Saturday, August 8, 2009

The Cleveland Indians - forever riding in coach

So how 'bout that Tomo Ohka?

OK. That's not really what I want to talk about.

It's been a few days since the Dolan family told us all that the hard reality of MLB in the 2000's is that Cleveland, and other towns like it, has to accept second-class status. At least as long as the sport's current economic system is in place, and it isn't likely to change any time soon.

So far, from what I can tell by reading reaction on a variety of online sites, Paul Dolan's comments are not being well received by most.

The comment by Dolan that pretty much said it all to Tribe fans, and brought home to many the distasteful position we are in as fans of a small market team, is the following:

"Every four or five years, if we can have a shot at the World Series like we did in '07 and compete for the playoffs like we did in '05, that's as good as it gets."
So those are the goal posts - one run for a playoff spot, one shot in the playoffs and three seasons of underachievement every five years.

It's a statement that is frank, and a reality that hits Tribe fans right between the eyes.

Dolan is right.

The truth is that under baseball's current system there really is no long-term run to be made by small-market teams.

Instead, they have to get rid of anybody that's worth anything to the big boys (or some other also-ran who happens to be having a hot year), load up with youngsters that will all mature at roughly the same time, and make a one- to three-year run sometime four or five years from now.

As hard as that is to accept. It is reality. And to make matters worse, the small market teams have to hit paydirt on virtually every one of their trades made in the dismantling period, or they will find themselves several players short for a serious run down the road and forced to rip things up yet again.

(See KC Royals, Pittsburgh Pirates, Oakland A's - despite their reputation a few years back as a team that learned to beat the system - and now the Tribe).

The disparities between baseball's haves and have-nots are blatantly obvious at the big league level, but they go all the way down the minor league chain and right to the feeding of the system - the draft.

While most of the headlines from Dolan's presentation were about the projected financial losses for this season and next, and Dolan's assertion that playoff runs will - by design - have to be periodic, one of his points received less attention than I thought it deserved.

It's a point I try to argue with my Yankee-fan friends, neighbors and colleagues when they think they've trumped my argument that the team buys its success. They rattle off the names Posada, Jeter, Pettitte and Rivera and point out that this long-time core of the team was home grown.

But what few people know, or at least recognize, is something that Dolan pointed out this week. The system is skewed toward the big boys when it comes to acquiring young talent too.

While there is no pay cap at the MLB level, there is also no restriction on the amount of money a team can spend on draftee signing bonuses and foreign talent.

Dolan says that plays to the advantage of big-market teams.

"The larger market teams have managed to take their money and, in fact, manipulate the amateur draft situation so that not only are they bringing in the elite talent at the Major League level, but they're bringing in at a disproportionate basis the elite talent at the entry level of Major League Baseball."
While the have-nots typically go first in the draft by virtue of their awful win-loss records at the MLB level, it is not uncommon for teams to take not the best player, but the best player they think they can afford when it's their turn at the draft table.

Or, they can take a chance on the bigger talent and then watch the youngster say "no thanks" and go back to college and hope for a higher payday from a richer team a year later.

Did you know that the Tribe once drafted Tim Lincecum? It was back in 2005, but they couldn't get him to sign and he ended up with the Giants a year later.

It's happened close to home and it happens around the league every year. There's no way to prove that a team has passed on a better talent in favor of an affordable talent on draft day, but that could explain the dismal early-round performance of the Tribe in the past decade.

And then there's the role money plays in bringing in talent from Japan, Korea and Latin America.

Dolan suggested a world-wide draft with a slotting system as a way of helping to balance the disparity of teams at the MLB level by making things a bit more fair at the player-entry level.

The suggestion makes a lot of sense.

In the next round of collective bargaining the players are no more likely to accept a salary cap then they have been for the past 20 or 30 years. But the rank and file of the players union might be willing to throw the young, unknown and as yet undrafted players under the bus as long as they get to keep their unrestrained salaries at the MLB level.

