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.

scale.pngAnd 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.

~AC

44 Comments

Nice of Dolan to mention the 4 previous years and leave out this clunker of a season when talking about their success.

Sorry AC, but I don’t buy this small market stuff excuse. If this team was run properly, it would draw over 2 mil every year. And that is enough to put a winning club on the field.

But when they blow money left and right on the Masa’s, Dellucci’s, Roberto Hernandez’, Fultz’ and JoBo’s options plus many others. When they spend money on the draft to see the players not develop or only develop after they leave, then yes they need more revenue to compete.

This team had the talent level to have 85+ wins every year the last 5. They didn’t get that out of them. It’s their fault not the market.

One more thing. Attendance had already crashed before the trades because of the horrible results so far this year. The trades are not hurting attendance as much as the poor play before them.

I’m not really sold on the idea that John Meloan was or even would be a huge asset to the Tribe in the future. However, now that Abreu made the full circle back around to the Rays, we essentially just handed Meloan to the Rays for a rental reliever who gave us a few extra innings, or more importantly a few extra earned runs, in relief.

Also, I guess we just need to embrace the fact that we will have to go back to being the lovable losers of the league, if the past 5 years are considered successful, as mentioned. I’m ok with it, or at least I can settle with it. And, I hope Cleveland will continue to support the Tribe through these tough years. After all, fewer ticket sales means a higher chance of permanent basement dwelling in the future.

Well said AC. It’s a hard reality – even in 2007 (if I remember correctly) attendance wasn’t that great until after the break. Attendance brings the money which brings the good players, unfortunately. Jacobs had the financial fortitude to throw a bunch right away and was in the perfect economic “storm” to pull it off (stock boom 90s, no Browns, pre-LeBron Cavs, new park, etc). The only way the Indians get back in the game like the 90s is if people continually support them..a lot. I was on the F* THE TRIBE wagon with the Victor trade but in the wake, I understand. The business of baseball in a dying city (and as AC put it, Browns town) is extremely challenging and that SI article had a good spin to make that point more obvious.
Anyways, kind of all over the place on this one. At least we get to see some kids playing to their potential to try and be in the bigs for the haul. Good luck Tribe and go Dodgers!

This Winston Abreu situation is somewhat comical, somewhat sad. We trade away a young pitcher for 2 1/3 innings of a an older pitcher who has not had much if any major league success, and then we release him and he is signed by the team who traded him to us. I think the Rays won that trade.

Whether you buy it or not is irrelevant, duane. Your disbelief doesn’t suddenly make it false. AC is dead on in what he’s saying.
For that matter, you suggest this team should be drawing over 2 million every year. But the FO projected 2.2 and even then figured they’d lose money. So saying this team should bring in more than 2 million fans every year doesn’t actually help matters (and, really, is unrealistic, given how much money people have to spend and the other options they have in a 3 sport town).
Even in 2007, they only brought in 2,275,911. That’s not much over 2 million and that was during an extended season.
Teams like the Tribe have a small window to succeed. Ours was 2007. We need to build up again to find that window, which is why the Dolans aren’t counting this season. I would assume that 2009 is the first year of the next cycle, which is why they’re pointing at 2011 because, given the pattern, it should match up with the success of 2007 (and hopefully more).
People are more than welcome to disregard the “small/mid-market” dilemma, but the facts support it.

They need to put a different person in charge of signing free agents! More power to Shapiro and his trades, but I think we can all agree that his FA signings have left a lot to be desired!

LACF, the Indians have averaged over 2 mil fans per year since 2004 even though 2 of the 4 were sorry years.

Re 2007. Attendance always lags a year. So since they were so bad in 2006, they didn’t sell many season tickets for 2007. That is why only 2.2 mil. But for the lousy 2008 season they drew 2.1 mil.

And why are you mentioning “extended season” for 2007 when you didn’t add in the PO tickets sold?

And why if the Dolan’s aren’t counting this season did they spend 10 mil on Wood?

