Thursday, July 13, 2006
I don't know too many people that were fond of midterm exams, certainly not me. But Major League Baseball's All-Star break serves as a break for the teams' beat reporters as well. Is there anything more predictable then the All-Star break stories in which the beat reporters cleverly grade the home team's performance thus far? Truth be told, these "stories" likely were written over the last few weeks and have been in the can, so to speak, just waiting to be released the Thursday morning that the unofficial second half to the baseball season begins.So like the crowd that greets the buzzards return to Hinckley each year, we anxiously await the midterm assessment of journalists too bored and uninspired to come up with any different approach. Want proof? The stories by Terry Pluto (a former beat reporter) in today's Beacon Journal and Paul Hoynes in today's Plain Dealer are nearly identical, right down to the sidebars about what went right and what went wrong.But this is not to criticize either Pluto or Hoynes. Covering sports isn't nearly as glamorous as it sounds, particularly covering major league baseball. There's a game nearly every night. The post-game interviews in any sport are so eerily similar that it's surprising more reporters don't go postal. That's why you have to hand it to guys like Ozzie Guillen and Charles Barkley. At least they try to spice it up by actually speaking their minds as compared to say, the rest of the pro athlete world, in which they can and do answer nearly every question after a win with "we just have to go out there and continue to do the little things that we're capable of doing to give ourselves a chance to win" while answering nearly every question after a loss with "we just have to go out there and continue to play hard". In that context, I suppose, the mid-term grades story probably seems like innovation.But I wonder, at times, what's the point in dissecting the team as if it's a lab rat. Ultimately, their record, like a company's stock price, is the ultimate barometer of its success. And on that score, the Tribe has been awful, at least if you thought they'd be good. But as we've said many times now, when the key ingredient of your strategic plan hinges on the ability of the general manager to continue to make chicken salad out of chicken shit, at some point the product will taste a tad sour. I've maintained for the last few years that the Indians are on an inevitable death spiral unless and until they get better capitalized owners. I understand business as well as the next guy. I understand that you can't continue to deficit spend. But I also understand that you have to spend money to make money and sometimes that means taking a step back to take two steps forward. The Dolans simply do not have the cash to fully fund this team and allow the attendance and all that goes along with that to catch up. If you think the fans were skeptical of last year's success, wait until the Dolans get a whiff of the season ticket renewals for next year. If Mark Shapiro's budget was squeezed this year, and it was, wait until he walks into the meeting next November with Paul Dolan and is told to cut even further.If you absolutely need a midterm assessment that's it. The Indians play should hardly be a surprise to anyone. Dissect what's gone wrong with Jhonny Peralta if you must, but the answers are much larger and more controversial. And you can hardly blame the beat reporters for not wanting to take the Dolans on with a half season to go. Having to actually watch and report on the Tribe this year is probably enough punishment for any one man to have to endure anyway.