Last week Mark Shapiro was on "More Sports with Les Levine," a program I am not familiar with. At some point during the show, Shapiro was responding to fans' e-mails, one of which came from someone asking for a reason why they ought to renew their seasons tickets for 2013. Shapiro's response was, if their only reason for coming to games was to see the Indians win, "Don't Come."
On it's face, that's a pretty crass thing to say, both as a response to a fan who has obviously paid a pretty good amount of money attending games, and as a message to the entire fan base, which hasn't seen a winning season since 2007, and has seen only two of them in the last eleven years.
Yesterday, Shapiro was asked to elaborate on that answer.
"I’m sure I could have re-stated it differently, I was definitely not happy with my response at the time. But if they listened to what I had to say in context, hopefully they will know the overall message I intended to convey."
Shapiro then attempted to provide some context.
"I told him if the sole reason, the only reason, for renewing is predicated on us winning, then they shouldn’t come. I stand by that. Baseball has to mean more than just being a fan when you win. You’re missing out. You’re missing out on what baseball is all about."
Ultimately, I agree with Shapiro on this. Winning is great, but there's a lot to like about baseball, about spending an afternoon or an evening at the ballpark, even if the Tribe ends up losing. Having a beer and a dog, sitting in the sun (or, let's be honest, bundled up in the cold), with a friend or with your kids, and thousands of other fans... If you can't enjoy that, regardless of the final score, how did you become an Indians fan in the first place?
Do you think the Tribe looks like a contender for 2013? Most Indians fans don't. Few seem to think there are realistic moves that could be made between now and Opening Day to change that. Many believe the Indians should even attempt to make the 2013 team even worse, in hopes that trading away good players will lead to a strong contender in 2015 or so.
Would you prefer a Team President who ignores the weaknesses, exaggerates the strengths, and spouts a lot of cliches about how "you just never know?" Would you like to have a front office that truly believes the current roster is only a minor tweak away from contending for the World Series? Or, would you rather have someone who's realistic about the team's current position?
There is room for debate about whether or not the current front office has done a good job of utilizing its resources to put the best possible team on the field. For too many years, key draft picks didn't turn into solid players, the return on a couple necessary trades has been underwhelming, and a couple modest free agent signings have really not panned out.
On the other hand, the most recent drafts seem to have included some more promising players, guys like Cabrera, Choo, and Santana were all practically stolen from other teams, and Grady Sizemore was signed to a great contract, but his health problems destroyed one of the most promising careers in franchise history, just as he was entering what should have been his prime.
I really like the move to bring in Terry Francona (which I don't think would have happened without Shapiro's involvement) and it's too early to say much about the team's off-season, in terms of player movement. If the moves over the next month or two don't feel like a real step in the right direction and the team continues to flounder in 2013 without any new building blocks being brought in, I'll probably turn on the current regime and hope for a change. For now, I'm still in the half-full camp in assessing their moves.
Either way, whatever direction things go in from here, give me leadership that's willing to be honest and save the sugar-coating for my breakfast cereal.