That may be especially true if it starts to look like some of the small-market teams just can't make it work anymore - meaning fewer jobs at the MLB level.

But until something changes in the way MLB does business, as the Dolans have reminded us, we will have to be content to take a once-every-five-or-six-year run at things.

It's been the Florida Marlin way for years, and they've been reasonably successful at it.

The Tribe's first stab at it has been a bust and we now find ourselves in rebuild number two.

The life-insurance actuarial tables say I've only got four or five more rebuilds to go, And given the fact that I don't exercise or eat the way I should, it could be even fewer than that.

So let's hope the Tribe gets it right sooner rather than later.

(To check Top 50 TV markets based on figures provided by Nielsen Media click here and scroll down a bit. The numbers are from 2004 so there may - undoubtedly has been - some reordering of the markets.)


On the field, the Tribe has been looking a lot better lately. They're 11-6 in their last 17 games and over .500 (12-9) since the All-Star break.

We've gotten two decent looks at Justin Masterson - one of the major acquisitions by the Tribe in their recent fire sale - and he's looked quite solid both times out. It'll be fun to see what he does when he is stretched out enough to really take hold in the rotation.

Jhonny Peralta and Kelly Shoppach have started their "keep-me-on-the-team-next-year" hitting binges. Too little too late, but at least it makes the games a bit more fun to watch lately.

Trevor Crowe appears to be a different person in his third go-round with the Tribe.

Chris Perez has, for several appearances now, looked like what he was advertised to be when he was brought over from St. Louis as partial payment for Mark DeRosa. Jess Todd was a little later getting here, but it will be interesting to see what he adds to the pen as well.

Overall - save last night once Masterson left - the team has looked crisper and a lot less disinterested than they did a few weeks back.

All of this, one would think, would be a positive for Tribe fans.

But many fans seem to be worried that a second-half surge (or at least a surge-ette) will bolster the argument for Eric Wedge's return next year - something I feel comfortable in saying the vast majority of fans do not want.

In his chat with the media during the week, Paul Dolan addressed that as well.

It's difficult to say where he stands on the prospect of Wedge returning on 2010.

On the one hand:

"Eric and his staff have achieved a lot in their time here. I think fans tend to forget that. When he took over in '03, he took over what was, in essence, an expansion franchise. In a relatively short period of time, he turned it into a competitive team. He and others deserve a lot of credit for that."
But on the other hand:

"Despite that, we have not been successful the last few years with a team that should have been successful. We have to understand why that is. We also have to understand that sometimes fans want or need to hear a different voice."
My gut tells me that with a fan base as disgusted as Tribe fans are with the recent trades and the team's overall lot in life in MLB, that last point Dolan makes will weigh heavily in the Dolans' decision on Wedge. (It's theoretically Mark Shapiro's call but the Dolans will obviously have a big say in the matter.)

After telling the customers they'll have to eat lots of hamburger before they get even a whiff of steak, it just seems to me that Wedge will be the sacrificial lamb in the offseason. Something to satiate those thirsting for blood.

And that ain't necessarily a bad thing.

One last thought before I go.

Haven't we seen enough of Chris Giminez? The guy is not bad as a catcher, is a stiff at 1B and doesn't appear to be much of a hitter.

Can we PLEASE get Matt LaPorta up here, put him at 1B, and see what he can do? Why is the Tribe so reluctant to bring him topside?

At the very least let's get Andy Marte in there every day. I still think he's a bust, but let's give him an every-day job so he can - once and for all - show what, if anything, he has to contribute.


Anonymous said...

another win - have taken 3 series in a row from our division leaders
do agree there is something more to the laporta not being in cleveland - they are not telling us

the 3 big lefties - huff ,sowers, and laffey look out AL central

watch they will finish strong and give credit to wedge again


Anonymous said...

And how does Dolan explain the St. Louis Cardinals? Or the Detroit TIgers? Or the Twins?

