Fans Turning Apathetic Towards Rebuilding Indians

By: T.J. Zuppe

The 2007 season ended in disappointment, as the Cleveland Indians fell to the Boston Red Sox in seven games in the American League Championship Series, after holding a 3-1 series lead. The Red Sox went on to win the World Series against the Colorado Rockies, as the Tribe hoped it was only their first legitimate shot at a championship with their new core.

Flash forward to 2010, and the ALCS loss to the Red Sox is but a distant memory to Indians’ fans in Cleveland.

2007 Indians - A Distant Memory

Since 2007, the Indians have gone through two different rebuild processes behind general manager Mark Shapiro, and assistant general manager Chris Antonetti prior to 2010. Gone were the likes of starting pitchers C.C. Sabathia, Cliff Lee, catcher Victor Martinez, third-baseman Casey Blake and a host of others.

Now this season has brought about even less success than in years past, and the Indians have embraced yet another process of selling off piece-parts in a fire-sale type auction, and this season’s trading deadline have given Indians’ fans more headaches and reasons to kick and scream in disapproval. Cleveland rolls their eyes, yet again, as the Indians become the farm system to other contending teams, as they sure up their rosters for the stretch run.

This year’s deadline involved the trades of pitcher Jake Westbrook, third-baseman Jhonny Peralta, outfielder Austin Kearns, and closer Kerry Wood, erasing all memory of the slim window the Tribe had during the late 2000’s. What is the justification for the team to make such moves?

The Indians seem to be clearing way for the kids.

However, it is not so much about the guys the Indians have traded at the deadline. It has become more of a microcosm of what the trade deadline represents to the team; a chance to once again alienate the fans and rebuild a house that did not have a firm standing to begin with.

Forget fans scratching their head at the moves. Forget them rioting in the streets, or protesting with large groups outside the Indians’ offices at Progressive Field. No, a much worse thing has happened in Cleveland.

No one cares.

Say hello to apathy towards baseball in Cleveland, as the team once again struggles to find a direction, and more perceive they do not have one. The pereception of the ownership, and the Dolans is that they are cheap. Shapiro is perceived as an idiot, and the team is viewed as a minor league, mickey-mouse organization.

None of which are particularly true, but the perception will trump the reality every time. Sure, the Dolans have spent some money, Shapiro has made some stellar deals, and the Indians at one time were a model for consistency, but selective memory will strike that from the record when the team falters, and falls down to the depths of the bottom of the American League Central Division.

The city would still back the Tribe if they looked like they had a plan, and were viewed as having a commitment to winning. Simply put, however, they just look lost. To begin every season, the Indians sound optimistic, then end the season by trying to sell a new, younger group to the fanbase. Then the process starts all over again.

Indians General Manager Mark Shapiro

Quite frankly, Cleveland is sick of the same old song and dance.

Possibly the team would look better if a return on the trades were more quickly realized. Patience is a virtue, but it is also a rarity in sports. So the rebuilding process looks about as appealing as playing leap frog with a rhino. On top of that, that is how it feels to be a fan of the team right now.

Summing up the frustration, the Indians appear to take a infallibility approach, which further distances the fan base from the team, and the organization seems abrasive towards the people they should be embracing in a rough patch for the team. As a result, Cleveland does not feel sorry, and fall into the small-market team conversational trap, and use that as more fuel to their passion-fueled fire.

So as the Indians continue to push bobbleheads, dollar dogs and fireworks nights at Progressive Field, the city will continue to put the team further and further into the back of their minds, until they finally accomplish one promotion that has been escaping them as of late – winning.

Follow T.J. Zuppe on Twitter @TJZuppe


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