Jon Paul Morosi of Fox Sports posted a story today where he argued that small market failures have no excuses.  In this story, his unofficial spokesperson from the Indians is none other than Chris Perez.  When I first heard that Perez was making comments to the media again, my first instinctual thought was “ugh, buddy…enough.”  Once I read what he had to say though, I couldn’t find much to disagree with.  In fact, he mostly mentioned things that I often think about myself.  Perez lampoons the Dolans for being cheap, and praises Mike Ilitch, owner of the Detroit Tigers, for his willingness to spend money on his team.  He points out that it’s not just ownership’s fault, that there is little margin for error when you are a small market team.  Perez also jumped on the fact that the team did not sign Josh Willingham this offseason.  While that was obviously a mistake, I highly doubt that Willingham would have made a huge difference at this point, not unless he’s been concealing previously unknown pitching abilities thus far in his career.

People question Manny Acta’s job security after this season, as they probably should.  While he’s definitely not the only person at fault in this disaster, managers are always the first to go in these kinds of situations…the sacrificial lamb, so to speak.  You can bring in someone new, and maybe they’ll change the dynamic and provide a spark for a while, maybe they won’t.  It’s not going to change the fact that there are fundamental structural problems with this organization.  In February, Keith Law of ESPN rated the Indians’ farm system at number 29 out of 30 teams.  (Insider link, sorry)  In the past  11 years (the tenure of general manager/president Mark Shapiro) the Indians have finished at or above .500 four times – 2001, 2005, 2007, and 2008.  They lost 90 or more games three times – 2003, 2009, 2010 and we can potentially add this current season to that list.  Shapiro is lauded for his excellent trades of the early 2000s, the ones that brought Grady Sizemore, Cliff Lee and Brandon Phillips to Cleveland and the times they fleeced Seattle for Shin-Soo Choo and Asdrubal Cabrera.  And while I certainly give him credit for those, I feel I should point out that he was aided by some incompetency on the Seattle end (as Morosi points out) and by a simply terrible situation unfolding in Montreal.  As brilliant as he was for bringing Phillips, Lee and Sizemore to Cleveland, he turned around and made the boneheaded move of flipping Phillips to Cincinnati for next to nothing.

What I’m trying to say that this organization is a mess from the top on down the line.  People criticize the Dolans for being cheap, as they should.  I’m not going to act as an apologist for their miserly ways.  However, to put the blame solely on a lack of money, to say that if the Dolans sold this team everything would just be awesome, is to ignore the myriad of problems in this organization right now.  Just look at the 2008 and 2010 Seattle Mariners – a team that spent almost $100 million in both those seasons and also lost 100 games.  Spending more did not translate into additional wins.  The problem is that in Major League Baseball, you either need competency, or money, or some combination of both.  At this point, the Indians have neither.  Plus just look at this list of free agents compiled by MLB Trade Rumors.  Is there anyone on that list that excites you, particularly in the first base, starting pitching or outfield sections, the Indians’ most glaring positions of need?  (Disclaimer: I’m ignoring the guys with options for now, going by the hunch that their teams will pick them up.)  Of course Josh Hamilton, B.J. Upton and Michael Bourn are good options in the outfield, but we all can be fairly certain that they’ll never fork over the money for any of those.  Here’s where the lack of money screws us, we will never be able to afford improving this team significantly through free agency.  There are minimal options internally and via trade – Shin-Soo Choo and Chris Perez are probably the best options for trade bait.  At this point, do you trust the front office to make a good deal for them?  After the Cliff Lee and CC Sabathia deals, I pretty much except them to botch any trade.  (And we could argue that Lee and Sabathia were of much higher value than Choo and Perez, even though Sabathia was a part-season rental.)

The purpose of this whole rant is to point out that I really don’t think you can change one aspect of this team and expect to see improved results.  You can fire a manager, you can spend more money…those things alone aren’t enough anymore.  I no longer trust the leadership of Shapiro and Chris Antonetti at this point, and I think it’s time to change direction in a big way.  I don’t even know this team’s philosophy anymore, it just seems like they want to keep stockpiling cheap players that can play multiple positions, or retreads.  I get that versatility and flexibility are important, but that really seems to be their only discernible goal at this point.

