The Best Laid Plans and Fan Loyalty for the Indians and Cavaliers

Nick-Gilbert-Cleveland-Cavaliers-e1305743849543-300x213

Nick SwisherIt was Tuesday night. Carlos Carrasco and the Indians were getting pounded by the Bronx Bombers for the second straight evening, and the Cavaliers had blown a 20-point fourth quarter lead against the Pacers. It was a “woe is us” type of night on Twitter, and this writer’s body defensively put itself into sleep mode shortly before both games, missing the (live) pain of it all.1 In that collective frustration where the Cavaliers got roped in with the Tribe in terms of amount of frustration associated with the loss, I was a little surprised.  To me, it was comical to compare the losses in terms of equal footing. The book on the Cavaliers’ season has already been sent to the publisher’s. The Indians still have a lot of pages to write on the 2013 campaign. It got me thinking about the constant see-saw of fans for these two organizations buying in and buying out of emotional investment.

We all know the Browns are king in Cleveland, and they probably always will be. Football is king in Ohio. Football is king in the USA. The Browns had the most prolonged success of any of the three franchises. Some of it could be associated with actually losing the team and the undying loyalty of all needed to have to fight to get it back. Whatever the multiple contributing factors inevitably are, I don’t think it’s a secret that any Browns nugget of information usually outgains many quality features on the Cavs and Indians on this very site. The Browns move the needle, 365 days a year.

In a market that is the size of Cleveland, it’s cutting a pie in half and giving a generous half of it to the Browns and handing the other portion to the Cavs and Tribe, saying “you figure it out!”. The Cavaliers are currently 22nd in attendance at 16,119 per night, while the Tribe finished last season with drawing just over 1.6 million fans and finishing 29th in attendance at 19,797 per night. The Browns fans may be as vocal as any with their frustration, but if they haven’t turned off the television or stopped their season ticket plan by now, they never will. The butts in the seats and the eyeballs of fans seem to fluctuate MUCH more with the other two teams.

Kyrie All Star

As for the disappointments, one in the Cavaliers closing out the slate and the Tribe opening it, they’re not even close to the same level of frustration. To me, it’s all about the plans communicated and whether they’re believed by a majority of the followers. The Cavaliers’ plan was probably never to make the playoffs this season, Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson’s 2nd but Byron Scott’s 3rd. The injuries to Anderson Varejao, Dion Waiters, Kyrie Irving (for stretches), Luke Walton, and Daniel Gibson have made the once-on-fire bench a little weaker. The defense has remained awful. Maybe, it’s even gotten a little bit worse. The blown leads have mounting (4 of 20 or more this season), and there was the oft-used stat about this team being within 6 points or ahead heading into the fourth quarter of nearly every game this season.

Still, we’ve seen tremendous strides in Tristan Thompson’s game. The Cavs know what they have in a star that is Kyrie Irving. They’ve gotten a look at pieces who may be a part of their bench for next year and beyond in Shaun Livingston, Marreese Speights, and C.J. Miles. Dion Waiters and Tyler Zeller have both had up and down rookie season. Waiters has missed a sizeable number of games due to injury, but I’ve seen enough that makes me think he can be a key scoring weapon for years to come. Zeller needs to hit the weight room, but I think that worst case scenario for him is a backup center. The cap room is bountiful, the draft picks are plentiful, and the Cavaliers have a chance to reap further benefit from the Sessions trade if the Lakers can win their last two games (jettisoning their extra 1st round pick from 30th to about 18th). This was the plan all along. Make the jump next year and subsequent years with your core’s improvement, add another high lottery pick, and get some additional, economical help via free agency while keeping the pieces in place to turn a trade for an impact player2.

With the Tribe, the excitement about this team and the investment back into the roster is very real. Whereas the Cavaliers were the team for years doing whatever it takes year-by-year to improve, the Indians have poured that type of investment into 2013. With all of the excitement, however, has come an anxiety, a legitimate concern about this team’s starting pitching. Between Ubaldo in start two, Carrasco, and Myers in start one, the Indians saw their starters fail to keep the team in the game. The concern will likely remain throughout the season. But, I think one thing that the team has been searching for some time (someone for the fans to put hope in), I think they may finally have that in Bourn and Swisher locked up for several years. I think the Tribe has bought some patience and understanding with their moves this offseason. Even if the team doesn’t make the postseason this year, they once again seem to be on the up-tick.

Another facet where these two fanbases differ is their view of ownership. While many feel indebted to Dan Gilbert for investing heavily in the team and Cleveland along with defending the team and the city in the wake of The Decision, the exact opposite is the case for a majority of Tribe fans. Instead of the outward fan glad-handing that Gilbert and the Cavaliers are all about, we’ve had a lack of response from the Indians in many cases and in some cases a cold retort from the likes of Paul Dolan and Mark Shapiro.

