It's a setup, the deck's stacked
The Indians narrowly missed the postseason in 2005.
They went into 2006 with high expectations but finished a six games below .500.
They won the AL Central and finished one win shy of a World Series berth in 2007.
And they finished at .500 in a disappointing 2008.
That four-year period I just described to you has come up in conversation in two interviews I’ve been a part of the last two days. One was an exclusive video interview with general manager Mark Shapiro, and the other was a group session president Paul Dolan conducted with the beat reporters this morning. Here’s the story on that.
And this is the gist, which some fans will no doubt have a hard time swallowing: The Indians’ ownership and front office are viewing that four-year period as a success in this market. It was a four-year period with one playoff appearance, no World Series titles and two subpar seasons, and it’s considered a success.
The Indians, now more than ever, seem resigned to the realities of baseball’s unbalanced arrangement in which the big-market clubs operate without a salary cap, the amateur Draft is held without anything firmer than a recommended slotting system and the international free agent market has no limits on spending.
We’ve discussed last week’s trades ad nauseam, and we’ve discussed the financial outlook for the Indians’ organization, but it bears repeating that perhaps the most significant end result of last month’s activity is the acknowledgement of this Tribe team, existing in a market with a shrinking population and rising unemployment, that it can only compete with the big boys in short spurts.
“What’s happened here in the general economy over the last 10 years,” Dolan said, “is we’ve been in recession of some form or another since early 2000, really since we bought the team. Jobs have been lost. Populations have declined. And there is more competition in the marketplace than there was in the ’90s. That’s our reality, and we understand it.”
Fans need to understand it, too. Those calling for the Dolans to sell the team need to understand that roughly half (Dolan estimated it as a little less than half) of this club’s revenue is generated by ticket sales, and sales have been slow the past two years, even in the wake of (and during) that ’07 run. (They also need to understand that no one’s exactly lining up to buy this team in its current state.) Revenue sharing and the profit generated by STO are supplemental sources of income for the organization, but ticket sales provide the largest portion of the revenue stream.
The Dolans are prepared to lose $16 million this season, and they’ll lose more money next year, especially as attendance dwindles further in the wake of the Cliff Lee and Victor Martinez trades. But the club made the moves it did because the outlook beyond 2010, when Lee and Martinez would have likely left in free agency with no immediate returns coming back, because it wanted to shore up the seasons beyond 2010 and not have a drastic drop off the cliff (no pun intended).
This is the message Shapiro and Dolan are trying to spread in the wake of the trades, and you can read it all (and, in the case of the Shapiro interview, view it all) on Indians.com. In the Shapiro interview, I took some of your questions from this blog and my Inbox directly to Mark. Several topics are covered in that content, including Eric Wedge’s future, Matt LaPorta’s status, the big-league catching picture and how it will shake out over the course of the next year and more, so be sure to check it out Friday morning.
And that’s not all that’s going on with the Tribe, of course…
EXCRUCIATING MINUTIA OF THE DAY…
- Eric Wedge will not be in attendance for Friday’s game in Chicago, as he will attend the funeral of his mother-in-law, Carol Kulniszewski, who passed away earlier this week in Lancaster, N.Y. Bench coach Jeff Datz will serve as manager in Wedge’s absence. Wedge will rejoin the team Saturday.
- Both Mike Gosling and Winston Abreu cleared waivers and were outrighted to Triple-A Columbus. Gosling accepted the assignment, while Abreu opted to become a free agent. He was signed by the Rays, the very team who traded him for John Meloan last month.
- Regarding that big market vs. small market stuff addressed above, Sports Illustrated’s Joe Posnanski had a column you should check out.
- Trevor Crowe, who had the game-winning RBI double today, is now 9-for-24 since his latest recall from Triple-A Columbus. “He’s much more under control with his body at home plate, which allows his hands to free up a clearer path to the baseball,” Wedge said. “Since his return, he’s been in the middle of a lot, in regard to us winning games. Not just at home plate but in left field, too.”
- With his appearance Wednesday night, Jess Todd became the 28th pitcher used by the Indians this season, placing them just four shy of the American League and club record set in 2000. Todd is the 48th player used overall. The club record is 59 in 2002. The Indians have used more pitchers than any other team this season. They’ve used the second-most players overall, ranking behind the Padres’ 49.
- Asdrubal Cabrera is batting .343 with eight doubles, two triples, three homers, nine RBIs and 14 runs scored over hias last 15 games. He’s had multi-hit efforts in five of his last six games.
- Only five members of the Opening Day roster have remained with the Tribe all season.
- Aaron Laffey is now 2-2 with a 3.19 ERA since his July 8 return from the DL. As a starter this season, he is 4-2 with a 3.57 ERA in nine starts.
- Laffey pitched well Wednesday night, and so did right-hander Paolo Espino at Class A Kinston. Espino took a no-hitter into the eigth inning of a 2-1 victory over Lynchburg. He gave up one run over 7 1/3 innings, striking out six.
- Our old friend Paul Byrd came out of semi-retirement to sign a Minor League deal with the Red Sox. He does realize that it was Victor Martinez and not his old personal catcher Kelly Shoppach who was traded to Boston, right?
- I won’t be with the club in Chicago this weekend, but we’ll have a new edition of the Indians Inbox up on the site Monday.