The Cleveland Guardians have ridden a dominant pitching staff to a division title, their first since the 2018 season.
They’re also an exciting team to watch, with the youngest roster in Major League Baseball that averages just over 26 years old.
None of that has helped attract more fans Guardians home games.
This has been a season long issue in Cleveland, extending past attendance into struggles with local television ratings.
At the time, some defended the low attendance figures by saying they weren’t a particularly good team. In theory, that would go a long ways towards explaining the dramatic drop in support.
But it’s hard to play much better than 42-24, clinching your division with several weeks remaining in the season.
That success hasn’t helped matters much.
With six home games left, all against the Kansas City Royals, Cleveland ranks 25th in Major League Baseball in attendance, averaging just 16,819 fans per game:
This sits below even the Reds and Tigers; two moribund teams eliminated from postseason contention months ago. Not to mention the Chicago White Sox, who faded from contention early on.
While the average per game does represent an improvement over their midseason figures, it’s only been a slight increase.
As of late July, Cleveland was averaging 15,025 fans per game, meaning their push towards the playoffs in the second half has resulted in just an 11% increase in season attendance.
Compared to the 2019 season, even the 16,819 figure represents a 22% decrease, despite the 2019 team missing the playoffs entirely and finishing eight games behind the first-place Minnesota Twins.
It’s also well behind the over division winners; the Dodgers lead the league with nearly 48,000 fans per game, the Yankees rank third, Houston seventh, St. Louis second, with the Braves and Mets also in the top six.
While those are larger markets, outside of St. Louis, it’s still a tremendously poor showing for a team that exceeded expectations and easily won their division.
An important Sept. 19 game against the Twins drew just 12,168 fans. Even the most attended game of the series was just 24,449, far below Progressive Field’s capacity.
So if poor attendance isn’t due to poor performance, it certainly seems possible that fans are still upset about the name change enacted before the season.
The history and connection between the organization and fans was developed as the Cleveland Indians, which was mostly unceremoniously discarded when political pressure became too much for team ownership to handle.
There may be other possible explanations, but with many of the previous excuses; i.e. poor weather, or mediocre on-field play falling by the wayside, it seems one of the more likely reasons.
That said, with a home playoff series in Cleveland rapidly approaching, there should be more visible fan support shortly. The Guardians will host all three potential games of a Wild Card series against a to be determined opponent, with any of the possible matchups set up to create an exciting series.
But if even those games don’t sell out, it will raise even more questions about the future of fan support for the Guardians franchise.