While this feels bleak, and it certainly is pretty bleak, it’s not the end of the world.  To use Chris Perez’s example, the Tigers lost 119 games in 2003 and by 2006 had won 95 and made it to the World Series.  This can be turned around.  I’m just not sure if I trust this particular front office group to be the ones to pull it off.



  • Jaime says:

    Hi – I am a Clevelander at heart. Grew up on the east side in a town called Chagrin Falls. Lived there my whole life until about 5 1/2 years ago. Family still there and die hard Cleveland fans across the board. I was recently home and had the best time. Hit up a game against the Red Sox and spent a day down town that was simply unmatched!!! I have missed going to games and being all up and in the Tribe!!! I was so upset to see so many empty seats. In this beautiful ball park in this amazing city and there were more empty seats than filled!! I have grown up Tribe and was beyond psyched to be home and at a game and wondered where everyone was.
    Seems to me that the organization needs to focus on driving consistent performance and putting heart/passion back into what drives their day to day efforts!! If they don’t care, why would our players, hence why would the fans? I will always support my home town teams no matter what, however I want the old Tribe back!!!! We have a fricking amazing potential and some of our players, some of whom I am still trying to learn, are top notch!!!! Maybe we could get everyone (back office and players) on the same page and then I am quite sure our Team will be a HUGE force to be
    wreckened with!!!

  • Kiran Reddy says:

    Well written Stephanie! I have written posts about your point before, which is that Shapiro and Antonetti are set in their ways of strategy and player evaluation. In addition, I think it is close to impossible that Shapiro would fire Antonetti since the two pretty much are the same. It is up to Dolan to pull the trigger and completely overhaul this team, but I feel he is penny pinching (Doesn’t want to pay out any remaining salary owed). Now let me ask everyone this question:

    Who honestly wants to be apart of this organization right now on a player or front office level? It will be hard to find a standout GM because Dolan will not want to pay a lot. This isn’t exactly a Randy Lerner hiring Mike Holmgren.

    • Matthew says:

      You could have said that 5 years ago for the Orioles. But somebody convinced Andy McPhail to come in and he brought in some key players and eventually hired Buck Showalter. Now, not only are the Orioles tied for first, but they have enough depth to weather 3/5 of their rotation being ineffective and several key players getting off to slow starts.

      The Indians need somebody who targets good players, regardless of public perception.

  • Steve Alex says:

    Perez was brutally honest, which is a refreshing change from the public relations jibberjabber we usually get from the organization. I respect his willingness to speak plainly (other than the Oakland thing), and I don’t think it was out of a desire to be traded, only to win. Considering the state of the farm system, I see only two ways to improve the team. One is to add several good players in free agency this winter, which seems like a pipe dream but could be done if they have the stones to decline the options on Ubaldo and Fauxberto and offer more than two-year deals to people. The other is to have a fire sale and start over with another rebuilding plan. The middling move would be to trade only Choo and pretend to be a contender again without adding any significant free agents and hoping for miraculous improvement from the current lot. Unfortunately, I have a sinking feeling about which plan they’ll go with.

  • Stephanie Liscio says:

    Jaime, I would like the old Tribe back as well! It’s cool that you were able to get back into town to see a game. I was away from Cleveland for 6 years, and always tried to make it back at least once or twice (as well as catching the Indians at Camden Yards, close to where I lived).

    Kiran, I wonder that myself. However, I heard that Shapiro did not want to fire Eric Wedge a few years back, but he was overruled by ownership and Wedge was let go. I don’t have faith that they’d really spend to get anyone new in here though.

    Matthew, I do think it can be turned around…Baltimore (and even Tampa Bay) are good examples of how you do that. I think poor examples of how you DO NOT do that, are the current Indians and the Royals. The Royals have been rebuilding for a bazillion years now, without much to show for it. Although to be fair, they did have some bad luck with some of their young arms.

    Steve, That’s one of the things I loved about the Perez bit…I get so tired of the sanitized spin that it was nice to see some honesty. And I also agree that they’ll probably take the minimal route this winter. I’m hoping they don’t, but fearing that they will.