After the game today, Michael Bourn was asked about the home crowds. And I think his entire response did a good job in criticizing without going all Chris Perez on the fanbase:
"Y’all tell me," Bourn said. "You’re asking the question. There’s a reason you’re asking the question. We would like to be supported a little bit more, if we could. We’re two games out. In the hunt for the second wild card. It’s been a long time since there’s been a team in the wild card here.
"We try to give them a good show every time they come out. Last few games have been kind of disappointing to us. We’re going to still play … but you want that atmosphere to be rocking like they had in the 90s. I know they were the team at the time. But we’re trying to work to be a good team. So we need that support.
"Come on out and watch us play. That’s all we want. That’s all we’re asking for."
Click on the above link to read the whole thing first.
The attendance issue has been an issue since 2002-2003. And because it's been an issue for that long, those on either side of the argument have entrenched themselves to the point where nobody's listening to each other. I think it's very possible that both these arguments are correct:
- The Cleveland/Northeast Ohio economy is such that the typical family doesn't have the means to go to 3-4 ballgames a season any more. The business community, which is a big part of the season ticket base, is much weaker than it was 15 years ago. And because the Indians have either traded or let go many of their stars, fans have not spent their hard-earned money on going to Indians games. The Indians need to earn back the fans, and they can only do that by being in contention multiple years in a row.
- Cleveland is not a baseball town. A magical confluence of events drove the Jacobs Field Era sellout streak: 1) The departure of the Browns in 1995, 2) A good economy, 3) Lots and lots of star power, and 4) The bandwagon effect from 1-3. This year is proof of that, as although the Indians have been in contention all season long, there has been no surge in attendance.
Enter Michael Bourn, who is new to Cleveland. He's the ultimate outsider, someone that before this year had only played in two games in Cleveland, and that was in 2007. In his first year, he arrived in Cleveland as part of big (by Cleveland standards) spending spree, and after the end of April the Indians had been in contention the entire season. Reason would dictate that we should be seeing attendance go up as the season went on, but in some aspects the reverse has been true. In this homestand, in which the Indians played two contenders in the wild card race, only once did the crowd top the 20,000 mark.
One of my high school teachers had a sign on his desk that read "The floggings will continue until morale improves." It's a saying that I've never forgotten, both because of the inherent humor and the inherent truth in the phrase. You can't tell people how to enjoy themselves. The best you can do is to lower the barriers to accessing enjoyment. Hence the Indians lowering concession prices and doing the buses and all the other promotions designed to make trips to Progressive Field easier on the family budget. And there are still some things that the Indians can still do, such as lowering the prices for gameday ticket buyers. I also understand that being a fan means more than just going to games, as the TV and radio ratings indicate. People are tuning in to watch and listen Indians baseball, but they just aren't going to see it in person.
Changing an attitude is really hard to do, especially once it becomes as fixed like the animus towards the Indians has. That's going to take years to change, not just a couple months of contention. But it's frustrating as a fan to see the Indians, who did all the right things after last August, essentially get punished for not winning 100 games. This team deserves to be a big deal in this town, but they aren't.