As expected, the Eric Wedge era is over.
Wedge and his entire coaching staff have been dismissed. A press conference is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. ET today at Progressive Field to announce the moves.
It is my understanding that Wedge has known about the move for several days, while the coaches — including hitting coach Derek Shelton, pitching coach Carl Willis, bullpen coach Chuck Hernandez, first-base coach Luis Rivera and third-base coach Joel Skinner — were informed following Tuesday’s rainout.
Wedge and his coaches are all expected to remain aboard for the season’s final six games, which includes today’s doubleheader against the White Sox and the four-game trip to Boston to close out the year.
The Indians will still be on the hook to pay Wedge somewhere in the neighborhood of $1.3 million in 2010.
Larry and Paul Dolan met with Shapiro and assistant GM Chris Antonetti over the last few weeks to discuss many topics, with the managerial situation a major item on the agenda. It had been speculated that ownership would push the front office for a managerial change.
Regarding Wedge’s eventual replacement, an internal hire is considered highly unlikely. If that’s the case, then the Tribe will go outside the organization to hire its manager for the first time since John McNamara took over in 1990.
It is possible that some members of the staff will stay aboard, if the new manager sees fit.
In seven seasons, Wedge has compiled a record of 560-568, with one division title and playoff appearance in 2007, when the Indians finished one win shy of the World Series. Among the 39 full-time managers in Tribe history, Wedge ranks fifth in wins, third in losses and fourth in games managed.
Plenty more to come on Indians.com today and tonight.
UPDATE (8 p.m. ET): Plenty of quotes and analysis on the main site tonight…
The mainbar on the moves is here.
A feature on Wedge’s graceful departure is here.
An early (and that’s the operative word) look at the managerial opening and what the Indians are looking for is here.
Player reax are here.
Coach reax are here.
Also of note today, reliever Joe Smith had successful arthroscopic surgery on his left knee to remove loose bodies. The Indians said he’ll be on track for normal baseball activities in Spring Training.
That’s it for the blog tonight, but we’ll catch up in Boston during Lame Duck Weekend.
Tonight’s game has been postponed by rain. It will be made up as part of a traditional doubleheader beginning at 4:05 p.m. ET Wednesday.
Those with tickets to Wednesday’s game will see two games for the price of one. Those who had tickets to Tuesday’s game can exchange them for any home game in April or May 2010.
This postponement bumps right-hander Justin Masterson back a day. He’ll pitch the nightcap of the doubleheader, with Fausto Carmona pitching the first game.
Because of this, Masterson won’t be eligible to pitch the season finale Sunday, as originally planned. That start is likely to go to Tomo Ohka now.
Up in Motown tonight, it’s the showdown for Central supremacy, as the Twins and Tigers kick off a four-game set.
Here in Cleveland, the Indians have already fallen short in the melee for mediocrity, as third place has been locked up by the White Sox.
But the Indians (64-91) can still fend off the Royals (64-92) in the rumble for respect – i.e., the battle to avoid last place in this weak division.
Combine that with the managerial melodrama, and you’ve got the makings of one last week of semi-intrigue in a long and winding season.
Let’s get it started.
EXCRUCIATING MINUTIAE OF THE DAY…
- The Indians announced 15 amateur signings in Latin America. From the Dominican Republic: OF Angel Hernandez, LHP Alexander Joseph, INFs Jairo Kelly, Jorge Martinez, Luigy Rodriguez, RHPs Amiro Santana, Juan Santana. From Venezuela: RHP Yan Carlos Caripa, C Juan Carlos DelaCruz, INF Richard Delgado, RHPs Nietzer Jimenez (18 years old), Alejandro Rivas (18), C Gustavo Rojas (17). From Panama: LHP Jonathan Cedeno (17), C Franklin Moreno. Unless otherwise noted, all of the above are 16.
- Michael Brantley should be back in the lineup Tuesday. He said his sore right ankle is feeling better and he’s ability to do all his agility work. This is the same ankle problem Brantley dealt with at Triple-A Columbus this season.
- Not only is Joe Smith done for the year because of his left knee sprain, but the knee might require arthroscopic surgery. Head athletic trainer Lonnie Soloff will have the details Tuesday.
