As a result of years of pressure from activist groups, several years ago, the Cleveland baseball franchise announced they would soon be changing the team’s name.
Naturally, the team prominently declared its commitment to the correct motivations, suggesting that unity and “community” explained their decision:
“We believe our organization is at its best when we can unify our community and bring people together – and we believe a new name will allow us to do this more fully.”
So after over 100 years as the Cleveland Indians, the team started play in 2022 as the Cleveland Guardians.
Well, if the numbers are to be believed, it’s possible that fans might not have taken kindly to the rebranding efforts.
Local TV ratings for the newly christened Guardians have dropped dramatically, with one report placing the number at -30%.
That’s the third biggest decline of any team in the league, with only the moribund Oakland Athletics and rapidly fading San Francisco Giants reporting worse numbers.
MLB ratings overall have been generally flat, with even the Baltimore Orioles seeing a slight increase to this point in the season.
The Guardians however, have seen their numbers fall precipitously.
It’s not just ratings; in person attendance is down significantly from previous years as well.
In 2019, the last fully pre-pandemic season, the team averaged 21,465 fans per game.
This year, so far, average attendance has fallen to 15,025.
If these numbers continue, that would mark the non-COVID low point for the franchise since they moved into their new ballpark in 1994.
It might be tempting to blame the low numbers on poor results this season, but the Guardians are currently 2nd in the American League Central, only two games behind the first place Minnesota Twins.
While they haven’t wildly exceeded expectations, they’ve hovered well within range of a possible playoff berth, per Fangraphs odds:
Attendance has generally been lower across MLB this season than in 2019, but Cleveland in particular is outpacing the average decline.
In 2019, non-Indians attendance averaged 28,436. This year, that number is 26,582, meaning the league overall is down 6.5% in ticket sales.
Meanwhile attendance for the Cleveland franchise has plummeted 30% from 2019.
There simply aren’t many great explanations for this dramatic decrease in ratings and fan support other than general dissatisfaction.
It could be that many fans are upset with the direction of the on field product, or it could be that they’re upset the team they grew up attached to changed from its historic identity to a generic name they have no connection with. Maybe it’s a combination of the two factors.
Some might even attempt to blame poor early season weather, but that’s always been an issue in Cleveland.
Regardless, the numbers are bleak for the Guardians. The decision to rename the team was clearly done out of fear of criticism and political pressure, and it’s possible that it’s substantially hurt the franchise financially.
As perhaps an even better indicator of how the name change abandoned history, a Google search for Guardians tickets still shows up from MLB.com as “Indians ticket pricing:”
That doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in the new name, now does it.
Follow Ian Miller on Twitter: @ianmSC
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