The Cleveland Indians have won 50 games, lead the Al Central by six-and-a-half games and are on pace for their best season in a generation.
You have to wonder if anyone in Cleveland knows or cares.
The Indians might be first in the AL Central, but they’re last in MLB in attendance (total fans drawn; 29th in average per game). To have had 100,000 fewer fans pay to attend your games than the Rays’, even in seven less dates, takes a major league kind of apathy.
The Indians returned to Cleveland Monday for the first time since their 14-game winning streak ended and a near capacity crowd bought tickets, though many left after a lengthy rain delay. No word on whether they were there for the Indians or the Fourth of July fireworks, but we’ll get an idea when we see how many return on Tuesday and Wednesday.
The Indians have played 36 games at home this season and approached capacity only twice: on Opening Day and the Fourth of July. In 36 home dates they’ve topped 30,000 fans only three times and 20,000 only 11. For their intrastate series with the Reds, they drew 25,279 fans, which wouldn’t be much for a single session. It took two to draw that many, much to Bud Selig’s consternation, wherever he is.
Cleveland was Believeland after the Cavs won the NBA title, but apparently that doesn’t extend to the Indians.
It wasn’t always thus — the Indians topped three million fans each season from 1996 to 2001, but have only topped two million four times since, and two of those took 90-win seasons. The Indians drew 1.8 million fans in 2011, and have decreased in every season since. Last year they drew 1,388,905 fans, and this year, despite their standing, they’re on pace to draw a few hundred less.
Nine teams have already drawn more in half of this season than the Indians did in the entirety of the last one, and a 10th will in its next home game.
You could blame the apparent disinterest on the Cleveland sports fans, but the NFL Browns haven’t had a winning season since 2007 and have played to 90% capacity or greater in every season since. Watching the home team lose isn’t the problem.
There’s no obvious reason for locals to avoid the Indians as if every night were Cheap Trick’s induction into the city’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but they are. And have been for a long time — the Indians haven’t been better than the bottom third in attendance since they were 12th in 2002, and that included the 2007 team which won 96 games, the AL Central and came within a game of going to the World Series. They were tied for first in wins but a solid 21st in attendance.
Two years ago the Royals were 25th (the Indians were 29th) in attendance in their first playoff season in 29 years, and manager Ned Yost was wondering that September where all the Royals fans were. Maybe the allure of the wild-card game was greater in Pittsburgh than K.C.
Once the Royals made it, the fans made it back, finishing 10th in attendance last year and holding 11th this year, adding almost 10,000 fans per game.
Maybe they’ll soon be a revival of interest as there’s been of talent in Cleveland. If not, it makes you wonder if too many people didn’t realize Major League was just a movie.
Also of note:
- The Mets paid Bobby Bonilla a million or so dollars on July 1, as they’ve done every year for the last decade on that date and will for the next decade. So why is it a story? Because ESPN says so. Let us know the year the Mets don’t pay Bonilla a million dollars. Then it will be news.
- The Giants declined to use a designated hitter last Thursday when Madison Bumgarner pitched, and Bumgarner went 1-for-4 with a double. That’s nice. Also stupid. To say Bumgarner is a good hitter for a pitcher is supposed to be patronizing. Bumgarner has a .182/.260/.364 slash line as a hitter, which is good — for a pitcher. For a DH, it’s terrible, and if the Giants don’t have a better hitter on their bench than Bumgarner, they might want to address that before the playoffs. They won the game in which they declined the DH, 12-6, more because of how Bumgarner pitched than how he hit. And also because they played the A’s.
- The Red Sox have hit 206 doubles in their 82 games, 32 more than any other major-league team (Colorado, 174). They’ve got a chance to break the major-league mark of 376, set by Texas in 2008.