIKI024

      this is nothing out of the ordinary.. Tribe attendance is clearly lower than average, but they are even worse before school let’s out. i fully expect a spike in June when all the kids are on Summer break and people have some more time to do some activities with their families. Wake me up when it’s July and we’re still above .500 and then we’ll see if attendance is still an issue.

      • nj0

        We were above .500 in July last year and ended up 13th out of 14 in attendance. I’m sick of the explanations and excuses. All that matters is that people just don’t care enough about the Indians to go to games.

      • Steve

        Tribe attendance is not just clearly lower than average. It is clearly lower than the 2nd worst mark in the league. Ready the second paragraph again. You’re answering the wrong question, and can’t help but think it’s deliberate.

        Everyone sees a spike in June. And the Tribe will still be drawing the smallest crowds outside of Florida.

        • BIKI024

          again, this is nothing out of the ordinary. tell me something we don’t know. look at past 5 years and show me something that is out of the ordinary. it isn’t. the attendance has always blown in May, it is what it is.

          • Steve

            And that’s the question we are asking. Why does attendance continuously blow so much? Why is this team drawing such absolutely crappy audiences even when they play pretty well?

            Saying “it is what it is” gets us nowhere, unless “it” means “a town uninterested in baseball”

          • nj0

            Truth bomb: Cleveland just isn’t a baseball town. The interest in the 90’s was an abnormality driven by a concurrence of unlikely events. Weather, school, winning, baseball economics, etc. are tiny issues when compared to the apathy of the city.

          • Steve

            I completely get that. I’m wondering when everyone else will though.

          • BIKI024

            It’s true Cleveland was NEVER truly a baseball town. Prior to the 93 season, there was not a single year they averaged more than 20K per game until way back in the late 40s till early 50s when they had a couple AL pennants:

            48: 33,598 WORLD SERIES CHAMP!
            49: 29,010
            50: 22,290
            51: 22,000
            52: 18,640 AL PENNANT WINNER and they still didn’t show up.

            But that attendance run in the 90s wasn’t all because they were the only show in town. The Browns were still in Cleveland in 94 and 95, the announcement wasn’t even made until AFTER the 95 season baseball season.

            93: 26,888
            94: 35,313
            95: 39,483

            Sure there was a bit of a spike after the Browns left:

            96: 41,220
            97: 42,295
            98: 42,806
            99: 42,820

            But then it stayed fairly high while the Browns were back until the team was sold to the Dolans:

            00: 42,670
            01: 39,782
            02: 32,303

            Yes the attendance is low in April and most of May, it is what it is, but it’s only 1/4 of the season. I think with the way these guys have been playing, and the type of personalities on the team, especially Francona, we should get back to the mid-2000’s type averages of over mid-20s.

            if they head into July sitting 10+ games over .500, i don’t think it’s out of the question to be averaging 30k+ for July, and then as long as they are still in the race I don’t see why it wouldn’t sustain.

          • nj0

            Don’t disagree with anything there. I’ll just add that Cleveland is more a fan of winning than a fan of the Indians. Which is fine, most places are like that. I just get tired of the excuses and explanations. It’s okay not to care about baseball.

          • Steve

            Are you suggesting that 30k would be a good number for July? Because it’s not. Fourteen teams just got that in April. 30k in July is fairly unimpressive.

          • BIKI024

            DERP

          • acto

            Biki, Two words for the higher than usual; attendance figures in the 40’s
            Bill Veeck

          • BIKI024

            yes it is what it is. especially after they grossed 250m on the STO sale and the 40m per year in licensing fees. let’s focus on them winning instead of the tired old story of why attendance blows in april and may. these guys are businessmen, they factor these things in

          • Steve

            Compare the 40m a year in licensing fees to what other teams are getting. The Padres, a market about the same size, just got $70 million a year in their deal.

            I get that talking about Cleveland fans being fairweather is not enjoyable to most people here, but its an important factor for the team going forward. nj0 said it best below about Brooklyn.

          • BIKI024

            NYC cannot sustain a 3rd team, and a transplant no less. maybe if the Dodgers or Giants moved back, but still, not gonna happen mr boogeyman.

