Before we begin this discussion, a few things I'd like to ask of everyone: If you're going to just make jokes about Larry Dolan, please save them for another thread. They are old and tired, and bring nothing to the debate. With that being said, let's first look at some data: Key: Payroll/Attendance/Result 2012 - 21st ($78 M) 2011 - 26th ($49 M); 24th (22,726); 80-82, 2nd Place 2010 - 24th ($61 M); 30th (17,435); 69-93, 4th Place 2009 - 15th ($81 M); 25th (22,492); 65-97, 4th Place 2008 - 16th ($79 M); 22nd (27,122); 81-81, 3rd Place 2007 - 22nd ($62 M); 21st (28,448); 96-66, Division Champion; Lost 4-3 in ALCS 2006 - 25th ($56 M); 25th (24,666); 78-84, 4th Place 2005 - 26th ($41 M); 24th (24,861); 93-69, 2nd Place 2004 - 27th ($34 M); 25th (22,400); 80-82, 3rd Place 2003 - 26th ($48 M); 24th (21,358); 68-94, 4th Place 2002 - 9th ($78 M); 12th (32,307); 74-88, 3rd Place 2001 - 5th ($91 M); 4th (39,694); 91-71, Division Champion; Lost 3-2 in ALDS There are a few theories out there for why Cleveland hasn't supported this team in 10 years. 1) Larry Dolan Doesn't Spend Enough Money Dick Jacobs sold the Indians just as free agency was starting to become out of control. When Albert Belle signed with the White Sox in 1996 for 5 years, $55 M, people gasped at the size of the deal, which paid Belle $11 M per year. $10-11 M is now the going rate for a good but not great player. After going hard after Manny Ramirez in 2000, the Indians have largely stayed out of the big-name free agent market. They gave sizable extensions to Grady Sizemore (6 years, $24 M), Travis Hafner (4 years, $57 M), and Jake Westbrook (3 years, $33 M). After their 2007 run, they gave Kerry Wood a big deal (2 years, $20 M). Most recently, they extended Asdrubal Cabrera for 2 years, $18 M. They've also spent heavily on the draft in recent years. Dolan has spent money. But has he spent enough? The attendance decline began with the first rebuild in 2003, and has never fully recovered. Cleveland had a league-average payroll in 2008 and 2009 and it had little effect on getting more fans to the park. Even more concerning is that attendance remaining low in 2005 when the Indians won 93 games and just missed the playoffs, and in 2007 when they won 96 games, the Division Title, and were one win away from the World Series. Has Dolan's reputation suffered so much that even when he does spend, it's ignored? Will fans only support this team if ownership spends with the "big boys", regardless of the on-field result? 2) Lack of Sustained On-Field Success We know that the team's success in individual seasons hasn't altered attendance much, as evidenced by 2005 and 2007. However, over the past 9 years, they have never had back-to-back contending seasons. In the 90's, the Indians were a World Series contender every single year. Did this continual success raise expectations too high? Do they have to be a consistent contender for fans to come back? 3) Lack of a Marketable Superstar We've had some excellent players in Cleveland since the attendance decline began in 2003. Grady Sizemore (pre-injury), Travis Hafner (pre-injury or steroids), C.C. Sabathia, Cliff Lee, Victor Martinez, Shin Soo Choo, etc. However, only Sizemore has brought marketable "star power" to the Indians, and even that was short-lived. Do the Indians need their own Kyrie Irving - a superstar on the field that is also easily marketable off of it? 4) Cleveland Cannot Support Three Professional Sports Franchises The Browns, regardless of the product they put on the field, get full support for Cleveland's sports fans. This is absolutely a "Browns Town", and the return of the Browns may have had an impact on the Indians' attendance. The Cavaliers had huge attendance numbers during the LeBron Era, which may have impacted the Indians. When the Cavaliers were at their best, only die-hard Tribe fans paid attention to the Indians before June. However, even with an owner that most fans love who spends a ton of money on his team and a budding superstar in Kyrie Irving, the Cavaliers sit at 19th in the league in attendance. Is there just not enough money to go around for all three teams? 5) The Economy This may go along with #4 a bit. We all know that, while there have been encouraging signs of a recovery lately, the economy has struggled for at least 5 years, maybe more. We also know that Ohio has been one of the hardest hit states by this weakened economy. Has the lower attendance been a simple result of people not having as much disposable income to use to go to games? In my opinion, it's an unfortunate perfect storm of all five. I do know that when it's 60 degrees and sunny on a Saturday afternoon and only 18,842 show up (many of them Jays fans), we have a problem. I know that it's an even bigger problem when the Indians have a year like they did in 2007 and still don't draw fans. While I also know that there's no easy solution, it's frustrating to watch. I'm afraid to see what the turnout is for the Monday-Wednesday games against Chicago.