“I would never tell people how to spend their hard earned disposable income but sub 10,000 fans back to back nights to see the hottest team in baseball is not getting it done,” complained Indians reliever Frank Herrmann after a pair of midweek evening games versus Oakland were played to tens of thousands of empty seats at Progressive Field. To his credit, Herrmann set off a minor craze amongst teammates and management by giving away tickets via his Twitter account, though the Plain-Dealer’s Bud Shaw warns it’ll take more than 6 weeks of decent baseball to turn the tide (“It’s just so much easier to narrow it down to bad fans or cheap ownership and cover them up with blame”).
The Indians don’t need a hot month or two. They’ve been 30-15 as recently as two seasons ago after all. They don’t need a Cy Young candidate to attract big crowds. They had two winners in consecutive seasons. They need consecutive playoff appearances, and perhaps another World Series appearance, at the very least to move the needle. That’s the only way they’re going to put Indians’ tickets back on the family Christmas list.
The comparisons between the relatively blind allegiance awarded the Browns versus the tepid following of the Indians is as moot now as it was when closer Chris Perez raised it. This is a football town, which is not the same as saying it’s a terrible baseball town.
I once attended a press conference at Auburn where basketball coach Sonny Smith was announcing his departure, in part because he felt basketball was an afterthought in football-crazed Alabama. Head football coach Pat Dye, who was also the athletic director, made the announcement.
First question: “Sonny, tell us about your decision to leave.”
Second question: “Coach Dye, how’s football recruiting going?”
Cleveland isn’t quite Auburn, Ala. But waking up the sleeping giant in the 1990s required a new ballpark, a robust economy, an exciting team with a Murderer’s Row lineup, a poor division and the sense that October baseball was a given. Oh, and the Browns moving to Baltimore.