Why Does Cleveland Love Alex Rodriguez So Much? (Perhaps He Is Their Sky God.)

It was a big night for baseball in Cleveland last night, according to Ben Shpigel of the New York Times :

Hot dogs cost a dollar on Thursday night, which could be one reason why the largest crowd since the Indians ’ home opener flocked to Progressive Field. Another, this one more plausible, involved the desire to see a singular event, a home run slugged by a certain third baseman, before the Yankees skipped town for a more meaningful series against Tampa Bay

Is Alex Rodriguez’s narcissism contagious? New York sports writing, like New York sports, runs on unearned self-importance, but does Ben Shpigel really believe that 34,455 Clevelanders came out to the ballpark because they were hoping to see Alex Rodriguez hit his 600th home run? They wanted to see a player who is despised by everyone, playing for LeBron James’ favorite team, add one home run to his steroids-inflated career totals—at the expense of the Indians?

Ben Shpigel can be forgiven for thinking that anyone cares at all when and where Rodriguez happens to hit his 600th home run. Nobody outside New York does care, but that’s probably hard to tell from the press box.

But his theory of Cleveland’s devotion doesn’t even make sense on its own terms. Alex Rodriguez had 599 home runs when he arrived in Cleveland for this week’s four-game series. So why didn’t people come out for the first three games, when he was just as likely to hit that singular home run? The only people who were interested in whether Rodriguez got to 600 before leaving for Tampa were Yankees beat writers, antsy to publish the columns they’d prewritten as soon as he hit No. 599.

So what did account for the turnout for Rodriguez’s homerless farewell to Cleveland, when only 22,965 people had showed up the night before? Maybe it was the dollar hot dogs after all. Or maybe there’s another reason people choose to go out to a ballgame, whether someone is hitting pointless milestone home runs or not. Let’s see:

Monday : 82 degrees, 87 percent humidity. Attendance: 27,224.

Tuesday : 84 degrees, 90 percent humidity. Attendance: 27,416.

Wednesday : 90 degrees, 94 percent humidity, afternoon thunderstorms. Attendance: 22,965.

Thursday : 77 degrees, 93 percent humidity. Attendance: 34,455.

Looks like the people of Cleveland came to the ballpark to thank Alex Rodriguez for breaking the muggy spell.