Both of these teams have had sustained success in my lifetime (unlike the Browns). If either of them can put together winning seasons, I think the fans will be there. For the Cavaliers, it ‘s about returning that good will and belief in the “OKC plan” and doing things slowly but surely the “right way”. In the last three years, I think Cavalier fans for the most part have been patient and understanding. Next year, if the defense doesn’t improve, if this team can’t stay above .500 and make a playoff push, then the patience with Byron Scott and Chris Grant that has already started to chip away will become a full-blown mob.For the Tribe, it’s about not having fans force-fed the anecdotes about the economics of the game and instead getting better internally with talent evaluation and locking up core players so that we don’t have the painful Sabathia, Lee, and Victor-like departures. The Swisher, Bourn, and Reynolds signings are great, but they won’t be enough without hitting on the top draft picks.

At this point, can Cleveland adequately support three teams at once? I think so, but it would be nice to get some winning years out of both the Tribe and Cavs to prove it out.

 

  1. For those of you who don’t know me personally, this is a once in a blue moon thing. Missing games because I fell asleep is a very, very rare thing. Work, family plans, and hanging out with friends are all worked around game times in nearly all cases. []
  2. or that Summer 2014 thing, you never know []
  • Robbie S

    Honestly, next year is the year for the Cavs. I think they can add a good starting Small Forward, move Gee to the bench, and hopefully add a big man in free agency (making Andy trade bait yet again). Then, there is no excuses for Scott and the Cavaliers.

  • mgbode

    the way the season is ending, Scott shouldn’t have any excuses next year while analyzing NBA teams for one of the networks.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    Totally agree… the Cavs aren’t going to win a championship or anything next season, but the goal needs to be to make the playoffs. After this season, there is no reason to continue to tank.

  • mgbode

    what if they draft Noel?

    i’m not saying that because I don’t like him (I wouldn’t draft him #1 overall, but I would consider him #3/4).

    i’m saying it because it sends a message to the team that we are not going to win next year. take a bad team, add a potential high-end player that will miss at least half the year and be coming off a knee injury the rest of it. that’s likely still a bad team.

    if the FO determines he’s the best guy, then you have to take him, but it’s a tough message.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    I think they have to get things moving in the right direction either way, whether Grant decides to take Nerlens Noel or not. Irving will be in his third season of a five-year deal. You don’t want to risk souring him by admitting that you have no faith in the team or in him as the leader of that team. Grant simply cannot ask him to go through another losing season… he won’t understand, and rightfully so. Besides, even if the Cavs do take Noel, they’ll have another 1st round pick they can use to shore up SF. I am remaining optimistic and assuming that pick will be the Lakers’ pick.

  • mgbode

    I am also hoping that GRIII remains at that Laker’s pick. So double-dose the optimism :)

    I agree with you in theory, but it is going to be hard in practice without an influx of talent from both draft picks. You can set those expectations in preseason all you want, but a team like the Wizards may actually be more prepared to leap up to the 8seed than the Cavs (even though I think they are fatally flawed long-term).

  • Vindictive_Pat

    I definitely agree with that, but from our front office’s perspective, they can’t go in to next season thinking it’s another rebuilding year where losing is acceptable if not necessary. The players will know and it’ll make for a cancerous locker room which could carry over into the next season even if that season is not about tanking. I just don’t see a way that Chris Grant and company can say anything other than “our time is now” and back it up. That doesn’t mean blowing our cap situation, but I think it does mean bringing in the right pieces around Irving, Varejao, Waiters, and Thompson in order to contend.

  • mgbode

    which, would then bring up, which free agents should/could they bring in on short contracts?

    Cavs Roster for 13/14:

    PG: Irving, Livingston? PG3?
    SG: Waiters, Miles/Ellington?
    SF: ??, Gee
    PF: Tristan, ??
    C: AV, T.Zeller

    Note: I consider Speights gone because I doubt he exercises the player option or accepts a shorter term deal with us.

    I like the PG possibilities with one of our early 2nd round picks. Franklin being my favorite. So, whichever we choose there can be our PG3 who hopefully pushes Livingston for PG2.

    GRIII potentially can fill the void or SF or Shabazz/Porter with our first selection.

    http://www.hoopsworld.com/2013-nba-free-agents

    that’s a pretty disheartening group for a team that would want to fill any significant holes.

  • Steve

    “Instead of the outward fan glad-handing that Gilbert and the Cavaliers
    are all about, we’ve had a lack of response from the Indians in many
    cases and in some cases a cold retort from the likes of Paul Dolan and
    Mark Shapiro.”

    Sigh. Just, sigh. Repeat a myth enough times, and I guess it does become fact.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    I like this game… I really hope they bring back Livingston, he has been so good as the backup PG both on the court and in the locker room. I just hope he doesn’t get a big head and think that he could start somewhere else. Maybe the Cavs should put up a poster of Ramon Sessions while they’re negotiating with him. I also love both Miles and Ellington. I guess if I had to pick one, it’d be Ellington because he plays better defense and shoots a little better for his career (and is a bit younger). If there was a way to keep both, that’d be amazing. I’d have to agree re: Speights… I like him, but I think he’s gone.

    There are definitely some useful free agents out there, but I’m skeptical the good ones would want to come to Cleveland. I’d love to have Pekovic, Barnes, Lopez, among others, but I can’t say I expect them to desire playing in Cleveland.

  • Kirk

    I’m sorry, does Gilbert not openly communicate the franchise’s direction? Did Shapiro not tell fans that if all they’re considered about is winning, then maybe they shouldn’t come to games? What am I missing here?