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4/10/2007 11:16:00 AM

AL Central: At Home on the Road?

Snow Game
Cleveland fans toughed it out on Friday as the Indians and Mariners tried -- and failed -- to get a game in.
By Joe Lemire

For Milwaukee fans who have longed for the return of the designated hitter, receiving this week's Angels "at" Indians series is like Christmas, replete with the forecast of snow and the gift of American League baseball.

For fans of Major League, it's a thrilling reunion of the Indians with Milwaukee, where the movie's baseball scenes were filmed.

For everyone else, it's just a horror show. The Indians are robbed of three games of normal gate receipts; their players are robbed of three nights of home-field advantage; and the Angels' are robbed of three days of sightseeing in Cleveland. (OK, so not everyone is suffering equally. Plus, the Angels hadn't even left Los Angeles when the venue change was announced.)

It's really just the fine folks of Cleveland who have had it rough. Because Friday night's contest against Seattle was halted a strike short of an official game, the Indians will now be playing their "home" opener in Milwaukee.

"This is the weirdest of the weird," said Bob DiBiasio, Indians vice president of public relations.

This is coming from a man who witnessed the oddity of Sept. 25, 2000, when the Indians hosted the White Sox in the afternoon and the Twins that same night. But this April snowstorm wiped out a single game Friday and then three straight days of attempted doubleheaders. It also wiped out a level playing field in fantasy leagues with weekly head-to-head matchups; if you own stars like Travis Hafner, Grady Sizemore, Ichiro or Felix Hernandez, I hope someone talked you down from that ledge.

With Major League Baseball facilitating the discussion, the Angels and Indians worked to find an alternate site for their three-game series -– night games today and tomorrow and a matinee on Thursday -– when Jacobs Field was deemed unplayable. Anaheim, Houston and Milwaukee emerged as viable options. The Indians were willing to play the games in the Angels' digs in sunny SoCal and even offered to count them as Cleveland home dates, rather than swap home series (the two are scheduled to play in L.A. May 8-10 and Sept. 6-9), but future travel itineraries and competitive advantage concerns negated that possibility.

"Milwaukee is more desirable because we go to Boston on Friday, and there's a jump there in time," said Angels V.P. of communications Tim Mead. "It gets the players more acclimated to the schedule. On a neutral site it takes away the concern that someone had three additional games at home. It satisfies and alleviates concerns and integrity issues."

As it is already, the Red Sox moved up their normal Patriots' Day start on Monday from 11 a.m. to 10, which certainly can't help any West Coast team plagued by lingering jet lag.

With a seven-hour drive looming -– in inclement weather, no less -– the Indians don't expect many of their fans to make the trip to Milwaukee. Cincinnati's Great American Ballpark appeared to be available and only four hours from Cleveland, but that apparently was not discussed (Miller and Minute Maid parks both have retractable roofs). Cincy's daily high temperatures are expected to be in the 50s all week, so why not make it a series of day games and at least play in-state? For the $10 general admission tickets being sold for the series, I'd bet a good number of Clevelanders would skip work and make the trip.

Instead, we have this. Tucked in the press release announcing the return of AL baseball to Milwaukee was this telling statement: "Seating will be limited to the Field and (if needed) Loge Levels only."

In other words, "your voice might echo in the dome and, for the first time ever, Milwaukee might resemble Tampa Bay."

Even Bob Uecker ought to be able to get a good seat for this series.

If you're expecting such a meager crowd anyway, why limit yourself to other major league stadiums? Minor league and college parks, however, were not considered.

The best field seats at Miller Park normally cost $42 a pop, meaning for the next three days Milwaukee fans can sit in the same section for less than a quarter of the price with the fringe benefit of not having to watch the Brewers. How revenue from these games will be divided between the Brewers and Indians has not yet been decided, but Cleveland seems unconcerned with that at this point.

"The primary, immediate objective is to get our guys on the field and competing," DiBiasio said.

What a week this has been for the Indians, who started by taking two games on the road in Chicago only for the weekend to spurn unmitigated disaster. As God Hates Cleveland Sports points out about Friday night, Paul Byrd's near five inning no-hitter and the Indians' near victory don't count while Victor Martinez's strained quad does count, likely with a trip to the disabled list. Also, if anything could stop Sizemore's blistering hot start (6-14 with home runs in all three games), it's probably a blizzard.

