The Indians' poor attendance in recent years, and especially during the hot start to this season, has been a hot topic despite being a boring subject. Debating the root causes of the drop-off is as tiring as it is pointless.
Rooting out the origins isn't like identifying a redeemable quality in Larry Dolan (read: rocket science). The equation is some combination of the weather, the economy, the departure of big companies from Northeast Ohio, the psyche of the Cleveland sports fan, the public's reaction to the Tribe's trades and lack of free-agent signings, the Indians' abysmal performance, and the club's crappy choices in concerts. (That last one might just be us. Really? Relient K? We couldn't get The Baseball Project?)
So even as the Tribe had a sneaking suspicion that the team would be competitive this year, the club knew Cleveland wouldn't spontaneously start arriving at the turnstiles in droves. Did they expect the first-place Indians to be last in attendance? Probably not. But their projections probably weren't far off.
A couple of tidbits from a New York Times article on the Wahoo resurgence:
Privately, though, the Indians thought this was possible if their veterans got healthy and their young players developed. Chris Antonetti, the general manager, recruited bargain free agents with that sales pitch.
“The consensus outside the organization was maybe they were a year or two away,” reliever Chad Durbin said. “But Chris was adamant: ‘Absolutely not. You can make your decision here, there or wherever, but this team’s going to be better than everybody thinks.’ ”
The Indians have not won the World Series since 1948, and in their last appearance, in 1997, closer Jose Mesa blew the lead in the ninth inning of Game 7 against the Florida Marlins. Even without a coronation for their glory days, the Indians’ success — six division titles and two pennants from 1995 through 2001 — casts a long shadow.
“We need to pull back and do a better job of strategically assessing what we were and not look at ourselves through the lens of the mid-’90s,” Shapiro said. “It’s just not the same operating circumstances and not the same city. We need to celebrate it, but celebrate it as our heritage and not as something attainable now.”
“Our economy’s starting to get better, but how much and how quickly and how will that translate to attendance? We’re not quite sure,” Antonetti said. “We’ll always have to have an efficient payroll. For us to be successful, we will have to get more out of less.”