- David Huff is also done for the year. He reached 167 2/3 innings total between Triple-A and the big leagues, and that will be his cutoff point. Contrary to what Huff told reporters after Sunday’s game, he will not be in the bullpen in Boston this weekend.
- It was an up and down season for Huff, and, more often than not, that’s what you expect from a rookie starter. The 11 wins are nice, but, of course, Huff benefited from getting nearly six runs of support per start. Still, give him credit for finishing strong. He was much more consistent over his last five starts. He went 4-1 with a 2.18 ERA down the stretch, and that might have been enough to make him a favorite for a rotation spot next season.
- The Indians and Major League Baseball announced the creation of the Sandy Alomar Jr. Scholarship Award. It will be given annually to a graduating St. Martin de Porres High School senior who meets scholarship criteria by achieving academic excellence, participating in community service and having financial need. The inaugural recipient announced Monday was Devonte Smith, who is currently attending Kent State University and majoring in nursing. He’ll receive a $2,000 scholarship to be used toward his education, and he’ll be honored before Tuesday’s game. St. Martin de Porres was founded in 2003 to provide high-quality education to young people in Cleveland who would not otherwise be able to afford it.
- The Tribe has had just two winning streaks of four or more games this season (four games, May 25-28; five games, July 23-27).
- The switch-hitting Asdrubal Cabrera is batting .317 off left-handers and .305 off righties. Pretty impressive, considering he came in with a .239 career mark against right-handers.
- No. 1 pick Alex White made his organizational debut at the Instructional League in Goodyear on Saturday. He worked one inning against the Reds, allowing a pair of hits with no walks and one strikeout.
- The upper deck is closed tonight, due to the windy conditions. Obviously, there aren’t enough fans here to fill the lower deck, anyway.
Tonight’s 7:05 p.m. ET game at Progressive Field will be on WTAM and STO.
Michael Brantley is still out of the lineup with a sore right ankle.
INDIANS (64-91): 2B Jamey Carroll, SS Asdrubal Cabrera, RF Shin-Soo Choo, 3B Jhonny Peralta, DH Travis Hafner, LF Matt LaPorta, 1B Andy Marte, C Lou Marson, CF Trevor Crowe. LHP Aaron Laffey (7-7, 3.93).
WHITE SOX (75-81): RF DeWayne Wise, 3B Gordon Beckham, LF Carlos Quentin, DH Paul Konerko, CF Alex Rios, 1B Josh Fields, C Tyler Flowers, 2B Jayson Nix, SS Brent Lillibridge. LHP John Danks (12-10, 3.82).
The official stance of the Indians is that the fate of Eric Wedge will be decided at season's end.
Somehow, I'm not buying it.
Ownership and the front office have been having conversations about Wedge and his coaches for weeks, as part of an overall organizational review. If they're not sure what they're going to do by now, they'll never be sure. And all indications are that these are Wedge's final days at the helm.
So, why delay the inevitable? Why extend the awkwardness? Why not just make the obvious official, in advance of the Indians' flight to Boston for the final series of the season?
Wedge told reporters earlier this month that he hopes to know his fate before the last game of the season. He's been a good soldier to this organization over the last seven years, and he certainly deserves enough respect to have that request honored.
But unless something changes in the next few days, it appears the Indians are going to be sent off on the last road trip of the season with a lame-duck skipper at the helm. It appears the Tribe will play out the string, then schedule a press conference a day or two after the season ends to officially announce non-news.
My suggestion? Announce it before that final flight toward Fenway. Wedge shouldn't have to make this trip in limbo. Shapiro should sit him down beforehand, deliver the bad news, pat him on the back and then offer him the opportunity to finish what he started and manage the season's final games.
What difference would it make, and what harm would it cause? Wedge would handle that situation like he has every other since 2003 -- like a true professional. In that talk with reporters earlier this month, he said he'd go about his job the same way, even if he had firm knowledge that his days as the manager of this club were numbered. Given his track record, there is no reason to doubt him.
And if Wedge chooses not to manage the final games, so be it. The players will get the message that a change is coming, and the adjustment period will be officially underway.
