Monday, June 22, 2009

The End is a Good Place To Start

It's easy to be a blogger when times are tough. As of today, Monday June 22nd, the Indians are thirteen games under .500 and ten games back of first place in the American League Central seated firmly in the basement enjoying a day off. Mired in a six-game losing streak beginning with a sweep at home by the Brewers of Milwaukee and continued by another sweep within the friendly confines of Wrigley Field the Indians season is looking grim.

In fact, after an early morning round-up of Indians news sites and blogs it seems that the team has been universally declared dead by experts and pseudo-experts alike. That makes this the perfect time to start writing about the team, because every one has something to say when the team stinks.

After being in attendance at two of the weekend games against the Cubs I would have to agree with the consensus that the Indians may as well start looking forward to 2010, most likely without Eric Wedge.

The Indians have claimed to be in wait-and-see mode in regards to the trade market for some time now, and most certainly have to be sellers at this point, as owners of the worst record in the American League. Wait-and-see mode continues for the fans, however, who are forced to speculate when the Eric Wedge era of Indians baseball will be drawn to a close.

Team Owner Larry Dolan refused to comment to Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer on Sunday as to Wedge's status, sparking speculation that the beleaguered skipper may not make it through the off-day at the helm. However, team President Paul Dolan did clarify his father's statements claiming they were not "a statement on Eric's performance."

Thus, the impetus is placed firmly on General Manager Mark Shapiro, who (as aptly noted in this wonderful post on will be hard pressed to fire his manager because of the clubhouse atmosphere that has been created in Cleveland.

The aforementioned post, along with Bud Shaw's column, got me thinking about what is necessary to right this organization. Truth is, it's not going to be an easy fix.

In the seven seasons Eric Wedge has been in charge the team has won the Central division only once, in 2007, though they did come close in '05. Those two seasons are also the only seasons that the club has finished above .500 under his charge. This track record is hardly awe-inspiring, and makes even casual observers wonder why Wedge has received such strong support from the organization.

I believe that because Shapiro has always worked in tandem with Wedge they have become almost as one, halting Shapiro from ever even hinting at replacing him. Which, unfortunately, makes firing Shapiro as well as Wedge the first part of the rebuilding process.

Of course, it's easy to throw the management under the bus first and call for their heads. It seems as though the under-educated Tribe fan has been calling for the same thing for weeks, or months now with torches and pitchforks. Right now is still not the right time though, because no matter who replaces either man things won't change anything immediately.

So how do things change, you might be wondering. Well, the short answer is they don't, at least not this season.

The team, for better or worse, needs to ride out this miserable season with the men they came in with. At the close of the season the time would be right for the team to part ways with the Shaprio-Wedge brain trust and begin again with new management.

The options to replace Shapiro begin in house with Chris Antonetti, who has been coveted by many teams but has shown loyalty to the Indians. The difficulty in selecting him as Shapiro's successor is noted in the Let's Go Tribe post which points out his complicity within the system which has become a monoculture. Antonetti may be too similar to his boss to create a new dynamic within the club and begin to make changes in earnest.

General Manager options outside of the club seem unlikely with the faith that the Dolan family has shown thus far, however should they have become distraught by the direction of the team it would not be surprising to see them select someone from outside the walls of Progressive Field.

The options to replace Eric Wedge seem less likely to come from within the organization for the simple fact that Joel Skinner, Jeff Datz or AAA manager Torey Lovullo seem more like interim candidates than a full-time replacement.

Some of the names of out-of-work managers are more interesting than others. Skippers with a winning history like Tony Peña and Bob Brenly come to mind right off the bat, and those like Clint Hurdle, Mike Hargrove or Buck Showalter are not far behind.

My favorite among those candidates would be Brenly, partly for what he did in Arizona and partly for his Cleveland roots and what you would have to assume would be a whole-hearted desire to see the club win a championship. Peña is also an interesting choice, with a similar Royals club in 2004 he led them to their first winning season in a decade and has the experience to draw upon to help the players (something Wedge certainly lacks). The other candidates are less appealing, especially Hargrove who claimed to have lost his love for the game.

It will be an interesting month until the trade deadline to see how the team approaches their managerial situation. Unfortunately, it seems as though we fans have to sit back and watch it all unfold without the hope of seeing our boys back in the playoffs.

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