In other words, if God were charged with hating Cleveland sports, I'd hate to be His defense attorney.


posted by SI.com | View comments |  


Posted: April 10, 2007 12:26 PM   by Anonymous
How can you say "with the fringe benefit on not having to watch the Brewers."? In case you haven't noticed, Miller Park is routinely a destination now, with an average turnout of 33,000+ over the first two series of the season! Seems to me like A LOT of people WANT to watch the Brewers.
Posted: April 10, 2007 12:41 PM   by Anonymous
I'd liked to dump three tons of Cleveland lake-effect snow on the driveway on the MLB office numbskull that decided to move the Cleveland-LA series to Milwaukee! No disrespect to the fans there, but WHY NOT play in Cinci? In makes better to play in-state, only fours hours away, rather than make a 7 hr marathon trek to a different time zone. What an assinine PR ploy on MLB's behalf!
Posted: April 10, 2007 12:59 PM   by Anonymous
Good point.

Another point: Having a team like Cleveland at Miller Park for a series might enlighten you as to what a contender looks like.
Posted: April 10, 2007 2:40 PM   by Anonymous
Wasn't Bud Seelig an owner of the Brewers? Sounds odd...
Posted: April 10, 2007 2:57 PM   by Anonymous
The Brewers fan is not saying that there weren't other logical places to play the games. I agree that Bud Selig is an idiot. But the last time I checked, the Indians are about as likely to win the AL Central as the Brewers are to win the NL Central.
Posted: April 10, 2007 3:11 PM   by Anonymous
Life long Brewer fan living in Colorado wonders when the last time the Indians (contender?!?!)won the series - sorry I was born in 1966, but I do recall a Milwaukee world series win in 1957.

Also why did a movie about the Indians (great historical name - when I think Indians I think Cleveland) need to be filmed in Milwaukee. Perhaps Clevanders really long to have a Real City on a Great Lake.
Posted: April 10, 2007 4:16 PM   by Anonymous
If they had gone to a minor league stadium anywhere in North East Ohio, it would have sold out easily. The weather hasn't been bad here in Akron and the Aeros are in the Cleveland farm system. There wasn't any snow accumulation in Akron when Cleveland was piling on several inches over the weekend. Your point about a minor league stadium should be read by MLB.
Is it Wild Things turn in the rotation? If so, I'm in.
Posted: April 10, 2007 4:31 PM   by Anonymous
As far as I can tell, the games are being played in Milwaukee because Montreal was unavailable for some reason.
Posted: April 10, 2007 4:40 PM   by Anonymous
It would make more sense to move this to Cinci--I'm sure there are more Indians fans there than in Milwaukee. But, the suggestion to play in Milwaukee did come from the Indians' president:

...and, the reaction in Milwaukee has been mostly positive:


By the way, I am a Brewer fan, and if the first guy to post didn't realize, the 'fringe benefit' thing was a joke. You'd have to be a bandwagon-jumper to not realize it's been over 20 years since the Brew Crew made the playoffs.
Posted: April 10, 2007 5:23 PM   by Anonymous
The reason they did not move it to Cincinnati, Akron, or anywhere else is that it is forecast to rain/snow Tuesday, Wednesday, and most of Thursday over the whole Midwest. It's the reason they moved the series in the first place. They moved it to Milwaukee because they KNOW that they will be able to play the games because it can't get rained/snowed out with Miller Park having a roof.
Posted: April 10, 2007 6:06 PM   by Anonymous
As of tuesday afternoon, there were over 10000 tickets sold for tonights game, 8000 for tomorrow, and 4500 for thursday afternoon. I would guess there will be more fans at Miller Park watching the Indians and Angels than there will be in Florida watching the Brewers and Marlins
Posted: April 10, 2007 8:16 PM   by Anonymous
How should the Indians and Brewers divide the gate receipts? A fair solution would be for the Brewers to take enough to pay their stadium workers and let the Indians have the rest.

And this from a Tigers' fan: the Brewers were a fun team to watch in the early 80's. The Indians were a fun team to watch in the mid to late 90's. And I believe that one or both of these teams are going to be a pleasant surprise for their fans and make the playoffs this year!
Posted: April 10, 2007 11:33 PM   by Anonymous
For whoever said that Cleveland has as much chance of winning their division as milwaukee, apparently you don't watch much baseball. The Indians are one of the favorites in the AL this year.