Whether dismissing Wedge is a move that is going to significantly improve this club going forward is another debate, entirely. I, for one, have been one of Wedge's most vocal supporters this season, because I recognize that he was dealt a bad hand by a front office that, through a combination of poor judgment and bad luck, constructed a sub-par ballclub. And as I wrote in July, I feel Shapiro did the right thing by announcing at midseason that Wedge and his coaches would keep their jobs through the end of the season.
But that's not what this is about. Even those who support Wedge know that bringing him back for next season would be an impossible sell to this fan base. Especially after the team just completed the franchise's worst losing streak in 78 years.
This is about putting an end to the uncertainty surrounding a guy who has been the model of consistency, with regard to how he goes about his job through thick and thin. Wedge has been in limbo long enough. If you're going to make the move, make it official before hitting the road.
EXCRUCIATING MINUTIAE OF THE DAY...
The ghost of Jake Westbrook passed through the Indians' clubhouse this morning. No, wait, that actually was Westbrook, and it was sure good to see him. He said he began his long-toss program Friday. That program will last three weeks, then he'll head to Goodyear, Ariz., for three weeks of throwing off a mound. Westbrook said that if all goes well with this throwing program, he's leaning toward pitching winter ball for the "peace of mind" it would offer him and the organization going into 2010.
As I wrote in this story on the main site, the last time Westbrook pitched for the Tribe, Cliff Lee, CC Sabathia and Paul Byrd followed him in the rotation. Ain't it funny how times slips away?
Westbrook and Joe Smith might have something in common, because it doesn't look like Smith is going to pitch for the Indians until 2010, as well. Smith, dealing with a sprained left knee, was supposed to throw his third bullpen session this morning and then be activated off the disabled list. But he didn't throw, because the knee is still giving him problems. Smith said he's able to throw without any problems, but he doesn't have the agility to field his position. Smith was expecting to talk to the training staff and Wedge after today's game. "I wouldn't say it's looking up," he said.
The Indians are looking to sweep the Orioles today. They haven't done that since Aug. 19-21, 2005 - also a three-game series here in Cleveland.
The Indians have won back-to-back games for the first time since Aug. 26-27.
Of the Tribe's 63 wins this season, 32 have been of the come-from-behind variety. Is that a credit to the never-say-die attitude of the Tribe's hitters, or a comment on the struggles of the starting staff? I'll leave that one up to you.
Shin-Soo Choo (.304) is 12th and Asdrubal Cabrera (.303) is 13th in the AL in batting average.
The Tribe's offense has hit 300 doubles this year, fourth-most in the AL.
Finally, many thanks to the reader who provided the link to this Sports Illustrated story on our old friend Sal Fasano. A rough year for the Mustachioed One. Here's wishing him and his family all the best.
UPDATE (postgame Sunday): Michael Brantley has been out of the lineup the last two days because of a sore right ankle. Wedge did not make it clear when Brantley, who pinch-hit last night, is expected back. Brantley also dealt with the ankle issue at Triple-A Columbus earlier this year.
Also, Tribe media relations director Bart Swain completed the Half Ironman competition in just under six hours. Congrats to him.
Today’s 1:05 p.m. ET game at Progressive Field will be on WTAM and STO.
INDIANS (63-91): 3B Jamey Carroll, 2B Luis Valbuena, SS Asdrubal Cabrera, RF Shin-Soo Choo, DH Jhonny Peralta, LF Matt LaPorta, 1B Andy Marte, C Kelly Shoppach, CF Trevor Crowe. LHP David Huff (10-8, 5.98).
ORIOLES (60-94): 2B Brian Roberts, SS Cesar Izturis, DH Matt Wieters, RF Nick Markakis, LF Luke Scott, 3B Ty Wigginton, 1B Michael Aubrey, C Chad Moeller, CF Jeff Fiorentino. RHP Chris Tillman (2-4, 4.71).
A scalper outside Progressive Field the other night was wearing the Tribe’s alternate blue jersey.
I didn’t think much of it, until I saw this gentleman turn around to reveal that the jersey bore the name and number of one Hector Luna.
