It seems as though every time I check out ESPN or a baseball related blog, it’s filled with articles about how the Cleveland Indians are a fluke and how they cannot possibly keep this hot streak going.
They might be right. These things happen. But Buster Olney, Tim Kurjian and the rest of ESPN’s crew are forgetting something.
Enjoy the ride, man; this is why the game is great.
Now, to set the record straight, I am no fan of the Cleveland Indians. My allegiances lie with the Boston Red Sox, though I love a good Jays game when I’m north of the border. But that doesn’t mean I’m in love with the fact that nearly everyone picked the Sox and the Phillies to meet in the World Series. Not that I wouldn’t love that scenario, but that means that the game is getting a little too predictable.
Which is why the Indians 15-8 record is great. It’s exciting. The fact that the two teams most people picked to win the AL Central, The Chicago White Sox and the Minnesota Twins, are losing is why people tune in to these games and show up to the park.
Anything can happen.
Attendance is down. Not just at Progressive Field, PNC Park and the rest of the stadiums that host teams whose players are probably going to be playing golf instead of baseball come October. People aren’t showing up across the board. Winning teams like the Tampa Bay Rays can’t fill their park, which more closely resembles a Costco warehouse than any other Major League Park.
The easy answer is because it’s April. The weather isn’t great and the kiddies are still in school. But this doesn’t make sense when comparing this year’s April attendance to last year’s April attendance.
It’s the excitement factor.
In theory, taking the excitement factor our of the equation should swing the pendulum both ways. If losing teams can’t get fans to show up because they’re expected to lose, shouldn’t this somewhat apply to winning teams?
This, of course, is hard to measure. Fenway Park and Citizens Bank Park will be packed on any given day. So will Wrigley Field, even though any Cubs fan who remembers 1908 is watching from up above. But Yankee Stadium and Rangers Ballpark in Arlington aren’t always packed.
In my humble opinion, the greatest thing to happen to the game would be for the Pittsburgh Pirates to in the World Series. Why? Because no one who gets paid to ramble on ESPN for hours a day has called it.
The game would show us that it’s still as unpredictable as the 2004 ALCS.
Now this would be bad for the short term. TV ratings have shown us that America as a whole is not as interested in a World Series that doesn’t involve the Phillies, Yankees or Red Sox. But it would be better for the sport in the long term.
On Opening Day, every team starts off with the same record. But does anyone really believe that?
Of course not. The Royals, Astros, Pirates, Nationals, Mets, Padres, Mariners, Diamondbacks, Orioles and Blue Jays (forgive me if I’ve missed a few) have been written off. That’s not good for the sport. 162 games to go, and too many fans are looking forward to next year. That’s not right.
So I’m sure you’re wondering what my answer is assuming you’re still reading. A salary cap might help. But if we’ve learned anything from the luxury tax, money isn’t necessarily the answer. The team with the most money doesn’t win; the team with the most brains does. You can buy a good general manger, but you can’t buy a good team.
But baseball fans can do one thing, which can potentially do wonders for the game we love. We can sit back and enjoy the ride. Let’s quit being pessimists when the Indians win nine games in a row. Let’s remember that these guys are all professionals and that in baseball, anything can happen.