Going into the season, the Cleveland Indians PR team was bragging about selling out the home opener in ten minutes after the Michael Bourn signing, making it seem like a return to age when getting tickets to a home opener meant standing in a line for hours and finding out they sold out before you got to the front.
The Indians have sold out every Opening Day since 2007 (when they didn't officially have one) except for 2010 when they sold a season high 38,900 seats. So basically, selling out Opening Day isn't that exciting since they have done it almost every single season since Jacob's Field opened in 1994.
The real trick is the rest of the opening home stand as in recent years these have been some of the worst selling games in franchise history. In fact, in 2011 the Indians set an all time low in attendance during the second game of the year, then reset the record the next day, hitting an all-time low of 8,726. Of course, all these numbers are total tickets sold, not actually fans in the park, so they are even inflated a little over how many people were at the game.
There is good reason for fans to stay away from the ballpark on those days, in general the sub-50 degree temperatures that can be expected the first few weeks in April. This season the weather has been particularly nasty, but when the tickets for these games went on sale, no one could have predicted the weather for the past week and as stated before, attendance numbers reflect total tickets sold, not actual game day attendance.
Since 2007 (well after the Indians sell out streak ended), the Indian have averaged about 18,000 fans per game in April (and a few in March), almost 5,000 per game below their regular season average. This season, the Indians have averaged 11,427 fans per game in April (there is one home game left this month), almost 7,000 fans per game less than their already low average. This is despite playing their first six games on the road in domes, waiting for the weather to warm up in Cleveland.
Going back to 2011, that opening series can probably be considered the worst home stand since the creation of Jacob's Field. The Indians opened the season at home (always a mistake) against Chicago and averaged just 9,500 fans per game (excluding the sold out opener). Obviously, this was worse than this season, but the average temperature was just 41º compared to this years 53º and it came after an absolutely terrible 2010 season, while this year saw the most exciting offseason in years.
Early Spring press made it seem like ticket sales were good and season ticket sales were up, but a sub 10,000 fan crowd against Boston on Tuesday made things look a little different. This is made even worse when you look at who they played. The Yankees are the best single team draw for the Indians and they came for the only time this year last week. Over the past six years the Indians have averaged almost 9,000 more fans against New York than their normal average and average almost 1,000 more fans against the AL East in general. Most likely the weather kept those "die hard" Yankee fans away this year, when they normally come in July, meaning it probably cost the Indians as many as 40,000 total ticket sales by having this series early in the year.
Overall, the situation looks bad. The Indians likely overexagerated preseason sales in an attempt to bolster ticket sales, but it didn't work as well as they hoped. These early season number are embarassing, and go to show that Indians fans are completely jaded and will not buy in speculation. The Indians record may have proven their fans correct for staying home, it just remains to be seen if the Indians start winning, will the fans show up? Early speculation: probably not.