More than three of every four seats are empty for each game at Clevelands’ Progressive Field.
Minus the opening day sellout, the Indians averaged just 9,544 fans at the 43,441-seat ballpark during the most recent five games — the lowest average attendance in the second through sixth games of the season in the 18-year history of Jacobs/Progressive Field.
The glaring lack of fans in the stands has become the butt of jokes as analysts note how the city that sold out 455 consecutive games during a nearly seven-year period beginning in 1994 has come to care so little about its team.
The past week’s sweep of the Red Sox proves that winning isn’t everything. In fact, that’s been the problem for Indians executives, as they’ve seen a 1994-98 season-ticket base of 27,000 tumble 70 percent to 8,000 this season.
Bobby DiBiasio, the Indians’ longtime vice president of public relations, conceded that he never could have imagined such a drop, “But I would not have imagined that our town would change so dramatically, either.”
Therein lies the crux of the problem. There are many reasons, some intertwined and out of the team’s control.
“We wish there was just one reason, because it would be a lot easier to fix. But it’s not just wins or losses,” DiBiasio said.
Spring weather – the cold, sometimes snowy, rainy or even foggy conditions – rarely makes for comfortable viewing. Why brave the elements when the abundance of high-definition TV screens in many homes makes for such good viewing these days?
Yet, there’s no discounting the mental blow fans also absorbed the past few years as the Indians’ brass traded away one star after another — including back-to-back Cy Young Award winners CC Sabathia and Cliff Lee, followed by fan-favorite, catcher Victor Martinez. The players became too expensive to retain and were auctioned for young prospects.
The Red Sox have agreed to a new contract with pitcher Clay Buchholz that will keep him in Boston an extra four years. The 26-year-old Buchholz was second in the American League with a 2.33 ERA last year — the youngest Red Sox pitcher with an ERA that low since 1918. … New York Yankee’s Mark Prior pitched on consecutive days for Class-A Tampa for the first time as he tries to become a reliever in his comeback from a series of injuries. Prior, who has struggled with shoulder injuries, made his last major league appearance in August 2006. The 30-year old went 18-6 with a 2.43 ERA in 30 starts for the National League Central champion Chicago Cubs in 2003. … The Los Angeles Angels have placed shortstop Erick Aybar on the 15-day disabled list with a strained oblique muscle and recalled reliever Francisco Rodriguez from Triple-A. … The Los Angeles Dodgers called up right-hander John Ely to start Sunday’s game against the San Diego Padres and placed rookie catcher Hector Gimenez on the 15-day disabled list. The 24-year-old Ely went 4-10 with a 5.49 ERA with the Dodgers last season.