Now, seeing somebody wearing an outdated jersey is not uncommon. I’m pretty sure you can walk through this ballpark on any given night and find someone still wearing a Vizquel or Lofton or even the occasional Thome jersey.
But Hector Luna? The guy who made about 15 errors while trying, unsuccessfully, to win the Indians’ utility infield job in Spring Training ’07? Who knew they even made such a jersey for public consumption?
I know the Indians ticket scalping market can’t exactly be bustling these days, but this guy needs to dole out a few bucks for a serious upgrade.
Might I suggest Mike Rouse?
EXCRUCIATING MINUTIAE OF THE DAY…
- Eric Wedge hasn’t even been relieved of his duties yet, and we’ve already had a favorite to replace him and, now, a name nixed from the search. Unfortunately for many Tribe fans, the favorite just so happens to be the name nixed, as FOXSports.com reported today that Red Sox pitching coach John Farrell has a clause in his contract that he cannot accept a managerial job elsewhere until after the 2010 season.
- Farrell seemed to some to be a natural fit for the Tribe’s (likely) soon-to-be-vacant managerial post, because of his background as the farm director here from 2001-06 and the acclaim he’s earned in the industry for his work in Boston. The two sticking points with Ferrell were expected to be salary and his lack of managerial experience.
- If the FOXSports.com report is accurate, that’s all moot now. And the Indians, who no doubt must be mentally lining up their options for Wedge’s replacement if they’re going to pull the trigger at season’s end, will have to look elsewhere. It seems a given that the Tribe would look outside the organization to fill the job.
- Matt LaPorta (left hip inflammation) is back out of the lineup. Wedge said it was best to back off LaPorta because of the field conditions tonight. “We don’t want to risk losing him for the rest of the year,” Wedge said. Wedge said LaPorta won’t be at 100 percent for the rest of this season, and it sounds like it will be a few days before he’s ready to play in the field.
- Joe Smith (left knee sprain) is scheduled to throw his third bullpen session Sunday. If all goes well, he could be ready to come off the DL, Wedge said.
- That was a big outing for Jose Veras last night. Chris Perez had the night off, and Veras stepped up in the setup role. Since his Sept. 1 promotion from Columbus, Veras has allowed four runs, only one of which was earned, on six hits with three walks and 12 strikeouts over 9 2/3 innings in seven appearances. He’s pitching himself into consideration for next year’s bullpen, but the catch is that he’ll be arbitration-eligible.
- If you’re wondering, the Tribe’s other arb-eligibles will be Kelly Shoppach, Anthony Reyes and Rafael Perez. Perez will likely be a Super 2. Smith will be close to Super 2 status, but he probably won’t make the cut.
- After a dicey weather outlook, tonight’s game is about to get underway. Should the weather intervene again, my personal suggestion is that you find a way to tune in to watch the mighty Ohio Bobcats topple 21-point-favorite Tennessee. Upset special.
- Finally, best of luck tomorrow to Tribe media relations director Bart Swain, who be participating in a Half Ironman competition. That’s a 1.2-mile swim, followed by a 56-mile bike, topped off with a 13.1-mile run. Sounds pretty easy, right?
Tonight’s 7:05 p.m. ET game will be on WKYC Channel 3 and WTAM. The start time, however, is in jeopardy, as the tarp is still on the field, as of 6:15 p.m. ET.
INDIANS (62-91): SS Asdrubal Cabrera, 2B Luis Valbuena, RF Shin-Soo Choo, 3B Jhonny Peralta, DH Travis Hafner, 1B Andy Marte, C Lou Marson, CF Trevor Crowe, LF Chris Gimenez. LHP Jeremy Sowers (6-10, 4.92).
ORIOLES (60-93): 2B Brian Roberts, CF Lou Montanez, C Matt Wieters, RF Nick Markakis, 3B Melvin Mora, LF Luke Scott, DH Ty Wigginton, 1B Michael Aubrey, SS Robert Andino. RHP Jason Berken (5-12, 6.41).
Greetings from the center of the baseball universe, Progressive Field, where the last-place Indians (61-91) play host to the last-place Orioles (60-92), with history on the line.
