When it comes to attendance at Major League Baseball games, the AL Central holds the worst offenders of the lot. While the Detroit Tigers come in 10th in overall attendance this season and the Minnesota Twins sit at No. 12, the Kansas City Royals, Chicago White Sox and Cleveland Indians all help set the bottom of the curve. For the Indians, they are the league's worst team in overall attendance.
To get more specific, when you add the total home and road attendance of each team in Major League Baseball, the Royals, ChiSox and Indians are the worst three teams in the league. Simply put, fewer people want to see 60 percent of the AL Central than any other team in baseball.
This is an image problem for every one of these teams. The Indians are a first place team and yet no one seems to care in Cleveland. The early years of Jacobs Field featured predictable sellouts and incredible attendance and fan support. Now that they're relevant again, no one is even watching. It's something that caused closer Chris Perez, who holds a major league leading 17 saves, to speak out in frustration.
You can say what you want about Perez, especially as a Royals fan, but he's exactly what the team needs. He was chastised by former Indians players like Kenny Lofton for his comments against Indians fans for their failure to support. He's been called out for his lack of class on the mound or in his post-game comments (especially involving the Royals). Just last night, he pissed off Jarrod Dyson for his on-mound gesture after striking him out. But his charisma and passion is something that's going to interest fans in Cleveland.
Simply put, notable players are good for baseball. Fans want to go to the ballpark to see what the most iconic, charismatic players will do next. They watch the highlights to see their performance. It would be one thing if Perez was a loose cannon with a 5.30 ERA and a ticket marked for AAA. But he will be an All-Star for the second consecutive year and has to be considered among the best in baseball at this point. Perez would likely be a well-known name if he wasn't playing to stadiums filled to 30 percent of capacity night after night.
Perez is giving the Indians what they need most: interest. He's interactive with fans every day on Twitter. He's good for memorable quotes in the press. He follows through with it on the mound. The first two wouldn't matter without the last, but Perez gives the game that spark that fans either love or hate. That will eventually turn into something at the turnstiles and team shop for Cleveland.
The Royals are going to have a lot of solid players breaking through at the Major League level in the years to come. Mike Moustakas impressed just last night in their win over the Tribe. Big things are predicted for Eric Hosmer. Bubba Starling and Wil Myers are stars in the making. But winning alone might not bring the fans to Kauffman. Proof positive is the White Sox and Indians currently tied atop the division. No one cares despite the solid on-field product.
As the Royals develop their talent, the team needs a couple of them to turn into faces of the franchise -- the player with the charm, charisma or even divisive enough personality to spark a conversation. The reason that the ChiSox and Indians are having a hard time getting anyone to the ball park is that the average baseball fan would likely have a hard time naming more than one or two players of note on either team.
Point to Perez as a model of self-promotion if you will, but at least it's promotion -- it's a player doing his part to engage the game, its fans and point to a good product that people are missing. The Royals have a bright future as well and there's no reason for fans to miss these first few steps into contention. Perhaps if a player would only help...