America’s Fading Glory.
Cleveland’s “Third” Sport
In 2015, the Cleveland Indians ranked 29th in fan attendance, just ahead of the Tampa Bay Rays at 17,806 per game. With a record hovering around .500 all year, that number was still disappointing and embarrassing. Attendance has been on a downward trend since 2011. So whose fault is it?
The Cavaliers’ success? The owner? The underperforming team? The long schedule?
In the glory days of Jacob’s Field, this city set a record for consecutive sell-outs. Cleveland was a baseball city. Average fans were coming to games, the team was winning and everyone was having fun. So, who gets the credit?
The Cavs struggles? The owner spending money? A team loaded with talent and POWER? The Browns leaving town?
Baseball was different in the 90’s and early 2000’s. It was hitter’s era or steroid’s era if you prefer. That kind of baseball attracts the casual fan. People love to see the ball fly out of the park.
This year, when the Cleveland Indians sit in first place, riding an 11-game win streak, we are DEAD LAST in attendance. The downward trend continues. We are averaging a measly 16,656 fans per game. Any time you are averaging less fans than the Tampa Bay Rays, it is embarrassing – even more so when your team is in first place. It’s not April anymore. We can’t blame the cold. People are just not going to the ball park in Cleveland.
So can Cleveland be a baseball town again?
Is baseball really that much different today?
In 2000, MLB teams averaged 1.17 home runs per game, scoring over five runs per game. Since then, the numbers have trended downward until 2014. For a better part of the 2000’s, we lived in a pitcher’s era. Home runs were down and ERA’s continued to drop. The perfect recipe to drive away the casual baseball fan. But things are starting to balance out. The MLB still has dominating pitching, but offenses are picking up again. This year teams are averaging 4.5 runs per game while hitting 1.14 home runs per game. Still down from 2000 but up from the lows of 2014.
But what about the Cleveland Indians?
Let’s be honest, our bread and butter is pitching. We have the best staff in the American League, if not all of baseball. We manufacture runs with speed and timely hitting. We are a first place team. Is that enough to bring back the casual fan?
My friends who are “football first” guys say to see them in September. But I say – WATCH THE INDIANS NOW! They are young! They are exciting! They are what baseball should be – a well-balanced team that just flat outs enjoys the game.
Can Cleveland be a baseball town again? I’m not sure it can be. I’m not sure it has to be. Maybe it’s just a sports town and that’s okay. But baseball will always be a constant here.
Part of our past.
Part of our present.
Part of our future.