Wednesday, July 29, 2009

WTF Larry Dolan?

Let me preface this by saying I'm getting really sick of writing negative posts about Cleveland sports, but here we go again...

A few years ago I crowned the Cleveland Browns The Most Depressing Team in Sports, and with good cause. The Browns have never won a Super Bowl. They have not won a championship since 1964. Hell, they haven't even played for a championship since 1964. They moved to Baltimore, became an expansion team, and have spent the subsequent decade inventing new definitions of the word suck. Staph infections, motorcycle accidents, vehicular homicide. You name it, the Browns have done it, all the while playing horrific football.

Well, I may have been a bit premature in my judgment, because the Cleveland Indians are well entrenched in the Larry Dolan era of ownership, and they are in a dogfight to regain a title they held during almost 4 decades of baseball ineptitude. Oh, the Indians could never match the Browns off the field. On it though, they are quickly closing the gap.

Today's trade of Cliff Lee to the Phillies marks the second consecutive season the Tribe has dealt a Cy Young Award winner for a batch of minor leaguers. Think for a moment about how remarkable that is. Just winning the Cy Young award is a tough enough feat. Usually it requires a combination of sustained pitching excellence and enough consistent offensive support to pile up a lot of wins. Boasting two Cy Young winners in consecutive years is rare but not unheard of. But to trade two Cy Young winners in consecutive years? Unprecedented, and I seriously doubt it will ever be duplicated.

Now let's look at it from another angle. The Indians currently have the worst ERA in baseball. The remedy? Trading their best pitcher.

Yet the real tragedy here may just be that General Manager Mark Shapiro couldn't even use his ace to pry top pitching prospect Kyle Drabek away from the Phillies. Instead he settled for second best: an 18-year-old A-ball pitcher fresh of the disabled list.

The baseball renaissance that Indians fans enjoyed in the '90s lasted about six seasons. That was in the Richard Jacobs era of ownership, back when the ballpark was a great place to be, tickets were hard to get, and the team was in contention every single year. Ownership in those days was willing to shell out for quality players, too. Dennis Martinez, Eddie Murray, Orel Hershiser, Julio Franco, Jack McDowell, Roberto Alomar, Kenny Lofton--all these guys were top-shelf talents signed to help the Tribe win the Series. Never happened, but that team got oh, so close, and, man, were they fun to watch.

Nowadays? Since Dolan bought the team from Jacobs, the Indians have made the playoffs a couple of times, even made it to the brink of the world series in '07, but recent history has more often seen the best players traded away for unheard-ofs and never-will-bes. The stockpile of talent built up in the '90s has wasted utterly away. Hell, this team even jettisoned the modestly talented, very popular overachiever Coco Crisp a few years ago because they didn't want to pay the dude, what? 3.5 million a year? And that's just a microcosm of this modern trend: team introduces young player, player becomes good, player enters prime, Indians trade player for prospects. Cliff Lee was following one of the great seasons in major league history (22-3, 2.54 ERA) with another tremendous year on a team languishing in the cellar. The Indians were bad, but every five days you knew they had a good shot at winning. Fans received their usual reward for caring: the privilege of never watching Lee pitch in a Cleveland uniform again.

So the fire sale is on. Position players Ryan Garko and Ben Francisco have been dealt as well. So has bullpen workhorse Rafael Betancourt. Who's next? How about Victor Martinez. He's certainly the prime candidate--all star catcher, popular with fans and teammates, entering the final year of his contract in 2010. Certainly there is a legitimate team out there willing to trade a few teenagers for a proven player in his prime.

So, basically, Larry Dolan, I ask: what's the point of your ownership? Do you delight in alienating the fans? Do you prefer a nice quiet empty stadium? Because you've got one. By trading Lee now, you've already raised the white flag on next year. You can talk about rebuilding all you want, but what, precisely, is being rebuilt? The 2007 Indians? An aberration of a team sandwiched between perennial losers? Why are we paying you to watch this endless, awful cycle of player rotation? Why are we turning on our televisions and radios? I place no blame on Shapiro or manager Eric Wedge, who have been trying to win for almost a decade with a spare parts approach. Young, talented players are nice, as are free agent bargain finds. But if you want to win come October, you're going to have to pay big bucks for some studs. And don't talk to me about this 20 million dollar deal for Kerry Wood. That signing represents THE big free agent splash the Indians have made in the 21st century. More indicative of the current state of affairs is this motley crew of bums and has-beens we've been subjected to: Jason Michaels, David Dellucci, Trot Nixon, Roberto Hernandez, Joe Borowski, Aaron Fultz, Jorge Julio, Masa Kobayashi, Guillermo Mota, Aaron Boone and the great Carl Pavano.

Christ this gets old. Give me the Cavs. A real professional sports team with a real owner, one who is obsessed with winning title and ending Cleveland sports misery once and for all.

nwb

4 comments:

Kid Shay said...

Tell me about it. The Rockies are a new team every year, and every year they have to learn to play as a team all over again.

I got to see a Mariners game and oh, my do I have a crush on Ichiro.

Anonymous said...

Nate,

Thanks for Martinez and the fire sale price.

I can't believe the Indians chose Masterson. Of all they could've gotten: Buckholtz, Bard, or Lars Anderson.

They must be giving away the city at these prices.

You sure the Cavs won't close up shop and head to China?

-kb

Kendra said...

Thank you for not blaming Wedge like everyone else is doing. Dolan is a douche. I don't know how much more I can take. I really try to get behind the new guys and believe the trades will work out, but it's hard to do that so often.

Nate and Jeff Bowler, Co-Captains said...

Falling Rock, it gets to the point that you're rooting for a uniform. You may learn the names of the guys wearing it, but there's no real reason to.

Dave, Sabathia to NY and Martinez to Boston. It's about as palatable as having someone take a dump in my mouth.

Kendra, I happen to think Wedge is a hell of a manager. How he got that team to play .500 ball last year I will never understand.

nwb