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Looking for satisfied customers

By Sheldon Published: September 13, 2009

CLEVELAND: Austerity has been the watchword for the Indians this season, especially the past three months.

Trades have trimmed millions of dollars from the payroll, which could fall $20 million next year to $60 million or less. The losses of Cliff Lee, Victor Martinez, Mark DeRosa, Ryan Garko, Ben Francisco, Rafael Betancourt and others clearly show that the club is headed for at least one rebuilding year.

Despite protestations from team president Paul Dolan and General Manager Mark Shapiro, contending for a playoff berth in 2010 has been placed on the back burner. It could happen, as in ""anything can happen,'' but it's not likely.

How will the Tribe lure fans to Progressive Field and avoid a second consecutive year of substantial losses? ¶
""We will have to have a different sort of approach,'' said Dennis Lehman, executive vice president for business. ""We will have to sell the players we have: Jhonny (Peralta), Asdrubal (Cabrera), Grady (Sizemore), Travis (Hafner).'' ¶
Promotions will play a part in making the games more attractive. Friday night fireworks is a proven draw, so are giving away bobblehead dolls. ¶
""We will have to rely on family value and promotions,'' Lehman said. ""The schedule will be important.'' ¶
Next year's schedule has not been announced, but for interleague play, the Indians will engage the National League East plus the Reds, their designated rival. Lehman does consider the schedule a big winner, but there have been much worse. ¶
The Red Sox will visit Cleveland in May, the Yankees in August. Neither will be here for a weekend series. ¶
With projected attendance of 2.2, the team was budgeted to lose $12 million. Because actual attendance will be less than 1.8 million, Dolan said losses will reach $16 million. ¶
""If we can forecast no-shows and what our attendance will be we can save money on day-of-game costs,'' Lehman said, mostly by limiting the number of ticket takers, ushers and security personnel. ""We can save several hundred thousand dollars ( 6-8 weeks).'' ¶
The budget for 2010 has not been formulated, but money spent on the baseball side and the business side likely will diminish. ¶
""We're working on projections right now,'' said Lehman, whose business plan will be presented to Dolan for approval. Shapiro and assistant general manager Chris Antonetti also will get a look at it. After that, a budget will emerge. ¶
As for projected attendance, Lehman said, ""There's not a lot of science to it. You look at your track record from prior years. Having a decent schedule can help you. If you have a poor schedule, you try to load up with promotions.'' ¶
SITTING DUCKS -- Carlos Carrasco is proving that a pitcher doens't have to retire a batter when he's at the plate. He can wait until he reaches base then pick him off. ¶
Willie Bloomquist became Carrasco's third victim, when Carrasco nailed him at first after Bloomquist singled with one out in the first inning.¶
Carrasco picked off two runners in his last start, against the Rangers. ¶
""For six years in the minors, I picked off one guy,'' Carrasco said. ""I've picked off three in three big-league starts.'' ¶
Carrasco credits coach Luis Rivera, who signals the catcher when a runner strays too far off the bag. The catcher, in turn, gives Carrasco a sign to throw to first. ¶
SMITH SLOW TO RESPOND -- Joe Smith (sore knee) still isn't close enough to returning to accompany the team on a week-long trip to Minnesota and Oakland. ¶
""It's a somewhat slow pace,'' manager Eric Wedge said. ""But we're still optimistic that he'll come back to the bullpen and help us this year.'' ¶
HAFNER HANGS TOUGH -- Travis Hafner hasn't played more than four days in a row, as he recovers from last year's shoulder surgery. However, he did play on Sunday, a day game after a night game, his third consecutive day in the lineup. ¶
""That's something he couldn't do before,'' Wedge said. ""And he probably will be in the lineup tomorrow night (in Minnesota).'' ¶
OTHER STUFF -- The Indians have lost 10 of their past 13 games. *elip Sunday was the third time this season the Tribe had been limited to two hits. *elip The club was shut out for the ninth time Sunday, three of the nine coming at the hands of Royals pitching with all three at Progressive Field. ¶


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