Monday, June 21

The Invasion of Progressive Field

Ugh, that Mets series wasn't too fun. But on the other hand, it certainly wasn't as disastrous as a sweep could be. Look, the Indians aren't a good team right now - we all know that - but they're not a helpless team either. Consider their team run differential of -57. Through just 67 games, that's not pretty, but it's not the sort of startling numbers being put up by Houston (-120), Baltimore (-134), and Pittsburgh (a mind-boggling -153). Think about Pittburgh's number for a second, if you will: that means the Buccos are losing every game they play by an average of 2.25 runs. Unbelievable, and here's the weird thing: they're only two games behind us in the standings. The Tribe is two games short of their Pythagorean W-L, while Pittsburgh is an unsustainable five above theirs. Who would you rather watch in the second half?

The notion that the Indians are bad but not terrible was supported, in my view, by the Mets series. We lost by 1, 4, and 2 runs, an average of 2 1/3 runs a game. Since the Mets' Simple Rating System (SRS) is 0.8 and Cleveland's is -0.7, one would expect a 1.5-run Met victory in any average game between the two clubs, so this result isn't particularly out of the ordinary. The Tribe could have won any one of those; they forgot to play defense in game 1 and couldn't buy a break all series, otherwise they would have. But they didn't look pathetic or hapless; they just weren't quite as good as New York, and the Mets edged them each time out. If this was soccer, we would have tied at least two of the three games. I'm not trying to be overly optimistic about the Tribe; they have much organizational work to do. But I expect them to at least remain competitive, and recognize that things could be a whole lot worse. Take a drive down I-79 if you don't believe me.

I had the pleasure of attending Thursday's game with my Pops as an early Father's Day outing, and was once again struck by what a lovely place Progressive Field can be on a pleasant late-Spring (today is the first day of Summer) evening. Sure, the Tribe fell behind early and couldn't quite catch up, eventually losing 6-4, but they competed and brought the tying run to the plate in the 9th. That's worth the price of admission right there. Remember what I said in the previous two paragraphs about expectations for Tribe-Metropolitans. Probably the most disappointing part of the evening for us was when Dad found a nice polo shirt he liked at the team shop (which I was going to parlay into free tix by tacking on a boss pair of Chief Wahoo athletic shorts) and couldn't find a size L. Seriously, no L?

The Mets game also made clear to me what might be the #1 worst thing about supporting the Indians right now: visiting fans.

Editor's note: this sort-of included the Yankee fans I saw in Wilbert's prior to Thursday's game. I know Yankee fans aren't the sharpest knives in the drawer, but I always thought they could at least tell which New York baseball club they supported. I hope they enjoyed watching Game 1 of the 2007 ALDS on the Wilbert's big screen!

The Indians' poor record so far, coupled with lackluster attendance, means that there are a fairly high proportion of a visiting team's fans present at any game. OK, maybe not games against the Rays, but when a New York, Boston, or even Washington (I don't think I saw one fan who didn't have a Strasburg jersey shirt; lots of die-hard Natties fans, I'll tell ya) comes to town, there are a lot of enemy combatants in our house. And I don't like it. It's trying enough at times to have to watch the Tribe's growing pains, but having OTHER teams' fans in the stadium enjoying and cheering the Indians' losses just absolutely drives me nuts. The fact that Cleveland isn't drawing well, I think, encourages road fans to attend games, and the fact that we aren't very good ennobles them to cheer and taunt much more than they would otherwise. I hate this. Fine, I'm sure they're enjoying their team's play, but I wish I could just deal with the Indians' struggles without these morons gleefully rubbing it in. Boo.

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