And even though it was great to see 19k+ show up, I'm here in Chicago and refused to make the trip. I'm still pissed over the screw job we got in not finishing the opening day game and it appears that not only are we losing these three home games, but at least one of the Marines games will be made up in Seattle. What a joke.
Hey, thanks for linking to my God Hates Cleveland Sports blog. And on my birthday, no less ...
Posted: April 11, 2007 12:35 AM   by Anonymous
They had over 19,000 fans come on just 24 hours notice. The Devil Rays and Marlins would kill to have that type of attendance. The Brewers are going to draw close to 2.5 million this season proving that it is a great baseball town. Anyone who suggests otherwise is just ignorant.
According to the associated press, the opening series was moved to Milwaukee because it has recently been ranked by Forbes Magazine as the Drunkest City in America. Lord knows noone else in the nation would pay to watch the Indians play a baseball game!
Posted: April 11, 2007 7:54 AM   by Anonymous
Well, it looks like you were horribly wrong and inaccurate with your prediction. I hope a follow up article is right behind this one acknowledging this fact. I am a Wisconsinite that has been living in Cleveland for the last 15 years and I have to say I have never felt better about the city I lived in for 4 years. To see the Milwaukee people come out and enjoy a great sport says a lot about the people of Wisconsin and also a lot about the great game of baseball. I raise my glass and drink a toast to the city of Milwaukee. Thanks for reminding me why I still say I am from Wisconsin!!!
Posted: April 11, 2007 8:45 AM   by Anonymous
The article said, "Your voice might echo in Miller Park." When over 19,000 people are yelling in Miller Park, the echos are pretty loud. The author of this article just doesn't get it.
Posted: April 11, 2007 9:44 AM   by Anonymous
I love baseball and live in Wisconsin. The author does make one very good point: I'm looking forward to watching two teams that can contend for their division, as opposed to the Brewers, who haven't had a winning season in 15 years. However, he was obviously wrong with his attendance forecast when 19,000 people showed up to last night's game.
Posted: April 11, 2007 9:45 AM   by Anonymous
It seems that a lot of people are choosing to not see the forest through the trees. Everyone acts like MLB is acting maliciously. It's not like MLB and the Indians set out to make this as difficult as possible for themselves! I think they've made the best of a nearly-impossible-to-please-everyone situation, and the 19K fans that showed up on a moment's notice confirm that. And to those that dog on the Indians' team, how about the fact that--aside from a cheap AJ Pierzynski (I know, it's shocking that such an upstanding man would stoop so low!) lean-into-a-fastball, and a one-pitch-too-soon cancellation--the Tribe might be undefeated, and just knocked off the #1 team in SI's power rankings?
Posted: April 11, 2007 10:24 AM   by Anonymous
Hey Lemire-
Why don't you drag your ignorant west-coast butt to Cleveland or Milwaukee before you make clever comments on the "sight seeing." Have you been to Anaheim? It's a frickin' paved strip-mall with Disney in the middle.

To the Cleveland fan bragging about his contenders-
Two words.: "Indian Uprising."

Regarding Milwaukee, you don't have to have a winning team there to draw fans. The town loves sports, not fair weather.
Posted: April 11, 2007 10:26 AM   by Anonymous
Milwaukee is a first-class, baseball-loving town, and last night's attendance (and support for the Indians, the "adopted" home team) showed it. Anyone who thinks otherwise can continue to revel in their ignorance. Not to mention, the game last night featured the best wave EVER. Even Cleveland manager Eric Wedge was impressed ...
Paul you are an idiot and not a real fan of baseball. The Indians and the Angels are both exciting teams to watch because they have good pitching and electric young players. IMO the Indians are one of the most exciting teams in the league.
Posted: April 11, 2007 11:32 AM   by Anonymous
Thank you Milwaukee for letting our team play in your beautiful new park, for your support by showing up and making it feel like a home game for our guys. Any Tribe fan has to be grateful for that. Tribe contenders in 2007? Being that the season started less than a month ago, I'd say it's a little early to be coming to any conclusions folks. They look to have a lot of potential this season, but they looked good at the begining of last season too. Milwaukee has made strides in the right direction as of late, and being a diehard Browns fan I share your pain of being out of the postseason for 20 years. I don't see there is so much hostility on this post between fans. We're not in the same division let alone the same conference as each other. Good luck Brewers, your my new favorite NL team.
I am tired of the free reign of knocks against Cleveland. Before you write a negative word, PLEASE visit Cleveland and its world-class entertainment, museums, microbreweries and the Rock Hall. Cleveland has the best fans in ALL sports. Period.
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