SPORTSBIZ -- JOEL HAMMOND
At least 15,000 Clevelanders love Chris Perez, but issues remain
Blog entry: May 23, 2012, 10:15 am | Author: JOEL HAMMOND
It was great to see Cleveland Indians fans cheer closer Chris Perez last night as he came on to save the team's 5-3 win over Detroit, but you couldn't help but notice the incredible timing of it all: Perez being cheered by another incredibly small crowd at a game against the division-leading Indians' best competition for a playoff spot.
That tells me issues linger beyond one man's relatively accurate criticism of the team's fan base. On Monday, I wrote that while Perez may have right that the team's attendance is pathetic, the Indians and their fans didn't need a guy making $4.5 per year for pitching 70 innings to tell everyone.
I also asked for reader responses, and boy did they come in quickly and loudly. Thanks to everyone for taking the time to read and write in; I appreciate the interaction. You always can reach me with any comments about Cleveland sports business at the link in the tagline below. Jeff P.: Chris Perez needs to make up his mind: Is he objecting to Cleveland having the lowest attendance in baseball because they're in first place or is he objecting to the fans who boo him? He says he understands the bad weather argument and the bad economy argument. Well, Chris, if you understand the bad weather, the bad economy and the bad teams we've had for 48 years, then you actually would understand why people are a little reluctant to part with far less than $4.5 million per year to come out on a work day afternoon to see you play a crappy Seattle team.
Before we get to the responses, let's debunk a myth that I heard from a few emailers: that the Indians need to lower prices, which is absurd.
If you want to argue that the Indians are expensive in comparison to the Lake County Captains, Akron Aeros or Lake Erie Crushers, fine. But the Indians are a major-league team, and you can watch them for $9 in the upper deck or $10 in the bleachers. You won't get much better than that anywhere in professional sports. And while I understand that kids are kids and tend to throw hissy fits if they don't get a souvenir or that $5 cotton candy, Indians games can be done on the relatively cheap; as my co-worker Lori Grim points out, the team's four-packs include tickets, food and a parking pass for $96. That's a deal. (Or, park for free at a meter, walk to the stadium, bring your own food and water and buy bleacher tickets. $40. Done.)
ESPN's Dave Schoenfield, meanwhile, also chimes in with more junk:
In most cities, baseball attendance can be cyclical and bandwagon. A decade ago, the Mariners led the major in attendance; but after years of boring, lousy baseball, the Mariners now rank 28th. The Indians, however, aren't boring or lousy. They're in first place. I suspect the front office needs to do a better job marketing the team. And if the team keep winning, the fans will eventually start showing up again.
Better marketing? The giveaways, “What If?” stuff, ticket specials and more aren't enough? Come on.
Anyway, on to the reader responses, edited for brevity in some cases:
Larry Deangelis: The comments were out of line by this important measure — they will create more animosity that will actually keep people away versus guilting them into showing up. Imagine a restaurant that's served bad food for years. They hire a new chef and the food improves. But after years of being burned, people are slow to return. A smart approach would be for the owner to entice people to try the food with free samples or a satisfaction guarantee. A less smart approach would be to stand out in front of the restaurant and berate people for not coming. After all, the food is so much better now.
Ron Rajecki: A lot of fans don't really care, and just want to spend an evening at the ballpark with their friends or families. Progressive Field is a great place for that contingent, and they'll show up more as the weather gets nicer. But the hardcore, baseball-smart fans that are needed to support early season attendance see a team with no first baseman, no third baseman, no left fielder, no DH, and no realistic World Series (or even playoff) hopes. The team does have some solid players, and Perez is one of them.
Dwight Coy: (The experience is) much better. Now, will that translate to putting more people in the seats? That's impossible for me to say, (as) I've always been amazed at the dynamics of Cleveland sports teams and their fans. What really brings Tribe fans out to the game? Is it really whether or not they are winning? Is it because they have a “big name” on the team? Or did they really set those attendance records back then because they were literally the only game in town?
Mark Borlin: I agree with Perez. Clevelanders always say, “We will support a winner,” and in this case, they are not. How on earth can the Browns always have support with their dreadful teams and the Indians, in first place, are last in attendance? (It's) not acceptable for a city that contends it has the best fans in the country (and) had (455 straight) sellouts and has $10 tickets.
Bob Segers: I totally agree that the economy, plus the fact that school is still in session, is the main reason that attendance is down. Add that to a poor and uncertain economy (and maybe money put aside for the new casino?) and these are the results.
Cory Baughman: I have to say I am disappointed in Clevelanders' excuses for not supporting their baseball team. I know people like to complain about how much the players get paid and how they can't afford Indians tickets, but the fact is whenever these same people are defending Cleveland, they use the fact that we are a major-league city with three major league sports franchises. Unless things turn around in the near future, I doubt we'll be a three major league team city for long.
Tracy Herron: In some respects, I think that what Chris Perez said was valid — a first place team with the lowest attendance in the MLB is pretty sad. That being said … I don't think anybody who hasn't been a lifelong Cleveland sports fan can understand how frustrating and disappointing waiting for that winning team can be. In the interest of self-preservation, we don't want to get our hopes up that one of our beloved Cleveland teams could actually win a championship. Maybe in some other city a team doing well in the early part of the season will see their fans come out in droves to support them, but in Cleveland, I don't think that can happen.
Brian Bembenick: I think the fans are still out there and I find myself listening to the radio now when I cannot watch the games on TV so that I do not miss the games — something that I have not done consistently in awhile. I believe that if the Indians keep winning, the crowds will grow. They just do not need Chris Perez to speak on this point. All he needs to do is pitch and continue to earn saves and we will be happy with him.
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