A portait of Casey Blake, the player Cleveland fans learned to love too late.
In last week's missive, I submitted for your consideration some unique data that I believe sheds at least some light on the elusive Cleveland Fan Confidence. It examined the relationship between a player and his fan, and how that relationship grew as the years passed. In the case of Robert Wickman, he became towards the end of his tenure a member of the extended family. Perhaps he was more a no-good brother-in-law than an adopted son, but still part of the family; otherwise, why would the fans lavish him with attention only one of theirs would receive?
So does this "adoption" make a fan more or less confident in a player than a player not yet adopted? I don't believe a relationship grows in that way. We may perhaps grow closer to a person as our relationship with him lingers, but that has more to do with our understanding than our confidence. Faults become more grating as time goes on, as we've seen with the Wickman data.
Which leads me to a second player that we have data for. Casey Blake played for the Indians for six seasons. I talked with several "Hard Core" baseball fans to get some background on how he was perceived by fans at the beginning, middle, and end of his Cleveland stay, and I will add their fascinating insights to the evidence presented:
Exhibit One: 2003.
Who the [explitive] was that [dead person]. Dolan is cheap!
Casey Blake was acquired as a minor free agent, which means that he played in a secondary league the year before. The "Dolan" in the second sentence is the owner of the Indians, and the fan was referring to the payroll changes from the previous year.
Blake, despite the long odds of staying with the Cleveland club, was still around in 2005, though he had change his place in the field because of a major free agent.
Exhibit Two: 2005.
Blake is a [dead person]. Release him!
Despite these informed opinions, Blake remained with the team until 2008. That season, other teams were interested in him because (they tell me) the Indians lost a lot of games. This doesn't make sense to me, but I am dutifully repeating it.
Exhibit Three: 2008.
Why did they trade Blake? Dolan is cheap!1!
(I am fairly certain that the "1" was a transcriber's error, but as I never modify data, I am leaving it as entered).
This indicates that Blake was someone the fans had grown to admire, though it took him leaving for this feeling to work its way to the surface. Through my research, I have come to know these people, so please understand that in their culture, a statement like the one shown above is actually an extremely strong compliment.
So what does this evidence tell us? In my scientific opinion, on the surface the Cleveland fans laugh at players that they know nothing about, loathe the players they are used to seeing, and fondly remember them after they leave. But if one looks closer, as I have done, laughter means excitement, loathing means acceptance, and fondness means forgetfulness. I feel I have, by this small detour, taken a short cut towards the uncovering of confidence as understood by the Cleveland native.
Until next time, my colleagues!