Cleveland Indians: ‘Best baseball town’ list wrong, Cleveland belongs

Apr 11, 2017; Cleveland, OH, USA; Fans wait to enter the field before the home opening game between the Cleveland Indians and the Chicago White Sox at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 11, 2017; Cleveland, OH, USA; Fans wait to enter the field before the home opening game between the Cleveland Indians and the Chicago White Sox at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports /

Fox Sports recently came out with its best baseball towns, and noticeably absent was Cleveland, home of the defending American League champion Cleveland Indians.

The 13 “best baseball towns” were ranked. Some are no brainers. Boston and the Cubs? They’ve got history and cathedral-esque stadiums to sell. St. Louis and Cincinnati? Despite the NFL’s dominance, baseball is still bigger in these cities.

It’s the reaches Clevelanders should have a problem with. Baltimore, San Diego and, Kansas City and Detroit  are better baseball teams than Cleveland. Please.

Back when the Indians were selling out 455 consecutive home games, I remember watching the Tribe go on the road to KC and the Motor City at the old Tiger stadium. You’d think the Indians were playing in front of no one.

Detractors of Cleveland as a baseball town will point to attendance woes. Cleveland, as any kind of good baseball town is hard to refute if you’r only looking at attendance.

Despite hoisting the AL Pennant on Opening Day, the Tribe ranks 27th in attendance–out of 30 teams–with just over 20,000 fans per night. In 2016, the Tribe was 28th, with just about 19,500 fans per night. The organization hasn’t hosted more than 20,000 fans on average per night since the 2011 season.

The 2016 attenandce numbers were disappointing for sure. The Indians contended all season and had players people could buy into. Francisco Lindor‘s personality hasn’t been seen since the days of Omar Vizquel. Corey Kluber was on the short list for the Cy Young Award. Andrew Miller signified the team’s commitment to winning and the party, of course, was always at Napoli’s.

It’s not like Cleveland didn’t pay attention. Quite the opposite, actually.  The franchise registered its highest TV ratings since 2005, enjoying a 65 percent increase.

Overall, Indians’ games carried a 6.5 household rating for the season, which breaks down to 97,000 households per night.

I’d argue the regular fans were already paying attention, it just took a little while for the casual fan to catch up, via Zack Meisel of

"The division-clinching game on Sept. 26 posted a 10.48 household rating and was seen in more than 156,000 homes, the sixth-highest rating of the season. Even the postgame show that night, which aired coverage of the champagne celebration in the visitor’s clubhouse"

So the Indians had a nice bump in viewership? How does that compare to other teams?

Look back to the halfway point of last season. Even though Cleveland wasn’t drawing at the gate, they were among the big boys in local sports ratings, via Forbes.

"Led by the 2015 World Series Champion Kansas City Royals (13.26 rating with an average of 119,000 households per game), 10 teams are rated the No. 1-rated primetime programming in their home markets since the start of the 2016 season , besting both broadcast and cable competition. Joining the Royals are the St. Louis Cardinals, Pittsburgh Pirates, Baltimore Orioles, Detroit Tigers, Boston Red Sox, Seattle Mariners, Cleveland Indians, San Francisco Giants, and Texas Rangers."

Other teams in that list worth noting: Cardinals, Giants and  Red Sox. All of these teams were in the top three of the Fox Sports list.

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So what makes a great baseball town? Is it attendance? Is it ratings? Is it pennant contention? Is it merchandise sales? It’s probably some combination of everything you can use to gauge fan interest. Ultimately, the question really comes down to this: Do people in your town care about baseball? And in Cleveland, the answer is, unequivocally, yes.

The list credits the Dodgers (10), even though fans have a national reputation for showing up late and leaving early. The Padres (12) for how great Petco Park is for VISITING vacationing Dodger fans. New York Mets’ (6) fans  get credit for passion, even though the seats are full thanks to high priced PSLs. Baltimore (5)? I remember the days between Cal Ripken Jr. and Manny Machado? Anyone else?

Is Cleveland THE best baseball town? The 13-year-old in me will argue yes against anyone, but even I can’t try to sell a team that can get 25,000 per night to show up for a World Series contender.

BUT, not everyone can attend that beautiful palace on the corner of Carnegie and Ontario. While I grew up in The Land, rural Dayton is where I call home. My dollars are spend on the MLB.TV, and you better believe I tune in every time the Tribe’s on.

Next: Indians Lineup Needs Shaken Up: Tito, take a look

Good baseball towns care. Sometimes, you can’t quantify it. Cleveland’s evidence of that.