They say 16 mil loss.
Kobayashi 3 mil + Dellucci 3 mil + Wood 10 mil = 16 mil.

Duane, the Indians didn’t clear 2 million in ’04 or ’06. An average number over a certain number of years is irrelevant when we’re talking dollars and cents.
The number I gave for 2007 is the total number on three different sites.
They are counting this season as the beginning of a new cycle. When they signed Wood, they thought they would be competing. Because of what’s happened during the season, they’ve had to use this year to rebuild instead. A signing that happened 9 months ago and a statement made this week aren’t so much related.
The business of a baseball team doesn’t work as Kobayashi+Dellucci+Wood=16 million. For one thing, those contracts are still on the books to varying extents. For Wood, specifically, it’s irrelevant, as his contract is on the books for the next two years.
You can argue this all you want, but the fact of the matter is that the Tribe is fighting an uphill battle, one which AC did a nice job of explaining. And as AC pointed out earlier, even bringing in 2.2 million in attendance was going to cost the Tribe money. They need to bring in MORE than that, but even a good team has difficulty doing so in Cleveland, let alone a Cleveland hard hit by the economy.

LACF, I said SINCE 2004. So that means 2005-2008. 2004 was not included.

The number for 2006 was 1,997,995. It’s 2mil unless you want to be technical.

Your number for 2007 does not include the postseason attendance.

If Shapiro hadn’t given out those contracts, the team wouldn’t have had to have a fire sale. They were bad contracts when signed. I said so the day they happened.

Masa and Dellucci were over the hill players that should not have been given multi-year deals.

10 mil for a closer is not something a team in this market should ever do.

2009, before this season, was not the first year of a new cycle. It was the last chance to win it all with Lee and Martinez. That’s why Shapiro went over budget on payroll.

If it was a new cycle, they wouldn’t have had a 80 mil payroll.

Duane, they didn’t think this was the start of a new cycle at the beginning of the year. That is why they went out and signed Wood. They thought they were going to compete, the didn’t, and this firesale signaled the beginning of the new cycle. We probably would have traded Lee even if we didn’t have Wood and Masa and Delluc.

Pavano to Minnesota for a PTBNL.

Browns town or not, the Indian’s still draw 2.5 times as many fans over the course of a season.

What pigeon104 said.
The Tribe plays 10 times as many games — drawing 2.5 times as many fans isn’t actually impressive.
And the Browns play in a league with a salary cap, so their costs are much lower.
So the fact that they get more fans over the course of a season that’s 10 times as long doesn’t really mean anything.

Tampa designated Meloan. Can we claim him just to be funny?

Maybe Shapiro worked out a mulligan with them.

Listened to your interview with Shapiro. Mark mentions seeing signs of poor Farm club pitching performance parameter for the club; shouldn’t they (management) have the expertise to recognize that lack of skill set prior to the start of the Major league season?

It is sad to see the breakdown of a club which R. Jacobs took from years of losing to consecutive winning seasons and post season play. The Dolans can give away all the Bobble heads they can afford, but nothing puts people in seats better than a winner. 455 consecutive sell outs at that.

I don’t want the Tribe to leave town that’s for certain…hmmm-that the last four years are being called a success makes my stomach roll…To describe the way I feel about the Tribe right now I would say “bleak”…when I think about them I simply get a feeling of hopelessness…Wow-guess that means Shapiro has really been inspiring to us fans with all the trades he made! NOT!

Hello folks. Just for fun I started my own MLBlog. God help us all.

jk, hit us up with the address…

I must reiterate that I am disturbed with the sporadic playing time for Andy Marte. I desperately want to see this kid play every day. As I said, we need to figure out which guys will be a part of our future and which ones won’t. Let’em play themselves into or out of our future. They only way for that to happen is to get consistent PT. “You want answers?” “I think I’m entitled to them.” “You want answers?” “I want the truth!” “You can’t handle the truth.”

