If you were looking for someone to write a handbook on how to anger your customers, may we suggest the people who run the Cleveland Indians.
Just one week after not doing one damn thing to help a ballclub who, flawed or not, were in the middle of a race for a post-season spot, the team announced they would undertake a major renovation of Progressive Field.
That’s fine. The stadium is now 20 years old and the Tribe brass doesn’t want it to ignore things so it gets to be rundown like Municipal Stadium, which was basically a dump when the Indians moved out after the 1993 season.
The problem is team president Mark Shapiro said the renovations would be paid for by the Indians. They want to make sure they improve the “fan experience” at Progressive Field.
We are pretty sure that the “fan experience” would be much better in the team won. In fact, if the Tribe ever won the World Series and played at the city dump, baseball fans in Cleveland would be pretty happy.
For a franchise that has a history of tossing around nickels like manhole covers, telling your supporters you are going to spend cash on renovating the ballpark instead of getting better players is tantamount to kicking them in the face.
At the risk of having the Indians tell us it is a different situation because football has a salary cap, the Browns told us the same thing last winter. They were going to make major renovations to First Energy Stadium over the next two years, and supporters of the brown and orange were irritated as well.
Hell with the facility, get us a winning team.
Since then, the Browns have filled a lot of holes through the draft and free agency, and they brought in the most talked about player in college football over the past two seasons in Johnny Manziel.
Suddenly, no one talks about wasting money on the stadium.
It is doubtful the Indians will do the same thing this winter.
The whole removing seats concept also tells you everything you need to know about the Tribe front office.
There is no secret that attendance has been a problem basically since the Dolan family took ownership of the franchise. We believe it is due to the lack of sustained success (can’t put two consecutive over .500 seasons together), and the perception of baseball fans of distrust in ownership/front office.
Instead of building a team that will fill the seats (and there is interested in the team judging by the local television ratings, which ranks in the top five in major league baseball), the solution from Dolan and Shapiro is to remove seats that they cannot sell.
The Indians need to realize that yes, they are competing for your entertainment dollar, but they are also in the baseball business, one that measures success by wins and losses. That should be the most important goal for the franchise…winning!
The Tribe prides itself on treating players well, but does that help them attract players to the north coast? No.
Shapiro does a lot of things the right way, he treats his employees well, he is part of the community, if you go to Progressive Field, it is a great atmosphere for the family.
However, the primary objective for a major league baseball team is to win and win consistently. This is where the Tribe comes up short.
The Indians’ organization would be better served spending money on putting better players on the field and giving a facelift to a iconic ballpark.
If they could do both, fine. But once again, the priority for the Tribe seems to be off the field things rather than where they should be.