'Meaningful games in September' a stretch

Ever since Terry Francona became manager of the Indians a few years back, the mantra of the Cleveland Indians has been to play “meaningful games in September.” Now, one would have to presume that the context of those words suggests that the Indians would be involved in a playoff race to some degree; correct?

Well, my friends, the true mantra of the Indians over the last three seasons has been to lull Tribe fans to sleep for the first two-thirds of the season, then – well after most have declared the team dead and buried – somehow manage to make themselves relevant come September … only to fall short of the playoffs.

And, yes, I know very well how the ’13 Tribe went 21-6 in September two years ago to make the play-in game for the playoffs. And no, I don’t count one game in 2013 as making the playoffs – “playoffs” in baseball is plural for a reason, gang – only to get ousted immediately. Prior to their September “run” the Indians plodded along in mediocrity, and attendance dropped for the third consecutive year in spite of all the “excitement.”

Last year was more of the same “excitement.” Below .500 at the end of July, the Indians got it in gear in August, going 18-9. Before you could say “mirage” they fell back asleep in September. Bottom line: No play-in game, no drama. And oh yeah, no fans, either. Attendance dropped nearly 10 percent. Not good for a team which already ranked near the bottom of the league in attendance before the fallout.

This year, it’s unlikely anyone in the Tribe front office could even say “meaningful games in September” and keep a straight face, because the Indians had managed to get over .500 only once (and that was last week) since the third game of the season. That the Indians did manage to play better baseball after jettisoning their “core” players such as Swisher, Bourn, Moss, et al, no doubt says more about the Tribe’s inability to judge the talent on hand more than them pushing the right buttons to make the club better.

As of this writing, the Indians were averaging a handful of fans more than they did last year, but with attendance at meaningless “meaningful games in September” the last week of the season, the smart money says they will draw fewer fans than 2014 when the final figures are released. That will make five years of decline. Such excitement!

And yes, I can hear it now, once again the Indians front office will lament the lack of fan support and how they will have to try and compete with an ever-shrinking allocation of funds.

Everyone in baseball celebrated the addition of another wild-card team to each league three years ago. And looking at the “big picture” baseball attendance has reflected late season interest in most MLB cities. With one glaring exception: here.

In a city where fans have long questioned management’s commitment to building a legitimate (that’s a key word here) baseball team, something very important seems to be missing. And it ain’t rocket science.

You see, the key to playing truly meaningful baseball games in September is to also play meaningful baseball in the five months preceding September.  

Jeff Bing

Lifelong Westlake resident who dabbles in writing whenever the real world permits. My forte is humor and horror...What a combo!

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Volume 7, Issue 19, Posted 8:54 AM, 10.06.2015