The so-called truth of the matter is that Eric Wedge is a lame duck manager and he knows it. Probably the last thing he wants to happen in his ending days in Cleveland is to be wrong about another player. Managers are arrogant for a reason so this may not be as far-fetched an argument as one might think.

For a guy that TOTALLY reinvented himself as a player, a necessary transformation for him to say in the bigs, to only get in 4 of the 8 games since he’s been up is questionable. Not only that but the gaps in his games are disturbing. He’s played back-to-back games exactly once and that was sandwiched between an off day. He was flat out raking in Columbus for an extended period of time. I just don’t get this organizational direction sometimes.

Chris Gimenez has been struggling for a while. This is not a new point of conversation since we ALL were questioning his promotion from Columbus when we could have used LaPorta or Brown. He hit .182 in July (33 AB) and has yet to get a hit in 13 official ABs in August with 4 BB and 4 SO. While the lame duck may like his “versatility” and what he showed in spring training (man I love to hear that ridiculous statement) it doesn’t change things now.

I’m not saying that Marte is the future but he could be given a fair shot this time around. Time is running out. Marte dominated at Triple-A, something that Gimenez never did. And while Gimenez may have a future as a multi-positional backup, ala Alvaro Espinoza, Marte has the potential to be an every day fixture (but only if they trade Peralta in the off season). Either way he’s a potential bridge to Wes Hodges or looking further down the road, Lonnie Chisenhall.

Oops, sorry about that. Here it is.
http://indianterritory.mlblogs.com/

Chisenhall’s coming. He played 3B and batted fifth for Akron yesterday (Saturday.)

Well, how ’bout them apples? We’ve taken 2 of 3 from the top three teams in the division. Honestly, there’s nothing like lowered expectations to make an Cleveland team good.
I understand giving Gimenez a chance, and he seems like a nice enough guy, but it’s time to read the writing on the wall. Crowe, Marte, and Toregas need to play every day. I’m okay with giving Marte a game off in every 3, although I’d prefer if he got a chance at third on those days instead. They seem determined to stick with Jhonny, though.
It’s clear, though, that Crowe has a legit shot at our 4th outfielder/LF, and that Toregas could outplay Shoppach, if given the chance. And since it seems like we won’t be picking up Kelly’s option next year, and we have Marson available as a back-up, it’s time to hand it over to Toregas.

I’m still not entirely sold on Huff. Honestly, I’d rather see them focus on getting a solid 6 innings every single time out then try and get him into the 7th, particularly when we have relievers who need the work.
And Sipp and Perez are beginning to make me optimistic about our bullpen next year, which is never a good thing!

Considering they are grooming LaPorta to be the future 1B and that Marte is seeing only time at 1B (and DH), what is Marte’s realistic future with the team? If they are looking to ‘platton’ Marte at 1B/DH and and LaPorta at 1B/LF/DH – we have the same situation this season. I like Marte, a lot, he has real potential and I am glad the Indians were lucky enough that he cleared waivers this spring. However, if this management wont give him a shot at 3B, I can’t see a role for him. If and when Wedge is let go, the new skipper will place him at 3B. But if that is his role – what happens to Hodges and Peralta (or Cabrera or Valbuena for that matter)?

Well, if we assume we’ll go back to the traditional 12 pitcher roster and say that LaPorta will be our first baseman and we’ll carry four outfielders (Choo, Sizemore, Crowe, and Brantley, I would think), then Peralta, Cabrera, and Valbuena across, with Toregas behind the plate. Then you add in Donald as the utility infielder, Pronk as DH, and Marson as back-up catcher, which gives us 24, so in theory we could keep Marte on the roster as 3rd/1st/DH utility guy who could perhaps compete at third.
I like Wes Hodges, but he’s not ready. He’s never even had a full, productive year in AAA. The next few months should be key for him, as he should be playing every day at third now. I’m sure he’ll compete in the spring, but I would expect him to start next season as the every day third baseman for Columbus.

ok – so he’s the 3B/1B/DH utility guy who plays what, ever 4th day? He needs regular at bats to be consistent and contribute.

