Indians First In Standings, Last In Attendance

May 9, 2012; Cleveland, OH, USA; Two fans sit in the upper deck during a game between the Chicago White Sox and the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-US PRESSWIRE

news flash: Chris Perez is pitching really well!

In other news, Chris "Pure Rage" Perez isn't totally thrilled with how few Cleveland baseball fans have been showing up to watch him pitch really well. Via Joanne C. Gerstner in the Times:

"It’s just a slap in the face when you’re last in attendance," Perez said, according to USA Today. "Last. It’s not like we’re 25th or 26th. We’re last. Oakland is out-drawing us. That’s embarrassing."

The Indians’ front office went into damage control mode, disputing Perez’s thoughts.

"We as an organization clearly disagree with him. We appreciate our fans, we respect our fans," Indians President Mark Shapiro said, according to USA Today. "We certainly want more to come and we’re working extremely hard to make that happen, but it’s our underlying belief that if the team continues to play the way it plays and we continue to win, then more fans will come out."

I don't like to contradict Mark Shapiro, but there's not a great deal of evidence suggesting the fans will come out, even if the Indians keep winning. Maybe if they keep winning for a whole season. Or two.

They hardly came out last season, when the Indians occupied first place at the All-Star break and were legitimate contenders through the middle of August. The Indians failed to draw two million customers, ranking 25th in the majors in attendance.

The last time the Indians were good, in 2007, they drew 2.3 million to finish ninth in the American League in attendance. There wasn't any carry-over, as attendance fell off somewhat in '08. Since then, the Indians' attendance has been terrible when they've been terrible, and decent when they've been decent. Maybe the message is that if the Indians are ever good again, the attendance will follow.

I wonder, though ... How many teams in recent seasons with good records but low payrolls have really drawn well? Three years ago, the Rockies won 92 games with a low payroll and drew 2.7 million. That's pretty good, if just middle-of-the-pack in the National League. And they've essentially maintained that attendance since, despite not playing nearly as well.

Of course, Mark Shapiro does have reason for optimism. He's been around long enough to remember when the Indians sold out every game. Literally. Jacobs Field, now known as Progressive Field, opened in 1994. Beginning on the 17th of June in 1995, the Indians sold out 455 straight games, with the streak ending in early 2001.

That was a long time ago, though. For whatever reasons, that buzz just isn't there any more.

Can they get it back? Anything's possible. But it would take something truly astounding.

Meanwhile, Chris Perez has a point. Not that actually making that point is going to help anything.

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