Apathy can be overcome by enthusiasm, and enthusiasm can only be aroused by two things: first, an ideal, with takes the imagination by storm, and second, a definite intelligible plan for carrying that ideal into practice. – Historian Arnold Toynbee
The Wall Street Journal New York reported this week that the Indians are the most hated team in Major League Baseball. On a sentimental scale of -5 to 5, the Tribe scored 0.9.
When I first heard this I was outraged. Or at least I thought I should be outraged. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized I just don’t care. Like the Indians or dislike them, it doesn’t matter to me. Apathy has set in – the worst thing than can happen to a team’s fan.
I’ve come to the realization over the past few years that I’m really not a baseball fan, just an Indians fan. I don’t consider myself a fair-weather fan, I’ve seen too much bad baseball since the late ’70s to only be interested when the team wins, but my interest does peak when the team is successful – like in 2007 & 2005.
When the team crashed in 2008, interest started to wane. Then, in 2009, by the time the Cavs were eliminated from the playoffs and I checked, the Indians were struggling along and had no chance of being competitive. I found myself drifting away from the team.
And as the team sinks into the abyss of irrelevancy, either because they are unwilling (not likely) or unable (much more probable) to spend enough on payroll to compete, it gets harder and harder to follow the team on a daily basis.
That point was driven home with the cover story in this week’s Sports Illustrated, featuring the Yankees’ Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte. I have no intention of reading the story, I mean c’mon, but the coverline implies that the foursome being together on the same team for most of the past 16 years won’t be repeated again in baseball.
That’s true for any team that’s not the Yankees. One of the biggest misconceptions about the Yankees is that they have an advantage because they can buy any player they want. While that’s certainly true, the real advantage they have is that they know they can retain any player on their roster that they want. They’ve never had to worry about Jeter, Rivera or anyone leaving in free agency. If the team wanted to keep them, they always had the money and, with no salary cap, could spend as much as they want.
Think about how different it would have been for the Indians if they never had to worry about Albert Belle, Jim Thome, Manny Ramirez, CC Sabathia, Victor Martinez, Cliff Lee, Bartolo Colon, etc., leaving in free agency.
But that’s not reality, so we’re stuck with a team hitting .238 with four regulars hitting below .200 – Jhonny Peralta (.190), Travis Hafner (.190), Grady Sizemore (.192) and Luis Valbuena (.196). And there’s no hope of help from the minors as the front office won’t promote younger players because they don’t want their service time to start and put them closer to free agency and the first train out of town.
As the Tribe finishes another disappointing opening month, fans are left to wonder when the team will come up with a definite, intelligible plan that we can get enthused about.