Paul Dolan's Legacy
I remember being a 13 year old kid and loving the Cleveland Indians. I knew their starting lineup and their pitching rotation by heart. Despite having not made the playoffs in nearly 30 years (at the time) and having a losing record of 78-84, over a million fans pushed through the turnstiles of Municipal Stadium that year. I listened to 3WE's Pete Franklin talk Indians baseball throughout the 80's and even remember hearing the live call of Lenny Barker's Perfect Game in 1981.
But the baseball strike of 1994 soured me on the sport. I know it wasn't the Indians' fault, but for me specifically, I loved the team just a little bit less.
I was in the vast minority though. The Indians, between 1995 and the early 2000's, went to the playoffs 6 of 7 years and triumphantly posted a 455 game home sellout streak. Toward the back end of the sellout streak, Larry Dolan bought the team and then had his son take over in 2013.
Despite being in the playoffs 5 of the past 7 years again, and being a model organization, I don't watch the Guardians anymore.
I was going to bitch about the Indians trading away 3 Cy Young Award winners.
I was going to bitch about the Indians changing their name and logo.
I was going to bitch about the Guardians' $82 million payroll vs. the Yankees' $264 million payroll.
But you want to know the truth? The Cleveland Browns are run like a bunch of chimpanzees flinging poo at each other at the zoo and I still watch nearly every game.
Why? Because I'm stupid and every game is on local TV. Larry Dolan's deal with Bally Sports Ohio wasn't on my basic cable channel list (when it was Fox Sports Ohio) and when I cut the cord, there were almost no options to watch the baseball team locally.
It is this simple. If the Guardians were on local TV, I would watch them. Tonight the Guardians are playing the Yankees in a deciding ALDS Game 5. Where can I watch it? Nowhere. I don't have TBS.
You want to bring back the casual baseball fan? Allow them to watch their games in their local markets. You want to pontificate about the economics of baseball viewership?
I am now the definition of a casual fan. When I do spend money to see local live baseball, I watch the local minor league affiliates. 40 years after that "magical" 78-84 season, the live attendance figures of the Cleveland franchise are nearly identical, despite the team being in a "new" ballpark. If the Guardians aren't on television, I don't pay extra to find them.
Which is sad.
Baseball, and specifically the Guardians, better start figuring out ways to lure the casual fan back to their sport.