Yesterday on Les Levine’s show, Mark Shapiro started a mini firestorm yesterday when he essentially told fans to stay away if ticket buyers are intending to see a consistent winner. Only come for the “experience” of being at the ballpark.

On one hand, the position is understandable. He’s much more involved in the big-picture developments that come with the overall handling of a major league franchise than he was previously, and his main goal is to make money for the Indians as an organization over just the team. His ultimate goal now is tickets sold and by any way possible.

It’s on the other hand where the disconnect between Shapiro’s view of the romanticism and innocence of baseball in its purest form and the ultimate reality of a fan’s expectations start to splinter off. The good is that he is admitting that the Indians are more than likely not a good team right now. We haven’t heard that kind of forthrightness for a while, and it does the team no good to try to sell to Indians fans that everything is peaches and cream. Because unless we hit a mother lode or two with the presumed upcoming trades, we are a year or two away from contending. At least we know our collective intelligence isn’t being insulted.

Here’s where I find the problem with Shapiro’s line-drawing: To the casual fan, it’s probably not much fun going to a virtually empty ballpark, just as players have said that it’s not much fun playing in an empty park. I, personally, enjoy going to any ballpark, but it isn’t something that I’m gung-ho about anymore if I’m able to catch a game at the Jake (sod off, “Progressive Field”). The “experience” isn’t what it was;  it won’t be back until the Indians prove to the world that they can win consistently. It’s just the simple reality.

It is no secret that the Indians (as verbalized not-so-eloquently by Chris Perez in one of his summer tirades, by the way) have had a long-standing organizational jealousy with how the Browns can be so mostly awful and, yet, still sell out every home game and remain both the heart, soul and identity of the city. It would not be a shock to find that if you were to inject Shapiro with truth serum, he would admit that the Indians’ front office secretly would love it if new owner Jimmy Haslam (and the Lerners before him) would transform into Art Modell reincarnated so the Browns could be moved far, far away again. Greenland, please.

As it is, the Indians are the the third wheel in an already depressed sports town, and it seems like the frustration is building for a guy who used to give the impression of being the ultimate cool hand. He knows he’s under the gun to make the Indians appealing when there is nothing extraordinary about them at the moment. There’s no real drawing card outside of Terry Francona’s two World Series rings and the hope that he’s a miracle worker. No apparent possibility of a realistic quick fix.

But Mark Shapiro wants you to come hang out anyway. The stadium mustard, Snow Days, and hot dog races are more than worth the price of admission, to say nothing about the real reason as to why you should be there.




  • Steve Alex says:

    The constant promotions and gimmicks to get people to Indians games smack of desperation. What makes the Browns a consistently good draw even when they lose is the perception that they are at least trying to get better on the field. They spend money on players. They make major changes if something doesn’t work. Fans don’t see the Indians doing that. Cheap hotdogs and bobblehead dolls might get people there a few times a year, but not every night.

  • Chris Burnham says:

    Exactly my point. That’s why I feel Shapiro’s “outburst” (if you want to call it that) seemed uncharacteristically disingenuous to me. I can understand his possibly feeling frustration, because we feel frustration, too. Maybe his and Antonetti’s hands being tied is starting to get him to crack. Who knows, really, but he came off sounding defiant from what I know of the situation and what I’ve read. It’s very unlike him.

  • Stephanie Liscio says:

    What surprises me about this is that Shapiro is typically so smooth – almost in a mechanical sense. Everything he says is so bland and press releasey, I’m just kind of shocked that it was a slightly more candid statement.

  • Chris Burnham says:

    I wonder what what was going through his head the split-second after he said it.

    Now, I didn’t hear Levine’s interview myself, so I don’t know the tone in which Shapiro made the statement. But it had to be severe enough of a reaction for Craig Calcaterra to throw it up at HBT. Regardless of how it was spoken or intended, it looks bad. So it’s not that big of a stretch to assume that it is a moment that Mark would like to have back.

  • DaveR says:

    The Browns model does not work because they are under an agreement to spend a certain dollar amount. If the Indians put stars on the field (or spent to keep budding ones) maybe people would love a stinker.

    Second, all you have to do is visit the attendance tracker: The 2007 ride and the hopeful year after the fans came and watched. Success translates to fan attendance. Typically success can be achieved by holding onto or acquiring better players.

  • Steve Alex says:

    I just read the entire transcript and I’m not sure which is worse, what he actually said or what he meant to say. Neither one builds much confidence for the direction of the franchise or the commitment to winning. Shapiro’s own statements prove the fallacy of his argument. “Even the best teams lose 62 times in a season.” Yes, but fans go to their games because there is hope for success. There is energy and excitement and something to dream about. No one knows beforehand whether their team will win or lose that night, so no, they don’t go solely because they expect to win. But would Shapiro have such fond memories of his Orioles if they had dumped his favorite players for prospects every three years and lost 90 games every season? Would he have still gone to bed at night listening to games on his AM radio and dreaming of a World Series? I listened to those 80s Indians teams on AM and stood on a chair with rabbit ears to catch a glimpse of Corey Snyder through the snow on WUAB-43. I sat in empty Municipal Stadium to watch Rich Yett pitch. There was nothing romantic about it. To market a team today by those standards shows stubbornness and petulance, and will do nothing to repair the disconnect between disheartened fans and disengaged ownership.

    • Swift says:

      Yes, very well said Steve.

      Look, Northeast Ohio is a football town, has been forever. Complaining about that is silly. But fans have also shown that if the Indians put a halfway decent product out there, fans will attend.

      I just get the feeling that the owner doesn’t really care any longer, and neither does the front office. I guess its “nice” that Saphiro is confirming that, but it doesn’t make me want to go to a game.

      And my not wanting to go to a game really doesn’t have much to do with if they are winning; but I want to feel at least they are trying, they being the players, the managers, the front office, and the owner. I just don’t feel they care any longer, so why should I?

  • Chris Burnham says:

    Could not have said it better myself, Steve!

  • Chris Burnham says:

    And strictly from a baseball standpoint, what player would want to play (or stay) in Cleveland if ownership exudes the perception that winning is, at best, secondary? It’s not a stigma that anyone wants.

  • SeattleStu says:

    +1 on steve’s comments… rochester ny during the 80s i would turn my radio nine ways to sunday to catch pete franklin’s description of those woeful teams….but guess what, i was tuned in….

  • gman1962 says:

    what are they thinking. indians front office needs to step up and do something. trade perez and make pestano the closer. trade sin choo and cabrerea and fill some holes. right field, left field, 3rd base and a couple of pitchers. shapiro, get in the game, when did you turn into a chicken? what about swisher, giancarlo stanton, upton just to name a few. you could get stanton from miami for virtually nothing. instead of starting over, make some moves and we would be right back in the thick of it. i hope francona has some input on this, if so terry lets get going…c’mon paesano lets get some talent in to cleveland and make some noise like in the old days. you are losing the real fans in droves. you guys need to step up and make it happen. WHAT IF we never win again????? let me run the front office, i would have a winner here by next year..