          • Steve

            Says who? There are almost 10 times the people in the NY CSA as there are in Greater Cleveland, and they seemingly are much more interested in baseball. I have no idea how you have this confidence that Long Island or New Jersey wouldn’t jump to have it’s own team.

          • BIKI024

            um, the Mets play in Queens which is basically Long Island, and they can’t even sellout. and why would anybody in that region switch their loyalties from the Yankees to some random new team??? have you been to NYC? you realize it’s a Yankees town right??

          • Steve

            I get that its a Yankees town, and I know that people from Brooklyn and Queens are on Long Island (just don’t tell them that though).

            But putting a team in their backyard and you might have something. At least something more than dead last in attendance.

          • BIKI024

            “when they play pretty well” you have to “play well” for more than 45 game stretches. but it seems to me that this year is different because of the talent and depth we have on the roster and in the minors. not to mention the leadership we have up top with Francona, Sandy, and Mills, etc. unless we have a few of our big guys go down, i can see us hanging around for that 2nd wild card, and as we all know, all you need to do is make it to the tourney and it’s anyone’s ball game.

          • Steve

            They played pretty well for 162 games in 2007, and finished 21st in attendance. People like to ignore that.

      • http://twitter.com/BiffTFinancial Biff T. Financial

        Attendance for games to this point in the season was, for the most part, determined awhile back. And when those plans were made, the Tribe team in everyone’s mind was one of the worst we’ve seen in a long time (from the last two months of last year). I think that it’s a little silly to wring one’s hands and say, “Holy cow, the Tribe is one of the hottest teams in baseball and the city won’t support them.” They weren’t even close to the hottest team two weeks ago, that’s for sure.

        Give it time. Francona and company are building something solid. TV ratings supposed are doing well. People will come to the park when they believe that they’re going to see a good team that will put on a good show. Two weeks cannot and should not silence all skepticism and answer all questions. But it sure is exciting…

        • Steve

          This offseason, the Indians did exactly what the fanbase asked for – spent a bunch of money on the FA market. Now, I know that doesn’t completely fix the roster, but if the fans don’t respond positively to the Indians doing what they ask, then it’s incredibly clear that it was just a whiny excuse.

          If anyone thought about buying a ticket this week and said “nah, they’re not likely to play well and put on a good show”, they haven’t been paying attention. The truth is that these people never think about buying a ticket unless the division is wrapped up with a bow. Which is fine, but let’s not pretend this is anything more than an incredibly fairweather baseball town.

          • http://twitter.com/BiffTFinancial Biff T. Financial

            Cleveland sports fans are full of whiny excuses when it comes to the Tribe, I totally agree. Frankly, they’re full of whiny excuses about lots of things. It’s not a baseball town, it never has been. But the idea that things would change overnight, whatever the signings, is pie-eyed. This wasn’t a good team a month ago. They’re playing well now, but this past two weeks is out of nowhere. If the team had been this hot all season thus far, that would be one thing, but this recent streak is out of nowhere given how mediocre they were the first few weeks. The important thing is that the organization’s culture has changed for the better. Fans will buy in, one at a time, when they so choose.

          • Steve

            “This wasn’t a good team a month ago”, if you are referring to the 3-4 team that hosted the Yankees, then yeah I guess they weren’t good. But they weren’t the worst team in the league either. There seems to be a decent consensus that this was going to be a .500 team. If they had an attendance like a typical smaller market .500 team I don’t think you would hear anything about the attendance. It’s the fact they are dead last and quite far behind #29 that makes this a story.

          • nj0

            So if the team had been winning 9 out of 10 since the start of the season then we’d get over 20K a game?

          • http://twitter.com/BiffTFinancial Biff T. Financial

            I don’t know, and neither do you. What I’m saying is that it’s not possible to answer and it’s kind of a silly question. It’s even more silly to make a big deal out of attendance at the tail-end of a good stretch in early May. I agree that this isn’t a baseball town. Big deal. I didn’t realize that this was some competition to show that we’re a baseball town. I’m glad that the Tribe is looking like a good team that is building. This is unlike a couple of years ago when they started well and it felt like a mirage. What I don’t understand is why attendance is such a big point of conversation right now, but I’m not originally from here, so I suppose that I’m not jaded enough to find no joy in a two-week streak like this. In good time, I will try to learn.