There are plenty of mid-market teams (Metro Cleveland is NOT a small market... that's just Dolan's flimsy whine) that compete year in and year out and someone even manage to re-sign a star or two.

Anonymous said...


call him up.

I'm ok with Gimenz on this team as he's an ok utility guy (C, 3B, 1B, and OF...and even can play 2B in a pinch).

But yet again (and sorry for beating the dead horse here), we NEED to get back to a 4-man bench.

I wouldn't be mad if they called up LaPorta, but it should be Brown.

Why Ohka is still on this team is beyond me. Even before Saturday's game I was calling for him to get cut. It's a very simple move. Cut Ohka, and bring up Brown to take him spot on both the 25 and 40-man rosters.

I get why they don't want to bring up LaPorta. I disagree....but they seem set on LaPorta at 1B. He is TERRIBLE there right now. Like scary bad (Garko looked better there even back in 2006-2007). He's made 7 errors in less than 40 games there and isn't showing signs of improving. He needs to be playing there more to learn and with Marte playing at 1B at the ML level, I just don't see him getting enough reps.

I'd love to see Brown called up and have him, Marte, and Crowe split the at-bats between LF and 1B (Crowe in LF, Marte at 1B, and Brown splitting between the two) with Gimenez filling as a bench guy only.

Gimenez likely is gonna make this club next year in the utility role. I know most don't like hearing that we're keeping a guy up just for that, but a team needs a guy like that on the team.....and Barfield is soooooo incredibly out of favor with Wedge and company, that sadly he doesn't seem like an option for that role right now (though I would like to see him again).

Anonymous said...

As far as baseball's economic system....

I am sooooooo thankful that there is no salary cap in baseball. Contrary to most beliefs, it actually hurts sports.

Since 1972 only ONE baseball team has moved.....and that was a Candadien team.

Over 20 teams in the other 3 major sports have moved. Why? Cause a salary 'cap' also means you have a salary 'floor'. Teams are forced to spend more money than they truly can or should.

A team like Pittsburh or Florida would be forced to add at least $20M in payroll to meet that floor, which would make it nearly impossible for them to go through a rebuild.

I am NOT saying the system is flawed in baseball. It most definitely is. but a cap is not least not at the major league level.

I'd LOVE to see either a cap put on how much teams can spend on a draft and/or free agent signings (both ML and international). A rookie scale of sorts could also work in the draft (ala the NBA).

Another thing I'd like to see is a verison of the 'Franchise Tag' that football has.

Take the top 10 players at each positional group that they use for free agent rankings (the Type A and B's you hear about). Those groups are OF/1B/DHs, SS/2B/3Bs, SPs, RPs, and catchers.

As a reference...

The average that a 1b/OF/DH makes of the top 10 in 2009? $18.6M.

For 2B/SS/3Bs? $16.0M

For SP? $16.2M

For RP? $10.9M

For catchers? $7.3M

Football gives you the average of the top 5. I'd do the top 10 in baseball.

Let teams keep there players with a 5 year deal that pays an average salary of the top 10 at that player's position.

Tribe would have got CC for 5 years and $81M. They could have afforded that.

Players wouldn't like it....but it'd be way better than a salary cap for them. And not like anyone would be going hungry with those salary numbers.

I don't ever see that happening.....but getting a 5 year deal and guarteeing your in the top 10 of salary at your givne position isn't a bad offer for any player....

Anonymous said...

o...and Metro Cleveland IS a small market.

In fact, it's one of the 5 smallest in all of baseball!

The Cleveland Metro population is smaller than even Minnesota's.

We're larger than Milwaukee, Kansas City, Cincinnati, and Pittsburgh......that's it.

Anonymous said...

Just a technicallity but I don't think that the size of the metro area matters as much as the size of the fan base and tv maket. Per wikipedia North-East Ohio is the 15th largest tv martet in the Country, so a payroll directly in the middle of the mlb pack makes sense.