If the Indians lose tonight, they will match a club record for consecutive defeats, with 12. That record was set fairly recently… in 1931, to be exact. Not that long ago, really. (Herbert Hoover, pictured to the left, was the president at the time. I wonder what he’s up to these days?)
But at least the Indians got one monkey off their collective back last night. They took a 2-0 lead in the third inning. It was their first lead in 70 innings of play, spread over seven games. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that was the longest such streak by an Indians team in 105 years. The 1904 club played eight straight games without holding a lead.
Now, I’ll caution you that it’s going to be difficult for the Indians to match the losing streak record, what with the O’s in town for the first time this year. Baltimore has its own troubles. The O’s have dropped seven straight.
These two teams are a collective 62 games under .500 and 57 ½ games out of first place in their respective divisions. One of them, presumably, is going to come out a winner tonight, and there will be a glorious pyrotechnics display afterward that can serve to remind them of their incredible accomplishment.
EXCRUCIATING MINUTIAE OF THE DAY…
- Carlos Santana has been called up to the big leagues. But it’s not what you think. Santana is not active and will not play. He’s up here for the next five days or so to watch some big-league games, then study video with pitching coach Carl Willis and third-base coach Joel Skinner (who works with the catchers). This is not a new practice. The Indians had similar training sessions with Adam Miller and Fausto Carmona in the past.
- The switch-hitting Santana is viewed as the Indians’ catcher of the future, though first he’ll have to get his first taste of Triple-A at the outset of next season. The Tribe is raving about his year at Double-A Akron, where he batted .290 with a .943 OPS, 23 HRs and 97 RBIs and helped lead the Aeros to the Eastern League crown. “I’m very happy,” Santana said. “My team won the championship, and we had a big celebration. It was very good.” Santana said he’s proud of the defensive improvements he made over the course of the season. And I can tell you first-hand that his English has improved, even from Spring Training. That’s viewed as a major steppingstone in Santana’s ability to handle a pitching staff. “I worked with the manager [Mike Sarbaugh] and the pitching coach [Ruben Niebla] on my English,” he said. “They helped me practice conversations.”
- More from Elias: Justin Verlander improved to 4-0 with a 0.90 ERA and 41 strikeouts in four starts against the Indians this season. In the live ball era (since 1920), only three other pitchers were 4-0 or better, with at least 40 strikeouts and an ERA below 1.00 against one team in one season. They were: Gary Nolan (Reds) against the Mets in 1967, Ferguson Jenkins (Rangers) against the A’s in 1974 and Johan Santana (Twins) against the White Sox in 2005.
- The Indians are easing Matt LaPorta back into action, as he started at DH tonight. LaPorta, dealing with left hip inflammation, hasn’t been taking grounders at first base yet, but Eric Wedge said LaPorta should be back at his position “sooner rather than later.”
- Michael Brantley ripped a single last night on a Justin Verlander pitch that was clocked on the scoreboard as 101 mph. Even if you adjust for the typical scoreboard inflation, that’s still pretty impressive.
- Jhonny Peralta and Travis Hafner, the last two active links to a bygone era of the Indians’ lineup, are a combined 10-for-77 over their last 10 games.
- Weird weather pregame today. It’s hot, then it’s cold. It’s like a Katy Perry song.*
*It has been estimated that in a given 24-hour period, an average of 900,000 blog entries are posted worldwide. And I’m proud to say that this is the first, ever, to include references to both Herbert Hoover and Katy Perry. I told you history was on the line tonight.
Tonight’s 7:05 p.m. ET game at Progressive Field will be on STO and WTAM.
INDIANS (61-91): LF Michael Brantley, SS Asdrubal Cabrera, RF Shin-Soo Choo, 3B Jhonny Peralta, DH Matt LaPorta, 2B Luis Valbuena, 1B Andy Marte, C Lou Marson, CF Trevor Crowe. RHP Fausto Carmona (3-12, 6.81).
ORIOLES (60-92): 2B Brian Roberts, CF Felix Pie, C Matt Wieters, RF Nick Markakis, LF Luke Scott, 3B Melvin Mora, DH Ty Wigginton, 1B Michael Aubrey, SS Cesar Izturis. RHP David Hernandez (4-8, 5.34).