Culbreath: Tribe attendance dwindlingWritten by Matt 'Shaggy' Culbreath | | firstname.lastname@example.org
It was May of last year when I asked, “Are Indians Fans Apathetic?” Lamenting an early drought in attendance numbers, I wondered what it was going to take to put Cleveland baseball fans back in the seats. Granted, there was a small sample size when I pulled out the average attendance number of 14,700, and surmised that the average would have been upwards of 18,000 had a pair of Yankees games not been rained out early on. Still a pathetic number, but at least it’s just this side of 15k.
I never did follow up on those numbers from last year until just now, as I look at them to compare to this year’s attendance numbers. Keep in mind, last year’s Indians team, much like this year’s, played meaningful baseball deep into September, eventually earning themselves a spot in the one-game Wild Card Playoff (a 4-0 loss to Tampa Bay). How did the numbers pan out from the 2013 season?
19,661. 45 percent capacity at Progressive Field. Less than half-full. There were games in early September that didn’t even bring in 10,000 fans. A decent run-up late in the final games may have helped things a touch, and Cleveland did sell out the Wild Card game, but during the 81 games played at the corner of Carnegie and Ontario, they averaged the third worst in attendance numbers, and dead last in capacity.
So it shouldn’t be a shock that this year’s Indians are set to turn in an even worse number. While they were in the mix for a playoff spot until the end, they were playing from behind for most of the year. At the time of this writing, the Tribe are averaging just over 18,000 fans a game, or a pitiful 41 percent capacity. Only the Tampa Bay Rays performed worse, but their capacity looks better because they tarp off seats like big ol’ cheaters. See Also: Oakland.
The Detroit Tigers, meanwhile, built to be Division Destroyers, are once again limping into the postseason with a bipolar offense and a bullpen that nobody trusts — not that Cleveland’s situation was any better (the Tribe were in the bottom five of the league in blown saves. If half of the over 20 blown games had gone Cleveland’s way, they’d have been a posteason lock by last week.) Yet here are the Tigers, drawing an average of just under 36,000 fans a game. 87 percent turnout at Comerica Park. Keep making jokes about Detroit; someone’s finding money to spend downtown.
I am actually legitimately curious as to why Cleveland fans aren’t showing up. I know that Toledo is more of a Tiger town than a Cleveland stronghold, but there’s plenty of fans here. When was the last time you made the drive over? If you happen to be reading this and you’re from Cleveland, what’s holding you up? I’m serious: Email me at email@example.com. I want to know why you’re not going. I understand if it’s not a conscious decision: there’s no real reason for you to go versus not, so you’re just not going to go. But it’s going to get to the point where the people who want you to get rid of your name and logo are going to outnumber the people who actually go to the games, and by that point, you’re not going to be able to argue back.
Maybe you just blew all your money on Johnny Manziel jerseys. Good thing Brian Hoyer is actually killing it out there, isn’t it? Man, nothing ever goes right for Cleveland.
Matt “Shaggy” Culbreath is sports director for Newsradio 1370 WSPD.