Ron Vallo said...

Just so we're all on the same page: here's the ranking of TV markets based on Neilson figures posted by The Media Info Center

Top 50 TV Markets Ranked by Households, 2004
Rank Designated Market Area (DMA) TV Households % of US
1 New York 7,375,530 6.692
2 Los Angeles 5,536,430 5.023
3 Chicago 3,430,790 3.113
4 Philadelphia 2,925,560 2.654
5 Boston (Manchester) 2,375,310 2.155
6 San Francisco-Oak-San Jose 2,355,740 2.137
7 Dallas-Ft. Worth 2,336,140 2.120
8 Washington, DC (Hagrstwn) 2,252,550 2.044
9 Atlanta 2,097,220 1.903
10 Houston 1,938,670 1.759
11 Detroit 1,936,350 1.757
12 Tampa-St. Pete (Sarasota) 1,710,400 1.552
13 Seattle-Tacoma 1,701,950 1.544
14 Phoenix (Prescott) 1,660,430 1.507
15 Minneapolis-St. Paul 1,652,940 1.500
16 Cleveland-Akron 1,541,780 1.399
17 Miami-Ft. Lauderdale 1,522,960 1.382
18 Denver 1,415,180 1.284
19 Sacramento-Stktn-Modesto 1,345,820 1.221
20 Orlando-Daytona Bch-Melbrn 1,345,700 1.221
21 St. Louis 1,222,380 1.109
22 Pittsburgh 1,169,800 1.061
23 Portland, OR 1,099,890 0.998
24 Baltimore 1,089,220 0.988
25 Indianapolis 1,053,750 0.956
26 San Diego 1,026,160 0.931
27 Charlotte 1,020,130 0.926
28 Hartford & New Haven 1,013,350 0.919
29 Raleigh-Durham (Fayetvlle) 985,200 0.894
30 Nashville 927,500 0.842
31 Kansas City 903,540 0.820
32 Columbus, OH 890,770 0.808
33 Milwaukee 880,390 0.799
34 Cincinnati 880,190 0.799
35 Greenvll-Spart-Ashevll-And 815,460 0.740
36 Salt Lake City 810,830 0.736
37 San Antonio 760,410 0.690
38 West Palm Beach-Ft. Pierce 751,930 0.682
39 Grand Rapids-Kalmzoo-B.Crk 731,630 0.664
40 Birmingham (Ann and Tusc) 716,520 0.650
41 Harrisburg-Lncstr-Leb-York 707,010 0.641
42 Norfolk-Portsmth-Newpt Nws 704,810 0.640
43 New Orleans 672,150 0.610
44 Memphis 657670 0.597
45 Oklahoma City 655,400 0.595
46 Albuquerque-Santa Fe 653,680 0.593
47 Greensboro-H.Point-W.Salem 652,020 0.592
48 Las Vegas 651,110 0.591
49 Buffalo 644,430 0.585
50 Louisville 643,290 0.584

Source : Nielsen Media Research, Inc. Nielsen Station Index (NSI)

Anonymous said...

I posted the cooment above concerning tv market size. While I believe that market size generally leads to more revenue other factors also come into play. For instance, why is St. Louis 21 on the list typically good? I would have to say it has to do with the fact that mlb is the perdominate sport in St. Louis while the NFL and NHL are less so. Also, the Red Sox are going to have a larger fan base then just Boston, ie the rest of New England. So the fact that Cleveland is always a football town and is currently an NBA town isn't helping the tribe. Maybe if Lebron leaves that will change...

Ron Vallo said...

well, I don't really follow the NBA much - even the cavs, but I don't think we want that.

Anonymous said...

Another thing to consider is how close other teams are to Cleveland.

Detroit, Cincinnati, and Pittsburgh are all within a 4-4.5 hour drive of most of NEO.

Throw in that Columbus was at one time a huge haven of Yankees fans (since their AAA club was the Clippers for many years).

