Rob Oller, he of the Columbus Dispatch, chooses DOLAN IS CHEAP over a real journalistic investigation into why the Indians are having attendance issues. (Not that it takes a lot of investigation.)
Here's my email in response to him:
Dear Mr. Oller-
It is with great disappointment that I came to the conclusion of your recent Commentary article in the May 6 edition of The Columbus Dispatch.
What troubled me so was to know I could reduce your verbose article to a mere 3 words: DOLAN IS CHEAP.
This mantra, oft repeated by the Cleveland.com community, conveniently forgets the widening financial equality gap that exists in Major League Baseball. I ask, would your audience had not been better suited to read an article with deeper
insights concerning the frustrations of small to mid market teams to compete on the same level as teams who routinely spend up to $100 million more on payroll, rather than a simple reduction such as SPEND MORE MONEY?
Instead of talking to your frontrunner friend Jim, perhaps you should have investigated numbers that would help illustrate a broken system which in no way assists the plight of the small market team, of which the Indians definitely are.
Did you know that the Yankees' revenue stream is nearly $200 million more than their next closest competitor, the Chicago Cubs?
Did you know that both the Yankees and Royals spend approximately 94% of their available revenues on player payroll? But when the Yankees have a revenue stream that dwarfs the Kansas Cities (and Clevelands) of the baseball universe, it's no wonder they can afford elite players at enormous cost.
Do you honestly think the Indians can compete with the Yankees for the services of a player like C.C. Sabathia, who commanded a $160 contract on the open market? Have you not experienced the economic turmoil that plagues a city like
Cleveland? The diminutive size of the Cleveland media market? Perhaps Dolan has Mike Ilitch money that he's not spending, but I doubt he has enough to build an all-star lineup top to bottom.
Now, even the Yankees don't win the World Series every season, and they have in the past been 'upset' by smaller payroll teams. This is evident in the fact that short 5 or 7 game series are as unpredictable as can be. The playoffs are often considered to be a crapshoot. What the Yankees buying power does nearly guarantee is a spot in those playoffs on an annual basis. When you spend nearly twice (or more) as your rivals, you can afford to make more mistakes in player evaluation and development.
The lack of a true national revenue stream (like the NFL) or a salary cap (like the NBA) keeps baseball (a monopoly and closed system!) from enjoying the type of true parity of other leagues.
Frontrunners vs. Diehards becomes completely irrelevant when placed in the context of the financial irregularity that exists in the world of professional baseball. I find it a terrible choice to construct a story about the current plight of the Cleveland Indians.
Can the Indians do better? Certainly. They are notoriously lousy at drafting talent, and have failed spectacularly in certain areas of player development (Sowers, Peralta, Carmona, etc.) Can they spend more? Maybe, but the rival Twins payroll is now pushing $100 million. How much more spending would bring about an instant winner? Would $20 million in additional payroll guarantee 10 more wins? Would that result in an attendance increase of 100,000 fans? How much more should be spent to be 'better'?
Remember, the Indians increased payroll in 2009 only to lose money and finish with a putrid record.
Isn't the money better put into long-term player development so one, as Mark Shapiro puts it "can more aggressively manage the cycle." The cycle, of course, is the bane of small to mid market teams that they have smaller competitive windows due to the current state of free agency. By trading Sabathia, Lee and Martinez, the Indians acquired a raft of potential big league talent. Growing pains, like those you see in 2010, are to be expected. Who knows, perhaps none of this talent (LaPorta, Brantley, Donald, Hagadone, Knapp, Carrasco, Santana et al) will pan out. But frankly, the Indians might be better positioned than some of their small market brethren to compete and win in 2012 and beyond — or until the next inevitable trading of stars on the cusp of free agency occurs.
I feel you do Dispatch readers a disservice by discounting the realities of running small market baseball teams in 2010 in lieu of surface-level angst about "being cheap." You say all of the empty seats at Progressive Field should be saluted. If only you would give a realistic portrait to your audience of why those seats are so damned empty.
Indians Fool and Torture Victim since 1975.