The Dolan's Need to Adapt, Not Antagonize to Get Fans to Buy Tickets Into Progressive Field
There are many conflicts in sports that occur outside of the playing area. Sometimes there is a difference in philosophies between the coach and a general manager.
Other times it is between players in the locker room, or a particular team and an officiating crew. We hear about them all the time.
In Cleveland, we (of course) have a different type of sports butting of the heads. It's between the Cleveland Indians organization and their fan base.
The other night, Paul Dolan and his family were being honored with the lifetime achievement award at the Greater Cleveland Sports Awards, and the owner chose his acceptance speech to show off his lack of comedy prowess.
He referred to his "enjoy him" comment made last spring about Francisco Lindor, who can be a free agent following the 2021 season.
With Tribe fans in fear of watching the superstar walk away or be traded before the end of next season, the attempt at humor was ill-advised to say the least.
The Dolan family are reported to be very nice people. We only say reported because we have never met them, but they certainly do plenty of charity work within the community, and they also take a very "hands off" approach in regard to running the Indians.
And that's a good thing too.
On the other hand, they seem to antagonize their fans all the time.
Before saying the line about Lindor, Dolan went out of his way to thank the fans, particularly those who buy suites. While those fans are important, there are more people who sit in the actual seats at Progressive Field than sit in "luxury boxes".
And the ownership does refer to attendance issues a lot. They don't seem to realize the fans don't have to come to the games, they need to be persuaded to buy tickets.
We didn't come up with this analogy, but the attitude is the same as a restaurant owner who says he will serve subpar food until a lot of patrons start walking through the door, and then he will serve good food.
Cutting the payroll by around $30 million during the midst of a string of 90 win seasons isn't exactly making fans reach into their pockets to spend some hard earned money either.
The Tribe won the division with 91 victories in 2018, and the players' salaries were trimmed. They won 93 last season, and it appears the money spent on the folks on the field will be reduced again.
The rationale both times is a drop in attendance, which dipped from 2.05 million in '17, the year after an American League championship, to 1.93 million in '18 and then to 1.74 million in 2019.
We hate to say it, but it is on the front office to repair the damage, and the sooner the better.
Let's be clear. We aren't saying to be crazy and spend a ton of cash on mediocre players, that's not smart.
But they could lower ticket prices, give fans deals to show up to the games held in the colder weather of April.
Get people in Progressive Field. The motivation should be getting more people to buy food and drink at premium prices.
The television ratings show their is great interest in the Indians, but people seem to not go to Progressive Field.
The front office should find out why, and do something different to get fans downtown.
What they are currently doing isn't working, but there doesn't seem to be any willingness to adapt.
Fighting the fans isn't a battle the Indians' front office is going to win. Instead, embrace your fans, make them part of the team.
And stopping saying things that cause the ticket buyers to question your ownership.