            The Indians aren’t moving anywhere in the “not too distant future.” Certainly, no business is making a decision based upon the short-term attendance impact of playing well for two weeks. If they were that pessimistic, there would not have been the off-season spending.

          • nj0

            “incredibly fairweather baseball town”

            Exactly.

            And yeah, I know there’s a lot of reasons to dislike the way MLB economics operate, but that’s the way it is and it won’t be changing any time soon. People either need to get over it or come to terms with the fact that the Indians may be relocated in the not too distant future.

    • http://www.clevelandfrowns.com/ Cleveland Frowns

      KC and Pittsburgh hasn’t suffered the perennial superstar losses that we have. Plus, we’re smarter, better adjusted, etc.

      • Steve

        That only works if there was evidence that people showed up when the Sabathia, Lee and Martinezes were here. This isn’t a reaction to losing star players, people didn’t care when the stars were here.

        • http://www.clevelandfrowns.com/ Cleveland Frowns

          The decline has been steady. The Sabathia/Lee/Martinez team only made the playoffs once, anyway. I think it’s pretty insane to suggest that competitive imbalance isn’t influencing the situation.

          There’s also that KC and Pittsburgh are fielding semi-competitive teams for the first time in decades.

          • Steve

            I’m not saying competitive imbalance isn’t influencing the situation. I’m saying that from 05-09, when the team had at least two of those three on the roster, attendance topped out at 21st in the league. People weren’t going to see these stars when they were here. It is laughable that these people, who never went in the first place, are blaming the trades for not going now.

            The Royals and Pirates are no more competitive than the Indians are this year, or either of the previous two. If their fans can get excited with just a little bit of success when Cleveland’s cannot, I think that speaks volumes to the passion of the baseball fanbases in each town.

          • http://www.clevelandfrowns.com/ Cleveland Frowns

            It’s not about how competitive the Royals/Pirates are compared to the Indians, it’s about how competitive they are compared to how competitive they’ve been over the last few decades. Pirates and Royals fans had as much reason for hope coming into this season as they’ve had in 30 years.

    • Jim

      Right. I find it hard to believe Cleveland fans are somehow more fed up with the economic disparity in baseball than KC or Pittsburgh fans. The fact is Cleveland is not, nor has it ever been save for a 6 year period in the 1990’s, a baseball town.

  • The Cuuuuuuuuuuuuuugs

    Look at the sky in the picture above the field in the posted picture. Gray skies = small attendance figures. Plain and simple. Unlike Mr. Heyman, we realize that the weather is shoddy at best during April in Cleveland. Now, I don’t mind watching football in snow and a slow, constant rain. It’s probably just the fact that being in the Muni Lot for five hours prior to the game considerably clouds my thought process. But baseball, however, is the worst sport to watch while cold and soaked through.

    I don’t seriously plan on purchasing tomato plants or going to The Jake until after Memorial Day. If I’m going to buy a decent ticket, a couple hot dogs and a couple beers, I want better odds that the weather will be as enjoyable as the game. I went to go see the Phillies when I saw Halliday and Lee were pitching and it would be good weather, but I’m only one ticket.

    Your average family of four also isn’t planning to go to these games either. Homework, first communions, confirmations, proms, graduations, and spring sports take priority right now. With the knowledge that there are available seats all summer long, what is the incentive to go to one of these events when you have the ability to grab a seat in much better weather later on?

    For the Cleveland baseball team to generate higher attendance numbers, they need one of two things to happen: climate change or a creating a understanding that fans are “missing out” on something if they don’t come during April and May games. I don’t know how to convince fans of that – I’m not in the marketing department. But if they want more fans to come, they need more creative strategies than the status quo.

    Actually, I take that back and I am going to take a crack at this.
    *** Why not offer “Progressive” pricing. Start off by selling one section for $1 per seat. When that section sells out, the next section is worth $2 per seat. Stadiums have this fear of “looking empty” by placing people far away by themselves. Apparently that’s not working, so why not embrace it?

    *** Give away more promotional magnets, but only to people who purchase seats in certain areas of the stadium. I go to Opening Day just to get my team magnet for the year. If you have ushers mark tickets and then hand out magnets to people who purchase a particular ticket, you better believe I’m going to buy a ticket there.

