What if they held a baseball playoff game and nobody came? Oh, the Indians and Rays will be there on Wednesday, but don’t expect the kinds of panoramic views and fans flocking to the game that TV viewers saw from Pittsburgh Tuesday.
Who wants to show empty seats?
The Indians were 28th in average home attendance, drawing 1.57 million fans, and 30th in percentage of seats filled. Progressive Field wasn’t even half filled this season — Indians’ fans, the few of them that showed, sat in only 45.3% of the stadium’s seats.
The Rays were even worse. They were 30th in total attendance with 1.51 million fans, although a comparatively respectable 24th in percentage of seats filled (54.7). Of course, a good percentage of fans attending Rays games were there to root for the opponents.
The Rays and Indians drew less total fans than even the Miami Marlins, who did everything but hold a press conference in spring training to announce they’d be tanking the 2013 season. And we’ll see about 2014.
And they both drew less fans than the Houston Astros, who lost 100 games for the third straight season, topping out at 111 this year, and in whom interest was so high, they had TV ratings for a September game of 0.0. There’s a certain irony that it was against the Indians — we’re not sure how many people in Cleveland were watching either.
Fans in Boston certainly care about tonight’s game, because the Red Sox will face the winner. They might not like what they see.
The Indians will start Danny Salazar, a 23-year-old Dominican, whose entire big-league resume is 10 starts. But they’ve almost all been good ones (52 innings, 65 Ks, a 3.12 ERA) and manager Terry Francona needs Justin Masterson, one of his best starters, in the bullpen.
That seems like backward thinking, unless you’ve had to watch Chris Perez try to close games the last two years. Now that he’s not, Indians fans have no excuses not to show up anymore.
If the Pirates only knew it was so easy to win in the playoffs, maybe they wouldn’t have stayed away so long.
Some of it was the Reds’ doing, forced to start Johnny Cueto, who had pitched only 12 innings after a June injury, and looked like it Tuesday. And a lot was the Pirates’ doing: Francisco Liriano (seven four-hit innings), Russell Martin (two home runs) and Marlin Byrd (homer) were all astute pick-ups by a small-market team.
The Pirates’ last winning pitcher in the playoffs was Tim Wakefield, whose career lasted only two less years than the team’s playoff drought (the last home playoff winner was Bob Walk, now one of the team’s broadcasters).
But sentiment will only get the Pirates so far. Next is the Cardinals, who led the NL in run differential at plus-187 by 40 runs (and 130 better than the Pirates), and who swept the Pirates by 26-10 in early September (though the Pirates won the season series 10-9).
Logic says the Cardinals. The Pirates can hope that logic, like Dusty Baker, sometimes gets lost in October.