CLEVELAND — Chief Wahoo is gone. Francisco Lindor is gone. Even the Indians are gone.
And now I’m gone.
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.
• 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 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.
Ted Diadiun is a member of the editorial board of cleveland.com and The Plain Dealer. Reach him at: firstname.lastname@example.org