Rather than use the actual name, those two words are what Indians superstar Francisco Lindor used to describe Cleveland while on the mic at shortstop during Tuesday’s All-Star Game at Progressive Field (or, as we still call it here, The Jake). There was a cavalcade of other highlights during his conversation with the announcers, but one quote in particular struck a chord with me.
Man, did that put a smile on my face. But that smile automatically came with a twinge of heartache. See, that was the same way Victor Martinez used to talk about Cleveland. Another MLB superstar and fan favorite, V-Mart was, like Lindor, a guy whose departure from Northeast Ohio felt for years like a foregone conclusion. As most of you know, the Dolan’s weren’t about to pay the money it would take to keep Martinez around, so they traded him to Boston during a stretch of losing seasons.
I had that same conflicting set of emotions about C.C. Sabathia, Cliff Lee and, most recently, Michael Brantley during their final years with the Tribe. I chalk it up to the aftermath of how I felt after watching Jim Thome, one of my childhood heroes, leave my hometown team to play for the Phillies. Watching Lindor play is a joy as great as baseball can bring, but the feeling of knowing he’ll be gone in just a few short years taints that joy ever-so-slightly.
Ultimately, the emotions led me to this place:
Turns out much of the Cleveland fan base has thought about this as well. There was a lot of insightful tweeting on this subject, so I thought you’d all like it if I organized and shared what I found most useful.
This is the obvious one. The Indians have sat near the bottom of the league in attendance for years now, and their revenue from ticket sales doesn’t line up with that of teams that play in larger markets. Logically, one would think that higher attendance numbers at the park would lead to more revenue that could be spent on payroll.
Of course, all that assumes that the Dolans would be willing to spend that extra revenue on Lindor specifically (or at all, rather than pocket the dollars). You, the fans, can help the team increase its payroll capacity by going to the ballpark more often, but that alone isn’t enough. So let’s keep exploring.
This idea actually does a much better job of directly connecting revenue to Lindor’s contract. If every season ticket holder were to write a letter stating they refused to renew them in 2022 until Frankie is re-signed, there would be a significant reason for ownership to listen, in additional to an actual monetary incentive to more deeply consider paying his price.
I’m sure this has crossed everyone’s mind. Supplement Frankie’s paycheck with our own hard-earned dollars in order to give ownership an effective discount. Problem is that I can’t imagine fans donating enough to reach even 1% of the total amount Frankie is worth. In any case, this is a bad precedent to set, and something about the idea of helping the owners pay for a player they can make money off just feels dirty to me. I actually only included this tweet because crowdfunding could provide petition-like proof that fans are willing to spend money to see Lindor play. Let’s mostly ignore this idea as it exists literally, but keep the spirit of it in the back of our minds.
This one is nearly impossible but worth mentioning nonetheless. A few years back, the Indians sold a minority ownership stake to one John Sherman. That same year, they went to the World Series (coincidence, probably), and in the following offseason they dished out the largest contract in franchise history to Edwin Encarnacion (probably not a coincidence).
Selling a majority stake as the Twitter user above suggests is something the Dolans aren’t going to do any time soon. But they might at least listen to a clamoring to sell another minority stake (think 5-10%) considering the Tribe have been in the playoffs every season since the last time they tried it. That sale would result in some available funds, which could be used for a Lindor contract. Who’s going to start the petition?
I want to piggyback off this one a bit. We already talked about going to games, but merchandise sales are another very large source of revenue for any ballclub. Should there be an inordinate number of sales on merchandise related to one specific player, well, that might be something that catches the attention of the people running this organization.
I’m not saying go out and buy a dozen Lindor products to show your fandom. But if you’re someone who finds their Indians jersey collection outdated or even nonexistent, maybe pick up that Lindor iteration to wear to the games. Maybe you have a family member who’s also a Tribe fan and has a birthday coming up; I’m sure a signed Lindor something-or-other is as cool a gift as any. Had thoughts about getting an Indians shirt with Shane Bieber‘s name on the back? Consider getting the Lindor version instead. If everyone who reads this article can simply reallocate some of their reasonable Tribe merch spending to Frankie products instead, it could tip the numbers more than you might think.
Outlandish and also my favorite suggestion. A petition is one thing, but a Frankie fan parade would be proof of Cleveland’s over-the-top love for one of the most talented players in the long history of our franchise (yes, I said it. Go ahead, @ me on Twitter and I’ll double down). All you need is a surprisingly cheap permit and a group of people who share your appreciation for Mr. Smile.
No, I don’t believe this will warm the Dolans’ hearts en route to opening up their pocketbooks as they shed a tear on behalf of the fans’ dedication to Frankie. Multimillion-dollar business decisions seldom have a storybook feel of that kind. But if the parade is large enough, it could garner coverage from both local media and national sports networks. That kind of publicity can help put a light touch of pressure on both sides to get a deal done.
***** ***** *****
I haven’t ignored the fact that Frankie’s contract status is also contingent upon whether or not he is willing to forego a shot at free agency, and even whether or not he wants to stay at all. But based on the way he speaks about this team, this city, and these fans, I have a hard time believing he isn’t ardently holding out hope that the Dolans will pay a fair sum that justifies sticking around. The unfortunate reality is, the feelings of a fan base doesn’t usually have a significant impact on these contract decisions.
Still, the fans do have some level of influence. To a certain extent, it makes business sense to keep a fan favorite around not just for his talent, but for his marketing value. The suggestions above are small things we can all do to help work our voice into the outcome. Remember, two pounds doesn’t look like much compared to one thousand, but if the weight on both sides of a scale is close to even, those two pounds can ultimately tip that scale in the other direction.
Food for thought.
Featured Image Courtesy of Erik Drost, via Flickr.