I must say that I was confused by Carroll getting the start at 3B rather than Marte. Don’t get me wrong it paid off but I still think Carroll gets dealt and has zero chance of returning next season given the acquisition of Jason Donald. I think today’s game perhaps leads credence to my “Wedge doesn’t want to be wrong” argument. Just spit-ballin’ though.

If Peralta finishes the season at his projected numbers (591 AB, 65 R, 163 H, 36 doubles, 14 HR, 89 RBI, .275 BA) then he wouldn’t be far off his career seasonal averages (603 AB, 88 R, 162 H, 34 doubles, 19 HR, 81 RBI, .269 BA). It would make more sense then that IF they were to trade him, his value would be higher at season’s end than it was in July. I say deal him for a pitcher and let him $4.6M contract walk with him.

The further along in the season we get, the less I think we’ll deal Peralta. I don’t know why, but I feel like the FO wants to hedge their bets (okay, I know why — they always do that) with third base. I’d be fine with that, honestly. Ideally, I thought they should clean house before now, but as Peralta is signed through next year (unlike Lee, Martinez, Carroll, or Shoppach), I feel like they won’t move him.
That said, while it is strange to think that the next generation of the Indians will have Jhonny at its core, it might not be strange to think if it’s Jhonny the 3rd baseman as opposed to Jhonny the short stop.
Then again, he’s also a great candidate to be dealt next year.
That being the case, I think Marte, assuming he wins the second utility infielder gig, would get a decent amount of time, both to give a rookie first baseman breaks (LaPorta) and to prepare him to take over for Jhonny if/when they deal him at mid-season.
I would think that Jamey Carroll is going to go soon, although that might be complicated because I think a lot of teams would be interested in him.

AM, I honestly believe they’re playing Carroll to increase his trade value.

LACF, I would agree with your 25-man roster for next season with a few alterations. First off, there is NO way the Indians brass allow a guy like Toregas to be slotted over Marson coming our of spring training given who they traded to get him. While I personally don’t think it should matter, it will to them subconsciously in the decision-making.

Additionally, Eric Wedge is a versatility-driven joker. I’m quite confident that he would sit Albert Pujols b/c he only plays one position. I do not think that it is coincidental that LaPorta’s move to 1B came with a mini power shortage of sorts. This organization tinkers with their prospects more than most.

Next, I do not see Brantley breaking camp with the team. He needs a little more time at Triple-A to work on his plate discipline. It has been his strength over the previous levels but he has struggled occasionally, evident by 53 BB to 42 SO in 404 AB. For him, that is a significant drop in his averages. He’s young and will groom into his full potential, just not by the start of next year IMO.

Finally, as I have been pining for Peralta to be traded since January 1st, and given our organizational salary dump it is conceivable but ultimately unlikely, that Shapiro trades Peralta at the winter meetings. There was a small subset of commenters, myself included, that suggested we trade Shoppach in the off season. It didn’t happen and now we will probably lose him with nothing in return. Peralta will have NO value next July b/c he’s a second half player. Trade your movable pieces at their peak value, not their bargain basement. Would anyone be really upset if we dumped Peralta and gave the reigns to Marte/Donald for a year before we see Hodges in 2011 and Chisenhall in 2012? I would guess not.

I would not expect to see Marte with Cleveland next year. Nor Barfield. Nor Jordan Brown.

LACF, we’ve been saying that about Carroll for over a month now. But, I agree with you. He’s on his way out soon and Wedge might shed a tear for the consummate professional that he is.

Duh. Nail on the head, AM. Peralta gets dealt at the winter meetings — I think you’ve got something there. So let’s hope he finishes strong.
Also, let’s hope Wedge doesn’t return. I’ve given the guy a lot of slack over the years, but the line has been drawn.
I think Marte has a shot, depending upon how Hodges performs in AAA the rest of the season. If he does well, I think they’ll cut ties with Marte and go for broke with Hodges. After all, he’s got an entire season next year to step up.
I do hope they deal Carroll soon, not because I have anything against him, but because I desperately want to see Marte get some time at third.

