Diadiun Column: Major League Baseball has chased me away


Ted Diadiun - Cleveland.com



CLEVELAND — Chief Wahoo is gone. Francisco Lindor is gone. Even the Indians are gone.

And now I’m gone.

I’ve been in charge of a season ticket group since 1993 – the year before Jacobs Field opened. A bunch of us decided that year to buy season tickets for the team’s last hurrah at Municipal Stadium, reasoning correctly that it would be easy to get a good location in that sparsely attended facility, which would then transfer to a favorable spot in the new ballpark. We’ve had as many as six full season tickets every year since then, and often I went to 20-25 games a year.

It was a great run, particularly through the exhilarating but frustrating ’90s, chronicled in an excellent MLB Network presentation, “The Dynasty That Almost Was.”

But no more. The team, and Major League Baseball, has chased me away.

Oh, I’ll probably sneak into The Jake from time to time, if somebody gives me a ticket. But the love affair is over.

I don’t know whether losing a guy like me is good news or bad news for the people in charge. I’m a traditionalist (less charitable friends call me a dinosaur) about many things, baseball among them. A dying breed, I’m forced to admit. So when the owners look toward the future, it’s clear that I’m not the fan they’re worried about.

I know this because, as a (soon to be former) season ticket holder, I get asked to respond to a lot of surveys about my “experience” at the games. Do I enjoy the giveaways, the hot dog races, the dollar dog night, the “kids run the bases?” I’m asked to “imagine a space where I can socialize, that has TVs where I can watch the game and other sporting events” … would that entice me to attend more often?

No. Noooo. I can socialize and watch TV at home. I go to the ballpark to enjoy the game. I love baseball – the thrust and parry of managerial strategy, the incredible athleticism of the players, the episodic one-on-one battles between pitcher and batter, the lack of a game clock, the late-inning drama.

I keep score at every game. I don’t think the games are too long, or too slow. I don’t leave in the seventh inning to beat the crowd. I think a 1-0 game is more exciting than one peppered by home runs. I still call the place where they play “Jacobs Field.” When I’m not with my wife, I leave before the fireworks display. (My opinion is that after you’ve seen one fireworks extravaganza, you’ve seen them all. She does not agree.).

I love John Adams and his drum, but I hate contrivances like “The Wave” that interrupt the flow of the game. If I owned the team, I’d have ushers throw those idiots who try to start it right out of the ballpark. The insipid hot dog races annoy me. The only time I’ve ever cheered Slider was when he slipped off an outfield wall in the 1995 ALCS and hurt his knee, which derailed his distracting presence.

But none of the above is why I’m leaving.

That’s a question that, incredibly, nobody asked when I called the ticket office to tell them I was out after 29 years: “Why?”

So I’ll tell them here. Let me count the ways:

• Team management gets more “woke” every day. First it was banishing the Chief Wahoo mascot, quailing before a tiny minority of professional scolds. Then the name change, after assuring us it was sacrosanct (this year they even took “Indians” out of the lyrics to “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” on the scoreboard). And in the last survey I got from the team, the first question was, what gender do I “identify” as? Give me a break.

• The politicization of the game, exemplified by suspensions and forced apologies for politically incorrect comments from players that have nothing to do with on-the-field rules or performance. And, most outrageously, moving this year’s All-Star Game out of Atlanta because Georgia’s legislature enacted anti-election fraud laws, annoying the liberals who control the game.

The economic structure that allows teams in the population centers of New York and California to overwhelm smaller market franchises when their star players reach free agency. At the end of last year, Lindor forced a trade by serving notice that he would leave the Indians, who were due to pay him a paltry $18 million this season. And why wouldn’t he? The Mets then signed him to a 10-year deal at $34.2 million per.

• We pay the price for the unrestrained salaries. Our tickets when Jacobs Field opened in 1994 cost $16 a game. Today, those same seats are $70, a number that leaves inflation in the dust. I’ve been one of the saps who continued to pay it, but not anymore.

• Gerrit Cole. He’s the former Houston Astros pitcher who, in the locker room following his team’s heartbreaking loss in the seventh game of the 2019 World Series, donned a cap with his agent’s name on it and told an interviewer, “I don’t work here anymore.” A perfect me-first middle finger to his teammates and the Astros fans. He then signed, of course, with the New York Yankees.

• The looming work stoppage. The collective bargaining agreement between the owners and players ends Dec. 1 and negotiations will ensue, with the players pushing for even higher salaries and resisting any attempt to reel things back. Who will be surprised if the players strike again, and the season does not begin on time?

• The rules changes geared toward “speeding up” the game: starting extra innings with a man on second; limiting doubleheader games to seven innings, like the high schools do; forcing relief pitchers to face at least three batters, eliminating a lot of the late-inning strategy. I’ve never once gone to a game hoping it would be over quickly. As a guy who’s just finally getting used to the designated hitter, I hate those rules.

Putting all that on a balance sheet, it was not a difficult decision.

I’m not leaving just because of the name change, but that was the final straw. The Guardians is a fine name, but it’s not the name of my team. And the fact that owner Paul Dolan allowed himself to be bullied out of it is just infuriating.

Yes. It’s Dolan’s team. He can call it the Spiders, Snakes, Weasels or Chickens if he wants, and there’s nothing I can do about it.

Except leave.

He won’t miss me, but I’ll miss baseball. At least, I’ll miss the game I love, the game I grew up with. I already do.

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Ted Diadiun

Cleveland.com

Ted Diadiun is a member of the editorial board of cleveland.com and The Plain Dealer. Reach him at: tdiadiun@cleveland.com

Ted Diadiun is a member of the editorial board of cleveland.com and The Plain Dealer. Reach him at: tdiadiun@cleveland.com

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