With the Cleveland Indians off to a slow start after the first home stand of the season, the debate on the North Coast centered on why fans were so quick to turn on the Tribe after just five games.
Attendance was terrible with back-to-back “crowds” of under 10,000 for the two weekday games against the White Sox. Sure, the weather was nasty, one game was snowed out, but in other northern markets (like Detroit) plenty of people showed up for the game.
We can only speak for ourselves, but the real problem is the distrust in the Dolan ownership.
Most of the problem could be alleviated if Larry and Paul Dolan stopped talking, but that will likely never change.
For the people in our season ticket group, the last straw came when the Indians traded Cliff Lee and Victor Martinez near the 2009 trading deadline, a full year and a half before either could become free agents.
We called our account manager shortly thereafter and told them we would not be buying in 2010, despite having season tickets since 1993.
We decided that as long as the Dolan family wasn’t going to try to win, we were not going to spend our cash.
When the family announced the purchase of the Indians, Larry Dolan said something about not being satisfied with one World Series winner, he wanted multiple titles. However, since that time, Cleveland has made just two post-season appearances (2001 and 2007), and has produced losing records in eight of the last ten years.
Still, it was the events of 2009 that have our group and many other fans peeved.
According to many reports, then GM Mark Shapiro was told to cut payroll, so he was forced to trade Lee, the reigning Cy Young Award winner, and Martinez, who cried upon being dealt, even though they could have opened the 2010 season with the Tribe.
For Lee, the Indians received utility man Jason Donald, back up catcher Lou Marson, injured starting pitcher Carlos Carrasco, and the big prospect in the deal was right-hander Jason Knapp, who had shoulder problems at the time, and has been hurt most of the time he has spent in the Cleveland organization.
At least Shapiro received Justin Masterson in the Martinez deal with the Red Sox.
Still, could the Indians have put together a contending team in 2010 with one of the best pitchers in the game at the top of the rotation and a professional switch-hitting catcher/1B in the middle of their lineup? Of course they could have. However, they chose not to.
The reason the Indians gave for making the trade well before they had to was they could get more by guaranteeing a full season for each player for the team they were dealt to, thus being able to get more. And Martinez is the type of player who would have been willing to stay with the Tribe for the long term.
As you can see, outside of Masterson, there wasn’t much of a bounty for the Indians.
Up until that point, the Indians had rebuilt from their power teams of the 1990’s, and produced a team that just missed the playoffs by one game in ’05, and went to the American League Championship Series in 2007, taking Boston to seven games.
Since the deal, Cleveland has wallowed under the .500 mark perpetually, although they had a good run early in the 2011 season before fading.
The perception of many fans changed forever with those two trades, and the recent finding of Forbes Magazine that the Indians made a $30 million profit last year only reinforces that skepticism.
And after contending for most of last year, GM Chris Antonetti basically did nothing during the off-season to fortify the 2012 Indians.
So when people wonder why there is a certain amount of apathy in Cleveland baseball fans, they need to look no further than 2009.