ABOUT THE ATTENDANCE
The Indians will end up drawing a little over 1.9 million fans, slightly less than the 2,048,138 fans they drew last season.
In other words, it’s about the same.
I’ve been told the revenue is higher than a year ago — although I don’t know how much.
There are always two figures when it comes to attendance…how many tickets are sold…and how much money is brought in.
Tickets sold are made public in the attendance figures.
Revenue is not. My guess is the Tribe has brought in more dollars than a year ago, but not a huge amount.
In other words, the Indians held their own at the gate compared to a year ago.
THE SITUATION IN 2017
1. Last season, the Indians had decent weather in April (at least compared to 2018) and a 22-game winning streak late in the season. They had no summer rainouts.
2. While the Central Division wasn’t strong, on Aug. 1, 2017, the Indians had a 57-48 record. They were leading Kansas City by only two games. The Indians were the defending Central Division champions. There was a title chase happening in the Central Division until the Tribe started the 22-game winning streak on Aug. 24.
3. The Indians were coming off a 2016 appearance in the World Series. The 22-game winning streak fired up the belief the team could return to the World Series in 2017. It also sparked single-game ticket sales late in the season as fans wanted to be part of the record-breaking streak.
4. The Tribe went from about 10,000 season tickets in 2016 to about 12,500 in 2017. That was fueled not only by the World Series appearance, but the free agent signing of slugger Edwin Encarnacion before the 2017 season.
THE SITUATION IN 2018
1. The Indians continued to sell season tickets for 2018 during the 2017 season. By the opening of the 2017 playoffs, the Indians were up to about 13,000 season tickets for 2018.
2. The Indians opened the 2017 playoffs by winning the first two games against the Yankees. Cleveland was the pick by many experts to return to the World Series. But the Tribe lost the next three games to New York, and was shockingly eliminated from the playoffs.
3. The quick postseason exit cooled some of the advance ticket sales for 2018. The way the Indians lost and how quickly it happened was a shock and a tough blow to 2018 ticket sales.
4. The Indians had 12 April home games in 2017. The weather was OK. This April, they had 17 homes games and the weather was frigid. The Indians have long had problems selling tickets early in the season, especially on weekdays when the weather is cold.
5. Because the Central Division was so bad in 2018, there was little drama. By June, it seemed the Tribe already had the Central Division clinched — at least in terms of talent. It seems like Tribe fans have been thinking about and waiting for the playoffs for six months.
6. The Indians have had a lot of fun games this season. Jose Ramirez, Corey Kluber and Francisco Lindor are true superstars. The team has several other stars. They are fun to watch. They just were never challenged this season.
7. A strong playoff push could certainly bring more fan interest to the team.
THE REALITY OF CLEVELAND
1. Some fans will point to the 455-game sellout streak between June 6, 1995 and April 3, 2001 as Cleveland being a great baseball town. During that period, that was was true. It also was when the Tribe went into a new stadium, the Browns moved to Baltimore and the Cavs were very mediocre.
2. The Indians had not been to the postseason since 1954 when they made the playoffs in 1995. Many unique circumstances came into place to make the Tribe into the best show in town during that late 1990s era.
3. Last season, the Indians ranked 22nd in attendance. This season, it’s 21st.
4. The Tribe has had to compete with LeBron James and the championship-contending Cavaliers for entertainment dollars from 2014-18. They also have the Browns in town, and many fans still show up regardless of the football product.
5. The Indians drew 2.1 million in 2008. The last two seasons are the best attendance since then.
6. The Indians play in the No. 19 media market (Cleveland/Akron). They are the smallest market with big league teams in baseball, basketball and football.
7. The two big-time baseball towns this season are St. Louis (No. 4 attendance, 21st market) and Milwaukee (10th attendance, 35th market). The only other smaller market than Cleveland ahead of the Tribe in attendance is San Diego (18th in attendance, 28th market).
8. There’s no salary cap in baseball. Major market teams also have far more lucrative regular-season cable TV contracts than places such as Cleveland. Nearly every financial factor favors the big markets. That’s just a fact.
The Indians have consistently spent more money, especially in the last four seasons.
Here is the payroll and where it ranked in the majors, according to sportac.com.
2018: $142 million, 14th.
2017: $131 million, 18th.
2016: $105 million, 18th.
2015: $77 million, 27th.
So the payroll has nearly doubled in the last four years. That’s also as attendance has increased from the 1.5 million area to 2.0 million.
You can argue why that happens, but the numbers are the numbers. I’ve always believed Cleveland is far more of a football town than a baseball town.
To say ownership doesn’t spend is extremely unfair.
The Indians have made big moves during the season to add veterans and payroll: Andrew Miller (2016), Jay Bruce (2017), Josh Donaldson (2018). There also have been some smaller moves to add payroll and help the roster during the season.
The Tribe’s front office, led by Chris Antonetti and Mike Chernoff, is perhaps the best in baseball. Combine them with future Hall of Fame manager Terry Francona and I would say that makes them the premier run franchise in the Majors.
It’s also aided by the Dolan Family and minority owner John Sherman, who treasure stability and create an excellent work environment.
The ballpark has been remodeled and remains a very comfortable place to watch a game.
It’s hard to ask the franchise to do much more.
It seems the Cleveland baseball market draws between 1.5 million and 2.0 million fans.
That has been the attendance from 2013-18.
In those six years, the Indians have had the overall best record in the American League. They are heading to their fourth postseason appearance. The product on the field has ranged from good to exceptional.
The only missing ingredient is a World Series title.
But this is a great time to be Tribe fan.
The Indians are in an interesting position in terms of grabbing back more interest in the Cleveland market. The Browns are the Browns, and fans love to complain about them — and follow them.
Not sure what impact they have on the Tribe.
With LeBron James gone, the Cavs will return to being a normal NBA team. They drew pretty well when James was gone the last time (2011-14). But they obviously sold far more high-priced seats and corporate deals when No. 23 was in town.
If the Indians can get hot in the playoffs and return to the World Series, that should light a fire under tickets for 2019.
They also won’t have to worry about the casual Cleveland sports fan being fixated on the Cavs in May and June as they march to the Finals — unless they are ready to shock the NBA.
So the Tribe has a chance in October to capture the heartbeat of the area — and we’ll see if it pays off in ticket sales for 2019.