Tuesday, January 22

Progressive Field 4-eva

I was a bit disappointed, though not surprised, at the wildly negative response that Indians fans have given to the news that our Tribe will be renaming their ballpark "Progressive Field" next year, ending the fun and profitable 14-year "Jacobs Field" era. Fans grumble that the team is losing part of its history, that the owners are cheap, that fans won't ever stop calling it "The Jake," and BLAH BLAH BLAH. I'm of the opinion that one cannot form a logically coherent argument against this inevitable name change and that it's a sound decision for the organization.

The best and most levelheaded take on the situation was offered by Corey over at Mistake by the Lake Sporting Times. The key points he makes are:

- There was no reason to be surprised by the move since everyone knew that the Jacobs Field naming deal was expiring and that rights would be resold.
- People babbling about "tradition" simply don't want to go to the trouble of calling the park something else.
- You talk a big game about how you won't call it "Progressive Field," but...yes you will.
- It's not like fans will lose their fond memories of the '90's clubs just because the park has a new name, even if, as Corey comically suggests, they renamed it "The '95 Season Never Happened Ballpark."
- It was good business and a smart, easy decision for ownership to sell the name, and would have been foolish not to.
- It will be the same team you love in the same awesome stadium no matter what it's called.

All very good points. I'd like to elaborate a bit as well.

It's entirely unreasonable to expect the Tribe to have not sold the naming rights to a company. 18 of the 32 MLB teams have corporate names on their stadia (this number has not changed, since "Jacobs" was former owner Dick Jacobs' company's name, but expect it to increase in the coming years rather than decline), so it's not so much a trend anymore as it is simply how business is done. If you want to complain about the practice of corporations naming sporting venues in general, that's fine, but singling out the small-market Indians for renaming their relatively non-historical home is ridiculous. If the Red Sox renamed Fenway, that's be something else, but this park, glorious though it is and was in the '90's, is only 14 years old.

It's amazing how some people will somehow criticize the Dolans for being cheap, for "not spending enough" on players even though they had the second-best club in MLB last year, and then these same people whine about the Dolans taking essentially a free $60 million instead of leaving it on the table so their team's home could have the same name as the previous owner. Why any fan would wish for a small-market club not to take $3.8 million a year for naming rights is beyond me. There is no logic here. If the Dolan's didn't take an offer to rename the park, I would have been concerned about their business acumen. Now that they have done so, I can focus on the fact that...

Progressive Field is a good name! Lost in the knee-jerk reaction is the fact that this moniker beats the hell out of names like Minute Maid Park, Petco Park, and US Cellular Field. It's got a nice ring, it's a Cleveland-based company, and I am generally in favor of progressive political ideals. This is a pretty cool name, rivaled only by perhaps Great American Ballpark and Miller Park among commercially-named locations, and I think it will grow on people.

It's also way better than its neighbor "Quicken Loans Arena." Maybe it's because the Cavs are third banana in this town, maybe it's because "Gund" was a fairly unpleasant name to start with, but no one seemed to mind handing the Cavaliers' home court a name far less appealing than Progressive Field.

Finaly, I'd like to address those who complain about Progressive Field because Progressive Insurance recently laid off some workers. Those who make this argument are either unable or unwilling to understand basic business concepts. It's not like Progressive took all the money they were going to pay those employees and instead spent it on naming a baseball stadium out of corporate vanity. The $3.8 million they now have to pay the Tribe annually is a small slice of Progressive's annual advertising budget of $300 million. That's not a misprint. The only thing the two moves have in common is that Progressive's ownership decided that both would increase the company's profitablility, which is generally why businesses make decisions. They didn't rename Jacobs Field just to piss you off - they did it because they're going to get tons of exposure nationwide for just $3.8 million a year, and are the type of company that could reap a windfall from such exposure. Criticizing Progressive for sponsoring the Indians because they recently let some people go is a misguided argument.

Look, we'd all like to live in a perfect world where the Tribe would be raising their fifth straight World Series flag (and 10th in 16 years!) this year in beautiful Indians Field, where the home team has a $150 million payroll, hotdogs are free, and the Tribe always wins when it snows. But we don't live in that world, so we'll have to settle for a smartly-managed organization coming off a 96-win season, defending a division title, and playing in a gem of a ballpark with a pretty reasonable corporate name. What's the problem again? Go Tribe!

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