    *** Randomly select people to win awesome free prizes. If the Horseshoe has taught us anything, it’s that Clevelanders will spend countless sums of money for the chance to catch some luck. If buying a ticket in the “Horseshoe” section or the “Ohio Lottery” section meant I also received the chance to watch batting practice at a future game (costs nothing) or to ask a question during the manager’s press conference after the game (costs nothing), again, I’d be more inclined to buy a ticket.

    *** Create a Fan Account that tracks the amount of games you go to and rewards individuals for attendance. 1 game gets you a “thank you note” on official stationary, 5 gets you a drink coozie,… so what if you have to get season ticket holders all these items – you’re drawing fans!

    Again, I’m not saying my ideas would work, but at least it’s better than “This is a Tribe Town” and Nick Swisher telling me “golly gee, I’m an Ohio guy and I’m just like you,” even though he banks more money in one at-bat than I have in my savings account.

    Until I am convinced that going to a ball game is something I really want to be doing more often, I am perfectly fine with 42 cent mussels and a hot bowl of chili at Whitey’s while the misty rain falls on the roof and not on me in my garbage bag poncho.

  • nj0

    I just don’t want to hear any crying about the team been stolen when they move to Brooklyn.

    • http://www.clevelandfrowns.com/ Cleveland Frowns

      My main question here would be whether the Curse of Wahoo would be locked in forever if we never took the opportunity to exorcise it while it was here. My early lean is yes on that.

      • nj0

        Which makes me wonder – even if we do eventually abandon the Chief, will the Curse continue to stick around to exact more karmic revenge?

  • http://www.redright88.com/ Tom_RedRight88

    In his notes column on Sunday, Terry Pluto mentioned that the Phillies are paying Cliff Lee $25 million this season. Compare that to what the Tribe is paying for their 5-man rotation:

    *Ubaldo $5,750,000
    *Scott Kazmir $1,000,000
    *Justin Masterson $5,687,500
    *Zach McAllister $496,400
    *Brett Meyers $7,000,000

    Collectively that comes out to $19.9 million for an entire starting rotation.

    Talk about an “absurdly tilted economic playing field.”

  • http://twitter.com/BiffTFinancial Biff T. Financial

    Question for you, Frownie: I wasn’t sure what you meant by “these not-at-all perplexing attendance numbers of which Cleveland should be legitimately proud.” Perhaps you’re talking above my head (entirely possible)…

    • http://www.clevelandfrowns.com/ Cleveland Frowns

      We should be proud that we’re not so easily distracted.

      • http://twitter.com/BiffTFinancial Biff T. Financial

        Aha. So Tribe attendance is poor because we’re so socially conscious and concerned with more important world events. Got it. I always knew that I was a deep thinker with great concern for the problems of the world around us, and it’s about time someone noticed. Now, back to twitter and day baseball.

        • nj0

          Everyone is busy autotuning Charles Ramsey interviews.

        • http://www.clevelandfrowns.com/ Cleveland Frowns

          Keep up the great work.

  • jamick6000

    i don’t care about the indians attendance and i enjoy it when there’s no one there.

    went to my second game of the season this week. got there a half hour before it started, bought my tickets, sat a few rows back in the bleachers. no one was sitting in the row in front of us, so i could stretch my legs. no one was sitting to my left, so i could put my mustard packets and beer there instead of on my lap or under the seat.

    I like baseball and the tribe is by far my favorite team in town, so the fact that I can get cheap, good seats easily is great.

    • BIKI024

      exactamundo

  • nj0

    Mid-70’s day in Cleveland…. afternoon baseball… a 10K performance by Kazmir… two of our FA signings go yard…. won 10 of the last 11…. 12K people in attendance….

    • BIKI024

      so are u feeling bad for the Dolan’s or what’s the issue here?? they know the drill about April and May, just look at 08 when payroll was even higher than it is now. they’ll be fine. of course Cleveland fans have something to complain about when the team is on a historic run in production and wins in this 11 game stretch.

      • Steve

        “they’ll be fine”

        This is pulled out of you-know-where. Yeah, they’ll probably stay in the black and the young masters Dolan won’t have a problem finding dinner, but dead last in attendance doesn’t lead to sustaining competitive payrolls.