No recession in Chicago as the White Sox take on Alex Rios and his $60 million contract through 2014 (including the Peavy deal the White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf has taken on more than $100MM in future contracts for the Sox) while the Indians continue to shrink their way into the AL Central’s new doormats.

It IS the 3rd largest city in America, so I’m not shocked by that. More proof of what the have’s can do, while the have not’s have to deal guys away for nothing in return.
Speaking of which, I couldn’t help but think that perhaps this would be something the Tribe might consider with Peralta. They clearly want to cut payroll and Peralta has a few years on his contract. I don’t know what his trade value really is right now and I know he might not be the best defensive short stop in the world, but I’m sitting here watching the Red Sox/Tigers game and they keep talking about how the Red Sox need a short stop. If any team could take on Jhonny’s contract at this point in the season, it would be them. And considering that they’ll most likely lose Lowell and Veritek soon and that Ortiz is a shadow of his former self, Peralta might actually fit in with that team.
Like I said before, if we’re going to rebuild, then let’s just do it. Move Jhonny and get Marte at third every day, and LaPorta at first every day.

LosAngelesClevelandfan, everyone here keeps talking like Marte will be here next season. He won’t be, his contract will run up, so why trade Jhonny when Marte may not even be here? Plus Jhonny’s contract is very cheap, so why give him away to Boston for absolutely nothing? I am a big Wes Hodges fan, but even I know the Indians won’t take a chance with him next season when camp opens up, so why trade Jhonny?

I realize Marte is arbitration eligible after this year, but I don’t think that necessarily means he’s going to go.
As for Jhonny, if this team is shooting for 2011, then keeping Jhonny around is costing us in a number of ways. Aside from the nearly $5 million he’d get next year, there’s a $7 million dollar option for 2011. We weren’t willing to pick up Cliff’s or Victor’s, so why would we pick up Jhonny’s? That being the case, he’s basically just blocking anyone else from getting time at third. Even worse (particularly for the fans), he’s blocking Marte from getting time at third who, in turn, is blocking LaPorta from getting time at first.
I’d have no problems with keeping Jhonny at third but, like I said, that means they’re going to have to commit nearly $12 million dollars to him if he really is going to be a part of their rebuilding plans.

Sizemore’s heart and determination is also costing LaPorta time in LF considering the associated move of Crowe to CF

I really don’t see what the problem is with having LaPorta playing LF everyday, and having Crowe up as a legitimate 4th outfielder. They can have Gimenez, Marte, and LaPorta cycling at 1B, like Wedge loves to do. Whatever the setup, LaPorta should play everyday to gear up for next year. That’s what I think, anyway.
http://indianterritory.mlblogs.com/

My comment is simple….when you overspend (as the Dolan’s did when buying this club) and then expect the club’s revenues to pay for the debt service you’ve incurred of course the club is then going to lose money….my advice to the Dolan’s….sell the club,write off the loss, and let the fans have a REAL club to root for….not a AAA feeder club for the HAVE (i.e Yankees,Red Sox etc.) teams to raid for talent!

petericl, as Anthony has pointed out (a few times now), Cleveland had a very real club in ’07 and heading into ’08, and the fans didn’t show up then, either.
And (I realize I’m beating a dead horse here, but credit where it’s due), as AC has also pointed out, no one is offering to BUY this team. The suggestion that the Dolans should just sell it and move on doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, because no one’s interested.

AM, agreed on Sizemore. While I believe that he and Cabrera are going to play key roles in the next three seasons for this team, he needs to just shut it down and have the surgery done. What’s the point in waiting?

jk, the only problem I have with what you just said is the “Wedge” part! I realize that it makes some kind of sense to let him stick around for another year based on his contract, but I’d be willing to start a collection up to pay him that $1 million he’s due — and I’ve always defended Wedge. But if we truly are rebuilding, it needs to be for real.

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