Sunday, June 21, 2009

As another Tribe season crashes and burns, change at the top should be on the agenda

Ladies and gentlemen, the captain has turned on the fasten-seat-belt signs as Cleveland Indians Flight 2009 is in its final descent into oblivion.

Another season dead well before its time.

In one of the most depressing weeks in the history of the franchise, the Tribe just completed an 0-6 week that has sealed their fate for this season and quite possibly the fate of their manager as well.

Anyone who has been paying any attention at all knows the bullpen found every conceivable way to lose a ballgame this week, even relying on their leader, closer Kerry Wood, when the rest of the bullpen just couldn't muster up a loss on their own on Friday and Saturday.

The week also saw the defense come apart in key spots, the manager and his new 3B (or is he a SS? - depends on who you ask) sniping at each other, stand-up players like Victor Martinez and Kerry Wood blowing off the media (perhaps so stunned at the magnitude of the awfulness of this week that they just couldn't bring themselves to talk about it) and mind-boggling decisions by the manager that smack of desperation.

The week ended with one of the most lifeless performances this team has turned in this year, and that's saying something.

At this point it appears the manager has lost his patience, his ability to think clearly and make sound decisions and his ability to rally the troops one more time.

And it sounds as if he may be about to lose his job.

Here's an excerpt from a story posted Sunday afternoon on, written by the PD's Paul Hoynes:

When asked if he was considering a change, (Tribe owner) Larry Dolan said, "I'll talk to you later." When asked if that meant a change was being considered, Dolan said, "I just don't want to lie to you."

The argument can be made that Wedge's players - at least those who don't throw the baseball for a living - are still playing for their manager. They held a number of leads this week, only to see the pitching staff - primarily the bullpen - flush their work down the toilet.

There is some truth to that. The "grinders" among the position players still seem to be giving it their all most days. But for a lot of the other guys, the effort seems rote, the concentration lacking and the fundamentals out the window.

That falls to the manager.

Oddball lineups seemingly picked from a hat don't help much. Not one player on this team comes to the ballpark on any given day knowing what position he will be playing, or if he'll be playing and where he'll bat in the batting order. That type of uncertainty weighs on a player's mind and makes consistent, day-after-day performance much more difficult.

That also falls to the manager.

The starting pitchers never seem to make it out of the fifth inning and the bullpen is lethal in the eighth. That you can't lay at the manager's feet because every button he pushes blows up in his face. That falls to the general manager and his staff, and their seeming inability to judge pitching talent and find people who can get outs.

Blind loyalty to the manager falls at the feet of the GM as well.

It seems as though Eric Wedge is about to walk the plank. The ownership has to do something to make it look like they're trying with a half-season's worth of tickets still to sell.

A few weeks ago, when there was still a chance to save this season I was all for giving Wedge the boot. The stats say it doesn't usually work, but managerial changes do sometime spark a change of fortunes. There was nothing to lose in trying.

Now it won't make any difference either way, and I could care less whether it's Wedge or one of the other organization kool-aid drinkers who runs the team the rest of the year.

But once this season finally draws to a close, the ownership of this team must deal not only with the question of who will manage things on the field long-term, but also - and more importantly - who should be the steward of this organization.

I for one vote for a new voice at the top. One with a real baseball pedigree, doesn't wear khakis and loafers and is not so married to the Money Ball principles that have led this team nowhere for nearly a decade now.

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