Originally posted on Waiting For Next Year  |  Last updated 5/5/12

Really? Fans aren't showing up to Progressive Field because of this guy?

The Tribe is in first place, the Texas Rangers (only the two-time defending AL Champions) are in town for the weekend and, as an added bonus, the weather doesn’t suck.

Jeanmar Gomez went 7 strong innings, Shin-Soo Choo and Jack Hannahan each hit a home run and Johnny Damon somehow had a 2-run triple and the first place Cleveland Indians beat the first place Texas Rangers 6-3. Chris Perez notched his 10th save.

So of course, with 16,147 fans in attendance, the stadium was less than half full.

Makes sense.

I hate that the Tribe’s attendance (or lack thereof) continues to be a story, but one can’t help but notice it. Considering where they were in the 90s, seeing Cleveland average 14,000 per home game (and having that be an improvement!) is fairly depressing.

It kills me that this team doesn’t draw as well as it should. But what do you blame? When the Tribe was selling out, the team (and the economy) was great, the stadium was new, the Cavs stunk and the Browns were on hiatus. Baseball was the only game in town and the Indians took advantage of it.

But now? There’s a whole host of issues. The economy stinks, the Browns are back (WHO WANTS TO TALK ABOUT COLT McCOY’S DAD?!), the Cavs have been relevant for over a decade and fans don’t trust the Dolans and/or baseball’s salary structure.

The Dolans take a lot of flack and, for the most part, deservedly so. You can’t deny that they’re cheap. The fact that Tribe fans are legitimately excited for 38-year old Johnny Damon (and should be!) says a lot about Cleveland’s owners (and that their other offseason signings were Derek Lowe and Grady Sizemore says even more). I have a hard time blaming fans for not getting behind these owners.

But I can only blame the Dolans for so much. Are they cheap? Sure. But they’ve also been unlucky. I thought they made the right move when they tore down the Thome-era teams to rebuild with the CC Sabathia/Victor Martinez/Grady Sizemore team. And they rebuilt well; they sold off aging vets for prospects that turned into everyday players. The plan worked.

What hurts is that version of the Tribe only got one shot at the playoffs before they were forced to sell off the veterans again. And as much as that sucks, I can’t blame the Dolans for not paying CC or Cliff Lee over $100 million. To me, this is a baseball issue. Again, the Indians did what a small market should’ve done; they traded old vets for prospects, rebuilt the team around a new core of players. They did everything right (except add a RH bat), but due to the economics of baseball (and the city of Cleveland), the Dolans legitimately couldn’t pay all of their talent.

What made things worse was the talent the Tribe kept around couldn’t stay healthy. Sure, they had to sell off Sabathia and Lee, but the guys they decided to pay (Travis Hafner, Grady Sizemore and Jake Westbrook) could never stay on the field. For a team with such a small margin for error, having what little money was spent stuck on the disabled list hurts doubly so. Even now, when the Indians make a ‘Win Now’ move to acquire Ubaldo Jimenez, he almost immediately implodes.

Does that excuse them for the small payroll? No. But at the same time, last season the Indians had the lowest per game attendance in the Majors. It’s a chicken vs egg scenario, will the fans show up when the Tribe spends (re: wins) or will the Tribe spend when the fans show up? I dunno.

And it’s too bad. This Tribe team is fun and if you can’t get excited about Jason Kipnis, you shouldn’t be a fan of sports. I fully believe that if this team starts winning (and they ARE in first place), the fans will show up.

At least I hope so.

The second game of their three-game series with Rangers starts at 7:05 tonight, Derek Lowe will start for the Tribe and Ohio native Derek Holland will start for Texas.

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