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[2] Dolans – Look In Mirror: Baseball Is Not Dead (Except in Cleveland??)

Before we explore the defeatist psychology developed from the Dolan ownership, let’s take a look at some of the failed generic “excuses” that try to remove management and ownership from responsibility:

One of the most commonly repeated reasons for the anemic attendance in Cleveland since 2008 is that baseball isn’t popular anymore. Young people want the excitement of a fast paced sport. No one likes the pace of baseball. Who wants to sit in the stands to watch an untimed sport? Well, the answer to that question is easily answered by game attendance. You might call me on this and ask for TV ratings and the like. But as valid as that would be, attendance still measures how many people want to spend their hard earned money on sporting events. MLB attendance has gradually grown since 2009 from about 73.4 million to about 74 million paying fans per year. In the same timeframe, NBA attendance has stayed flat at about 21.40 million fans. Both sports were better in years just before 2009 for about three years. That seemed to match the economy. The NFL attendance in 2009 was 17.15 million, went down, and then recovered to 17.3 million by 2013. To be fair it would be harder to grow attendance over a 16 game season but those are the figures. Conversely, the shorter season also places tickets at a premium and inflates attendance on the basis of demand per game. So, in summary, 74 million paying fans watch the 81 home games per team per year in MLB while 38.7 million attend the 48 home games per team per year for the NBA and NFL combined. Baseball has slightly grown attendance since 2009 and the other major sports have stayed basically flat. I don’t think that the “baseball is dead” theory explains Cleveland Indians attendance (or any team’s attendance for that matter).

Well, what do we expect, Cleveland is a football town!! Baseball is an afterthought. If it wasn’t for the Browns leaving, the Indians would not have been so popular in the mid 90s. This theory is thrown around with more regularity than a laxative. Yet, there is not a shred of evidence to link the Indians attendance to the Browns attendance. Since the Browns have been back in 1999, the Indians had massive attendance in the first 4 years of the Browns return. Starting at 3.45 million per year in 1999 and dropping to a still massive 2.62 million in 2002. What happened, did the fans take 4 years to get “used to” the Browns again?? And why did the Indians draw 2.84 million fans in 1995?? The Browns were still in town. The answer is simple and blows this “Browns Town” theory out of the water. The fans of Cleveland are not idiots. They can tell when a franchise is worth watching or rooting for and when they are not. They might miss by a year or so sometimes, but the Cleveland fans will pay money for a winning franchise or one that they perceive to be striving toward that goal. Since there is no evidence that Cleveland fans are unwilling to spread their money around to all 3 major sports when worthy, I don’t think the Dolans can find solace that their failing brand is based on their being trapped in a football town.

So if it isn’t that baseball is failing …. And if it isn’t that Cleveland fans can’t support the Indians because the Browns exist ….. It must be that, well….. , the darn stadium is getting weathered and we don’t have a stand up open bar in the outfield where people can stand and converse and drink with their family, coworkers and friends. Or we need a larger play area for kids so that the parents and child can avoid the game as much as humanly possible. Who wants to sit in the stands and watch the actual game anyway?? On the first point, I don’t drink at the ballpark because it is too damned expensive. But I don’t object to those who want a drink. And I have two grandchildren ages 3 and 5. They sit in the stands EVERY game we go to and watch the game and the players and the scoreboard and cheer every home run and every run. They laugh and know the players names and their batting stances. Now that might have something to do with my daughter and son-in-law both being diehard Indian fans but who knows. My point here is that, while any enhancements made to Progressive field might be nice, the ballpark is certainly not the problem here. So the big hoopla around the stadium enhancements that we won’t have to pay for (actually being paid by the concession company – what does that tell you?) is nothing more than a smokescreen for the real problem with the attendance there.

You know, I never really thought baseball was dying or the Browns existence lowers Indian’s attendance or the stadium was a problem , WE ALL KNOW it is the depressed economy in Ohio and the Cleveland area. Well, while the economic changes after 2007 certainly took a dire toll on Cleveland, it didn’t seem to correlate with Tribe attendance all that well. Between 2003 and 2008, the Indians averaged about 2 million per season. Low was 1.7 million and high was 2.3 million. In 2009, the year of by far the largest scare when the stock market crashed to an ominous low in March, the Indians drew 1.77 million. In 2011, they drew 1.84 million. Right now the Indians are sitting at about 1.32 million with about 6 home dates remaining. If they draw at their current pace, which might be a pipe dream, they will end up at around 1.43 million. That will be the SECOND LOWEST ATTENDANCE SINCE 1992 !!! Topped only by 2010 which was 1.39 million. This is exactly 1 year after the team had a dramatic season ending rally and somehow got into the wild card game by winning 92 games! During years that the Cleveland and National economy is clearly improving, 2011 to 2014, the Indians attendance has been 1.84, 1.60, 1.57 and now 1.43 million. Throw a 92 win season in the middle of those years (2013) and you still have a progressively declining attendance that doesn’t correlate to the economy, the condition of the ballpark, the popularity of the Browns, or the popularity of baseball. In my next installment, we will begin to explore deeper into the current state of the Indians and what, if anything, can stop the free fall.

