What does it take to get fans to the ballpark?
New manager. New star first baseman, new star center fielder, new designated hitter, new corner infielder, new right fielder, new catcher, new relievers and new starters. Cheaper concession prices, more in-game festivities and weather, generally, has been great.
So what gives?
Last year, Cleveland finished 13 out of 14 American League teams by drawing about 1.6 million fans. This year, despite a complete remodeling of the franchise, it still remains in second-to-last place in the league in attendance.
This even though the Indians have recorded winning records in each month since April. This even though the team has pulled to within 2.5 games of first place and is in serious contention for one of the two wild card spots.
There’s no reason to think that 2013 is another one of the handful of seasons the Tribe has had over the past decade, where the team shows a promising first half then divebombs come August. It certainly could happen this year. Many commentators have maintained that 2013 is a rebuilding year, what with all the new parts, and soon the prosperous rebirth of the Cleveland Indians will start next year.
And perhaps it will be. But this club is showing no signs of a second-half collapse. In fact, they seem to be getting stronger the more the team plays together.
It’s a streaky club, that’s for sure. After winning five of six heading into July, they then lost six of eight. Then they won four straight in mid-July, dropped four of five on the road, and are now on a five-game winning streak.
That happens. All the pieces aren’t quite together yet, like the first year LeBron James and Chris Bosh came to Miami. Everyone expected them to immediately win 50 games in a row, but at times that season, it seemed like the team struggled to mesh well.
So why, with a rejuvenated fan base and a high-water mark of nine games above .500 is the team still lagging in attendance?
Right now, the team is on pace to draw even fewer fans than last year. There’s reason to believe that won’t happen, though.
Last year, the Indians stayed in contention into late July. The team then had three losing streaks of at least six games within one calendar month, sinking their playoff hopes. Attendance noticeably trailed off toward the end of the season, with the Indians floundering and Manny Acta getting canned.
This time last year, the Indians began their second-half nosedive. It could happen this year, but it probably won’t. It’s very likely the team will stay a few games back of the pennant and come reasonably close to winning a wild card.
And if that’s the case, fans should greet their team at Progressive Field to watch the baseball magic play itself out. The new Indians team deserves it.