cleveland indians: first in a.l. central, last in fan attendance.

...and the crowd goes! Meh...

…and the crowd goes! Meh…

I turned on the baseball game between the Detroit Tigers and Cleveland Indians last night expecting to see a raucous atmosphere at Cleveland’s Progressive Field. It was, after all, a semi-crucial divisional showdown between the first-place Indians and second-place Tigers. What I saw rivaled the Indians crowds in the movie Major League. Attendance: 17,374. In a stadium that hold more than 43,000 people. The Indians are currently dead last in attendance in Major League Baseball. I guess the good people of Cleveland would rather be at home, watching the NBA Lottery to see where their Cavaliers fall in the draft (note: they got the top pick).

I’m a little shocked by the ambivalence of the Cleveland fans this season. They’ve got a new manager, Terry Francona, who’s a proven winner and a team that is playing great baseball right now. Through 44 games the Indians are atop the AL Central with a 26-18 record. Given the fact that the Indians haven’t had a winning season since 2007, their fans aren’t ready to commit. But it’s worth pointing out their commitment in 2007 was ambivalent, at best. Their 2007 attendance was in the bottom third of the league, averaging only 65 percent capacity for the season.

Typically, poor attendance indicates poor performance on the field…unless you’re the Chicago Cubs and Wrigley Field, where all manner of logic and reason go to die. As I was saying, attendance is usually tied to wins and losses. The team that wins more games usually draws more fans to the stadium. This makes sense to me. If I’m a fan of a certain team that hasn’t fielded a winner in several seasons, I’d be hard-pressed to want to shell out money to get a good seat to their slaughter night after night.

When a team starts winning again, you expect the fans to show up. It doesn’t make them fair-weather fans. It makes them excited to see a quality team take the field again.

Using the Detroit Tigers as an example, look at attendance in 2006. It was Jim Leyland’s first season as manager and the Tigers had their first winning season since 1993. A half million more fans came to see the Tigers play at Comerica Park that season over 2005’s totals.

Perhaps Indians fans are worried they’re looking at fool’s gold again, given their team started out hot in 2012 and fizzled before the All-Star break, stumbling to a 68-94 record. After all, where were the Indians last season after 44 games? Atop the AL Central. With a 26-18 record. You know what they say: fool me once…

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