It is an annual rite every fall in Cleveland, especially if the Indians are in contention. Why doesn’t anyone go to Progressive Field?
Last night, they drew just under 10,000 fans for a game with post-season implications because the Tribe is still under five games behind for a wild card spot in the American League.
Certainly, there is interest in the Indians, their local television ratings ranking near the top in all of major league baseball. However, those ratings don’t translate to putting people in the seats.
We are sure that the front office has conducted polls and surveys to find out why fans do not turn out for games, and it appears they respond to some of the comments by making changes to the game day experience at the now 20-year-old ballpark.
However, they ignore the real reason for people staying home and that would be the lack of trust in the current ownership and front office.
Instead, they spend a lot of time trying to contradict the opinions of the masses, mostly by pointing out market limitations, etc., and they also have many media people backing them up in regard to the perception of the fans.
They need to realize that perception is reality and they need to do something to change the mindset of the playing public.
Fans do not believe there is any real commitment to winning with the Indians, and they can back that up by the total inactivity of GM Chris Antonetti both at the trading deadline this season, but also during the winter when the Tribe was coming off a 92 win season, and interest in baseball was up all around the town, because of the sizzling September that put the team in the playoffs.
Instead of striking while the iron was hot in terms of interest, the Tribe didn’t make any significant moves this winter (sorry, David Murphy) to show the fans they weren’t satisfied with being ousted in the single game wild card contest.
Then they followed that by trading away two veterans who were key parts going into the 2014 season at the trading deadline even though the Indians were very much in contention at the time.
If Antonetti did make a trade to bring in let’s say David Price at the deadline, would there have been instant sellouts at Progressive Field? Of course not, but there is no question there would have been a buzz around the city, and the talk shows would have been filled with Tribe talk.
Which brings us to another failure of the front office, and this is something we’ve addressed before. The Indians made a terrible short-sighted move in staying with WTAM as the team’s flagship station instead of moving to an all sports stations like WKNR or 92.3.
No doubt both stations would have more Indians’ based programming if a significant amount of their spring and summer programming was Tribe baseball. As it stands right now, the baseball team is an afterthought on both stations.
The continue to misjudge their market. What draws people to game in Cleveland, Ohio is winning and the hope of winning. All the other stuff is nice, but it doesn’t give fans a reason to go to the ballpark. If the Indians make the playoffs again this year, they will start to see fans returning to watch.
Even the Browns have suffered attendance loss because of their terrible record over the last several years.
Is there a solution? A good start would be lowering ticket prices and putting individual game tickets on sale around Thanksgiving Day so fans can buy them as Christmas presents for hard-core baseball fans.
But the Tribe needs to make a splash this winter and show fans they want to win.
Until that perception is changed, there is going to be a problem. The Indians are the third sports option right now in Cleveland now that LeBron James and Kevin Love are with the Cavaliers. That means it could be June before the Tribe has a stage all to itself.
They need to give fans a reason to show up at Progressive Field, but they need to stop ignoring the basic problem–that they aren’t interested in winning big.