      • nj0

        define “be fine”. if fine is bottom three or four in the league regardless of on-field performance then yes, they’ll be fine.

        i’m at peace with how cleveland treats the indians. i just grow tired of the excuses and rationalizing. nothing would make me happier than to see the team relocate to a city that would more fully support them. as an added bonus, moving would most likely mean the end of chief wahoo too.

        • BIKI024

          move where exactly? louisville?? brooklyn is out of the question, that market already had 2 teams and the Mets attendance isn’t amazin’ or anything.

          with the new revenue sharing deal i’m less concerned about the Dolans being hard up for cash, and more concerned with the moves the front office makes and of course the production of the players/teams. it seems to me we finally have the right combo of manager and roster and i’d rather focus on what happens on the field because who really cares of dolan profits 30m this year or 10, the team ain’t moving. is montreal the only team has moved in last 30+ years??

          • nj0

            Charlotte, Las Vegas, Portland… Of course, any move would require appeasing other teams in the area.

            I’m not saying they’ll move tomorrow, but I do wonder how Dolan and MLB baseball will look at Cleveland after another decade of poor attendance combined with a bleak regional economic outlook.

            Can the CAC Metro area continue to support three professional teams?

            It’s a legit question. If the answer is no, I think the Indians are the clear frontrunners to find a new home.

          • BIKI024

            it’s a fair question, but i disagree that it is legit. again, how many teams have moved in the MLB in modern era? just the Expos, and that was way before revenue sharing, etc. and of course Montreal isn’t exactly enriched with baseball history.

            but i guess we’re fortunate for people like you to worry about the future of the Indians. i have better things to do with my time, mainly being a degenerate, but I’m also enjoying this winning streak we’re on.

          • nj0

            wasting my time at work posting here != worrying about the future of the Indians

            also for the record, i’m kind of a degenerate myself

            kazmir 6 IP, 10 Ks, 0 BBs

          • BIKI024

            were you the one talking about Kaz in spring training?? his last 2 starts:

            2-0 12 IP, 17ks, 1 BB. 2.25 ERA

            i think we paid him 700K for the year!!

            sabermetrics baby!

          • nj0

            Yeah, I’ve been high on Kazmir for a while. Not that I knew he’d be good, but simply cause he was a no-risk, high-reward signing. Same with Giambi, Dice-K, and Capps.

      • jamick6000

        “it’s horrible, there’s a great restaurant that’s not crowded and I don’t have to wait an hour for a table. so upsetting, I can eat right away.” // “i’m concerned because there’s not enough traffic on the freeway.”

        • nj0

          not a problem until the restaurant goes out of business or doesn’t have the money to buy a better cook

          • jamick6000

            the indians make money and are in no danger of going out of business

  • alexb

    so has anyone gone to subway yet and gotten their wahoo bucks which are “sure” to be a hit with tribe fans?
    http://mlb.mlb.com/content/printer_friendly/cle/y2011/m04/d25/c18235346.jsp

    As a marketer I’m so embarrassed, for the Indians..for subway…for humans in general. Just really appalled and embarrassed. Even if that red chucklefuck wasn’t a racist caricature it’s such a weak attempt at co-branding. Wahoo bucks have been going on a couple years now it seems, i’m surprised Subway corporate hasn’t stepped in and told the local owners to cut it out.

  • BigDigg

    Interesting article: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/mlb/news/20130509/power-rankings-tigers-on-top-week-5/?sct=hp_t11_a2&eref=sihp

    The bottom 9 teams in the latest SI power poll hail from: Houston, Miami, Los Angeles (twice), Toronto, Chicago (twice), New York and Philadelphia

    I’m not saying that MLB’s Globetrotters/Generals approach isn’t a complete buzz kill for towns like Cleveland (it absolutely is), but market and payroll alone aren’t guarantees of success. There’s inherent randomness in the game. I posted months ago that something like half of the playoff teams the past few years come from small(ish) markets.

    I think the issue is credibility and specifically with our ownership. They would have been far better off paying to keep the stars while cutting costs elsewhere while still getting the approximate same results.

  • partybuddha

    I think it’s pretty simple, Indians fans have been burned so many times before, we were 30-15 just a couple of years ago and finished around 500. People are tired of paying to get their hearts broken for the umpteeth time and waiting for a legit contender to involve themselves financially and emotionally. Not saying it’s right or wrong, just the facts ma’am.

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