Links: Attendance woes in Cleveland

In response to Cleveland Indians closer Chris Perez complaining about the team's attendance -- the Indians rank last in the majors in per-game average -- I wrote a little bit about Cleveland's attendance in Clearing the Bases. Susan Petrone of "It's Pronounced Lajaway" had an analogy today, comparing Indians fans to an abused dog: It will take time for the Indians to earn the fans' trust.

That makes sense; one decent season and a good 40 games won't send fans flocking to the ballpark. Still, the attendance problems are a little odd; this isn't Tampa Bay, where the fans have never shown up, or Pittsburgh, where the Pirates haven't fielding a winning team since 1992. This goes beyond waiting for a team to win or a city's economic climate, although all that factors in a bit. It's perhaps worth noting that when the Indians had their great attendance run from 1995 through 2001 the team was not only good (six playoff seasons in seven years) but the Browns were also absent from 1996 to 1998. The Cavs, a strong team through much of the '90s, collapsed in 1999 and suffered through a string of terrible seasons. So the Indians built up a following right at the exact right time. The Oakland A's similarly attracted their largest gates when the Raiders were in Los Angeles.

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.