Need to check the mirror. Business as usual is killing business.

[1] Dolan Family – Look In Mirror: or Indians Support Doomed

Hey Paul………..  Hey Larry …………… If you refuse to look in that mirror in a critical way, your support will continue to dwindle and the Indians are a doomed franchise. This is a wake-up call to you both. I hope you listen.

Now I know this is starting out as another of the million fans serenade of “Can’t trust the Dolans”. But I intend to develop another theory around this debacle that has been the Dolan ownership of the Tribe. I don’t want this to be a typical “Dolan bashing” where they are portrayed as liars and cheap. As I try to look at this logically, I doubt either is close to the truth and both characterizations are almost certainly inaccurate. But that doesn’t change the fact that they are slowly killing the Indians as a franchise, even to the point of threatening it’s very existence in Cleveland. I just do not think that this result is intentional or deliberate in any way, shape or form. It is an inability, partly because of the advice around them, to accurately look in the mirror and decipher the slow decline of a proud franchise. As a lifelong Indians fan and supporter of the team, I will use my intuition and observational skills to develop a premise upon which the Dolans would be wise to take note.

The detail of this will be for later this weekend, but I wanted to throw this “hook” out to give our readers a sense of what is to come. I will likely do this in a series of posts or it will become a novel that few are likely to read. I have very strong feelings about the direction of the franchise and want to address some of the oft heard speculation as to why the Tribe is becoming a distant afterthought in the Cleveland sports landscape. I think most of these analyses are simplistic and overstated, although most do have some component of truth. Mine may fall into the same category, but I want to try and put all of this together with a coherent thread. Come on back later tonight and over the next few days. Should be an interesting journey!


Browns Preseason Game 1: Manziel, Hoyer and the Offense

As everyone that watched the Browns first preseason game knows, it had a familiar feel to 2013 and many years since the Browns came back to Cleveland. They couldn’t get the ball in the endzone. I am not ready to pass judgement on the team yet and say the same trend will carry over to the regular season. Here are some observations on the quarterback battle and other parts of the offense.

  • Playcalling: I was a bit concerned with the heavy weight towards the number of pass plays called compared to run plays. Although I can’t get an exact number due to certain things like pre-snap penalties, these are the numbers I counted. For 3 drives with Hoyer in the game, there were 17 pass plays and 8 run plays. For Manziel’s 4 drives, we had 14 pass plays and 9 run plays. I am hoping this is due to the QB competition and not what we can expect during the regular season. With our defense, we need to run the ball more.
  • Brian Hoyer: Overall I thought Hoyer played very well for his first game back from ACL surgery. Yes he made a few mistakes early, but he didn’t seem to do anything to lose his starting job. He moved the offense and if he can cleanup his mistakes he should be ready. Some things of note:
    1. On his first drive, it started to look like Hoyer hadn’t missed a step. He made some good throws, but the drive stalled after an overthrow to Josh Gordon with his weight on his back foot and a failed rollout pass on the very next play. On this play, he had a relatively clean pocket, albeit collapsing, to step up and to his left to either run with the ball or pass it for the first. Instead, he rolled out to his right where the play had next to no chance of succeeding.
    2. The rest of his game was solid. He made a perfect play action pass to Josh Gordon for 22 yards, and the rollout pass to Miles Austin that was unfortunately dropped on the 5 yard line could be watched over and over again due to how beautiful it looked. I think if Austin comes down with that, the Browns punch it in the endzone.
  • Johnny Manziel: Let me start by saying that our 2nd string offensive line is not very good. Manziel had to deal with backups at the skilled positions as well the entire game. Despite these things, Manziel’s pro debut was mostly positive and it gives me hope moving forward. Some things of note:
    1. On 3rd and 1 on his first drive, a read option play was called. Just like he did in college time and time again, Manziel keeps the ball. The average observer (and I guess our color guy on NBC) might say that the DE crashed, which means you keep the ball so Johnny did the right thing. WRONG. On that play, the read is on the weak side linebacker who slow-played his blitz until he knew Manziel was keeping the ball. Either way though, Johnny was likely expecting Barnidge to not whiff on the defender and if he didn’t block air, the play would have been successful. In this case though, a handoff to West would have been a better decision as he could have ran just outside the left tackle for a first down. The next 2 read option plays were executed perfectly and resulted in big plays.
    2. I am not putting this all on Manziel because he might not be completely comfortable with audibles at this point, but on 2nd and 2 with Detroit showing 8 in the box looking to stop the run, the play wasn’t changed and West ran up the middle for a loss of 3.
    3. Manziel looked smooth off play action. His first attempt was a bullet in a perfect spot to Gabriel. Almost all other plays off of play action were positive resulting in either a completed pass or a QB scramble.
    4. Manziel’s 16 yard run was very impressive, but not because of the run itself. What was impressive to me were his progressions. He looked left to option 1, right to options 2 and 3, and then came back to option 1 for a brief second before taking off up the middle. Although there appeared to be a guy open about 16 yards down field, it was likely a dangerous pass. The run was the safe play with the blitzer closing in. Speaking of Manziel’s runs, he did a nice job sliding or getting out of bounds to avoid contact.
    5. Manziel’s only other notable mistake minus a couple errant throws was his scramble and run on 4th and 1. The fullback was wide open about 10 yards down field for a touch pass. Instead, he barely got past the 1st down marker.
  • Terrence West and Ben Tate: The jump cuts, the quick decisions and physical play of our running backs seems obvious. We have a legit 1-2 punch there. Neither guy dances around and they get up the field as soon as the hole presents itself. West’s numbers (ypc) didn’t end up great, but he had the joy of running behind the backup O-line and the lack of a couple audibles/blocking adjustments from Manziel.
  • MarQueis Gray: I can’t prove this on this blog, but before the game started, I told a friend of mine that Gray is going to be a big weapon on this offense as long as he blocks well. This will keep him on the field. The real gem comes in the passing game. So often do you see teams blow coverage on the FB because the majority of them can’t make big plays (or sometimes any play at all) in the passing game. Gray can. If Gordon doesn’t get suspended for the season, look out. Cameron, Gordon and Gray are matchup nightmares for any defense.
  • Starting Offensive Line: The line now looks like a completed product. Last year our pass blocking was solid and our run blocking was terrible. This year they have everything probably in large part due to the zone blocking scheme. It seems to fit our personnel well. If they aren’t one of the best groups if not the best in the NFL I will be shocked.