A team like the Red Sox have no one within 5-6 hours of them. Same with the Mariners.

Baltimore has been hurt by the Nats moving to Washtington (and it's a reason the Nats struggle with their fan base...and have lost TWO previous teams).

I've mentioned this other places....but something that would really help even the playing field...

Add a THIRD team to the NY metro area (like in northern NJ).

If Hockey can have 3 teams there (even though one may move) then Baseball CAN support 3. They did for 50 years in the first half of the 20th century and the money is there for another one.

Will it ever happen? Not as long as the Steinbrenners own the Yankees.....

But it would help out a lot. Would cut into the Yankees profits and could knock their payroll down to at least Mets and Red Sox levels (like $130M instead of $200M)....

Steve said...

re: the earlier statement that "A team like the Red Sox have no one within 5-6 hours of them."

According to Google Maps, the drive from Boston to NYC is less than 4 hours.

I live in Hartford, CT, which is smack dab between them. Yes, I live on the border of Doucheland and A** Hole Nation. It's about 55% Sox and 45% Yankees fans. New Haven is flipped.

Ron Vallo said...

Lucky you Steve.

Several people have posted a lot of good ideas short of a salary cap that would help sway the balance back toward fair competition.

The big proplem is the vested interests - either the big market teams or the players union - would not go for them (depending on which idea we're talking about).

I think it will take a franchise or two going bust before the union would budge on providing contractual relief for mid- and small-market teams. Fewer teams, fewer jobs.

And let's not forget we are not that far removed from the talk of contraction. Remember 10 years or so ago Minnesota was going to be shut down by the league along with the Expos and maybe a couple of others? Now the Twins are the example of how to at least remain somewhat competitive in a small-to-medium-market world. Though I think a lot of that goes to the high-quality manager they have who clearly knows how to deal with, and develop young talent.

Manwebe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Manwebe said...

I'd have to disagree with Dolan, and my argument is this- what about the 90's? Cleveland competed for 7 straight years (winning the division 6 out of 7 years and going to 2 WS). The good product on the field resulted in 455 straight sellouts. I don't think Jacobs lost money on the team....

Anonymous said...


Where were the Browns between 95-99 when we were selling out?


And the Cavs? Stunk.

If the Browns left, you'd see a LOT more people at Indians games, I guarantee you that.

I'm definitley NOT saying I want the Browns to leave again. Obviously I don't. But you can't compare the late 90s to now.

Why do you think Jacobs sold the team? Cause he knew that he'd NEVER have a run like that again where he'd have a team with a top payroll in the league.

I love Jacobs...but the guy quit on this team (though he did quit while he was ahead).

Anonymous said...

That 1997 team really wasn't that good....they had what 86-87 wins?

2005 and 2007 were both better....yet the team sold out in 1997 and 1998.

Where were the fans in 2008? Why didn't we sell out after nearly making it to the World Series in 2007?

With the Browns back and the Cavs actually winning......short of a Wolrd Series victory, you won't see 60+ sellouts in a season for the Indians.

Anonymous said...

The 90s was before the huge cable deals came in. What has happened in the last 10 years isn't that the Tribe has stopped spending, it's that the big-market teams have exploded their spending. The smaller markets just can't keep up. That's why the Bankees can resign their stars and we can't.

Ron Vallo said...

If ALL radio and TV revenue (local and network) were pulled and divided evenly, and the teams were allowed to keep all of their own stadium-generated funds (tickets, concessions, parking) the system would be much more balanced, but each team would still have the incentive to win because they would be keeping the money earned by bringing people to the park.

Anonymous said...


1.When will Gimeniz get a hit again
2. Why iasn't Marte playing more
3. Jamie Carroll in RF
4. will laporta be up at all this year
5. Does laffey and huff have a chance to make it
6. Who will be the browns QB

Anonymous said...

I think it should be said: The reason Lincecum did not sign with the Indians was because they wanted to change the way he pitched, it was not about the money.