It's time for fans to keep their part of bargain
If I had a nickel for the number of times I watched the movie “Major League” this offseason, I’d probably have enough to sign Kyle Lohse myself. As I was watching the film, though, I was pondering the Indians’ attendance problem last season. Common sense says attendance would be poor when the team is bad and pick up when the team is good. Last season, the Indians finished 29th in overall attendance with 1,559,681 fans, ahead of only Tampa Bay.
Most would point at the team’s 4th place finish and disappointing 68-94 record, but that was how it ended. Up until August, the Indians were right in the thick of the battle for the AL Central crown, yet failed to average even 20,000 visitors per home game. Why? Many blame the Indians ownership and front office for not caring enough to put a winner on the field. Fast forward to now. It’s the middle of February 2013 and the same ownership and front office have added numerous Major League talents to the roster. They’ve done their job. The question now is if the fans will hold up their end of the bargain?
For a while, I believe a lot of fans wanted to adopt the “Major League” mindset that the owners were evil and cared only about personal gain. I will admit there were times, especially last season, where I bought into this way of thinking. Watching Travis Hafner go to the disabled list yet again, feverishly waiting for the team to make a move at the trade deadline and being forced to watch Josh Willingham hit home run after home run off of a Tribe pitcher; these moments and more fueled the thoughts that the owners and front office just did not care.
Some may also argue about where the Indians actually stand in Cleveland as a sports franchise. Back in the 1990s, Jacobs Field was the place to be as the Tribe was an annual contender and two-time American League champion. But one important factor some forget is that at the time, Cleveland did not have a football team as the Browns had moved to Baltimore in 1995. Today, the Browns are a regular topic of discussion in the city despite their struggles. Some have even branded Cleveland as a football town. Indians closer Chris Perez brought this up in one of his tirades last season.
“Their whole thing is, ‘We want a winner.' Well, why do you support the Browns?” the Indians closer said late last season. “They don't win. They've never won. They left. You guys blindly support them. I don't understand it. It's a double standard, and I don't know why.”
At the time, many Browns faithful took offense with Perez’s statement, and some proceeded to bail on the Tribe for the remainder of the season to prepare for the upcoming football season. That was then. This is now.
There still is a fair amount of Browns talk among the local sports media, but the Indians have more people talking, especially after the Michael Bourn signing last week. Perez has changed his tune, as well. In an interview on WTAM 1100 with Nick Camino Saturday, the all-star closer expressed his excitement over the offseason acquisitions and even referred to the 2013 Indians as “unstoppable”. Wishful thinking? Maybe, but I highly doubt that we see another pitiful fourth place finish capped off with a month-long collapse like last season.
Look what the Indians have done. They’ve added Terry Francona, a two-time World Series champion manager and widely respected figure in all of Major League Baseball. They got another switch-hitting run producer in Nick Swisher and a right-handed power threat in Mark Reynolds. With the addition of Michael Bourn and Drew Stubbs to join Michael Brantley, the Indians will have one of the most athletic and best defensive outfields in baseball as well as plenty of speed on the base paths. Brett Myers is another veteran starter who, unlike Derek Lowe, hopefully still has something left in the tank. You’ve got Trevor Bauer, the crafty young right-hander with limitless potential. Then there are guys like Scott Kazmir and Daisuke Matsuzaka, both of whom could be a pleasant surprise for the Tribe this season.
You may want to sit down for this next part. According to ESPN Stats Info, the Cleveland Indians spent a total of $12.15 million on free agents between 2009 and 2011. This offseason, the Tribe has committed $117 million to free agents. Just take a minute to digest that, and get some smelling salts if you need them. So much for the question of whether the ownership is dedicated to building a winning team.
So Tribe fans, what is keeping you from paying a visit or two to Progressive Field this season? Unless you have a demanding job or live outside of Northeast Ohio, there really is no excuse to not attend at least one game in 2013.
The front office is incompetent? Nope, not this offseason. They’ve brought in two of arguably the top five free agents in Swisher and Bourn, a prized pitching prospect in Bauer and numerous solid middle-ground pickups.
The Dolans don’t spend enough money? Sorry, not buying it. They’ve invested more in offseason pickups this offseason for the Tribe than the New York Yankees…THE NEW YORK YANKEES!
They didn’t add enough starting pitching? Now, I’m not one to say this rotation is perfect. In fact, I’d be more than happy to add another quality starter, but if that’s your sole reason for avoiding the corner of Carnegie and Ontario, then you’re probably just being stubborn.
The bottom line is this team has not only made local headlines this offseason, but they’ve even turned the heads of the national media, who will now be paying closer attention to the Indians in 2013. I don’t want them to have to see a ballpark with only 14,000 people where the opposing fans nearly outnumber the home crowd.
I do not want to sound like I’m telling people how to spend their money because nothing could be further from the truth. I understand financial hardship in this economic climate and that investing hard-earned pay in a few nights at a ballpark may not be at the top of someone’s to-do list. But I am offering a challenge to Tribe fans, myself included. We now have a team that will have the eyes of Major League Baseball upon them this season and this 29th-in-attendance stuff cannot happen again. It just can’t.
Regardless of what the predictions are for the Indians this season, I can say this, we will at the very least have a team that is actually watchable. Do you mean to tell me watching Bourn, Stubbs and Brantley track down fly balls in the outfield won’t be entertaining? Or seeing Reynolds and Swisher along with our other sluggers club home runs won’t be worth seeing? Heck, if Bauer makes the major league squad, his warm-up routine will be worth the ticket alone.
The owners and the front office stepped up and did their job. Now it’s time for the fans to do theirs.
Jake Dungan is a communications student at Stark State College and an intern with the Akron RubberDucks. Follow him on Twitter @MajorLeagueJake.
Even given the pitching, this is the most excited I've been about Tribe Baseball since the '90's. This is it. Either we support a team that's making a big effort or we don't deserve to be called fans, IMO.
ill at the very least be watching all the games on MLB extra innings and hoping that I don't get the Matt Underwood broadcast. Holy cow, is there a worse announcer??? "Souvenir City"? - god he is a douche.