Browns Preseason Game 1: The Defense

There has been a lot of talk in the media that our defense played poorly on Saturday night. After watching the game for the second time yesterday, I still don’t see it. Here are my observations from the game.

  • Injuries: The Browns have a few injuries but nothing major. The result however is the absence of 3 defensive starters (Gibson, Gilbert, Winn) for the game.  Regardless of where Buster Skrine is on the depth chart right now, I think we all know Gilbert will be the starter. Gibson has also looked good on defense in camp and he and Whitner seem to be a good fit. Most people would probably consider Phil Taylor replacing Winn is a wash, so it comes down to missing 2 key players in the secondary, which should be the Browns biggest asset this year on defense.
  • First team defense: I thought they played very well with the exception of a few plays. Poyer completely missed the gap on the first drive by Detroit allowing Bell to make a run of 11 yards. I also thought Hayden was playing a bit loose at the corner spot, most notably the slant route on drive 1 to Golden Tate and the ball Ogletree took off his face that should have been a 10+ yard completion. The defensive line and the linebackers looked very good in all aspects of the game and made very few mistakes. I love Whitner as a player, a person and a Buckeye. It is tough to truly evaluate them when they are missing some key players and didn’t have to deal with Megatron at all and Stafford only on the first series.
  • Pierre Desir: He might be a ball hawk type of defensive back, but bad bad tackling in this game and made some other fundamental and mental mistakes. He is still a work in progress.
  • Armonty Bryant: Looked just as good in this game as he has in training camp. I don’t think he registered a tackle, but he was really putting pressure on the offense. We are DEEP at the defensive line position. We have the ability to cycle players in and out so much that nobody should get tired.
  • The inside linebacker battle between Robertson and Kirksey is still extremely murky. Both guys played very well in the game and I suspect they will each see substantial playing time once the regular season starts.
  • Challenges: Pettine is 1-0 on challenges despite the result. Officials totally botched the kickoff fumble by Detroit. Clearly, the Browns recovered it. Let’s hope this is just them working out mistakes much like the players are.

These are just some quick thoughts defensively. I will post on the Browns offense, including Manziel and Hoyer’s performances tomorrow.

Are You Giddy Yet?? More “sources” on the potential Kevin Love Trade.

Well, we just got the fabulous Wojnarowski dropping another “WojBomb” on us today and CavsTwitter and the local media picked up on the information big time. As time has passed, reporters continue to pump their sources for additional tidbits about the most dramatic possible trade of this NBA off-season. It has been my experience that Wojnarowski has some of the most reliable “league sources” so I do tend to listen when he comes out with information that sounds plausible. Some of what he provided in his article and on twitter makes perfect sense. Other bits and pieces (the most important ones for me) are less reliable in my view. Continue reading

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