Friday, August 04, 2006

Firing the Columnist Is Not The Answer

We were a bit surprised and somewhat puzzled by the screaming headline across the top of the Akron Beacon Journal sports page this morning proclaiming "Firing Wedge Not The Answer." The headline preceded a column/story (it was hard to tell) by columnist Terry Pluto.

First, we didn't know that there was a question in search of an answer about firing Wedge. To this point, outside of Bill from Brecksville and a few other guys playing Dungeons and Dragons in their basement while listing to "The Road Man" Kenny Roda on WKNR Sportstalk Radio, there's been virtually no other talk about firing Wedge. So the fact that Pluto raised a straw man question in order to eke out a non-column column is a surprise for someone of Pluto's status.

Second, give the fans more credit than this. If firing Wedge could magically transform this pig's ear into a silk purse we'd be all for it. But on the list of issues facing the Tribe this year and next, the status of the manager ranks, at best, in the bottom third. After nearly four years at the helm, the most we know about Wedge is that this team had improved, at a clip of 12 and 13 games, between seasons. The fact that a giant step backward has been taken is attributable to lousy ownership and poor-decision making by Shapiro. If the Indians have been outmanaged this year in any particular game, it would be hard to tell.

To the extent that anyone is really seriously considering Wedge as the problem, who'd replace him? Lou Pinella? At this point, Sweet Lou's patience run the spectrum from A to B. His constant criticism of the front office in Tampa Bay paved his exit out of the Sunshine State. Does anyone honestly think he'd been any happier here with this ownership group? My guess is that once Pinella did a little due diligence on this franchise at this time there's no way he'd take the job, if offered.

But it would never get that far anyway. Shapiro's management approach simply will not accommodate a strong personality like Pinella. Shapiro is a disciple of Billy Beane in Oakland and I defy you to name the current manager of Oakland, let alone any manager of Oakland under Beane. The point is, Shapiro, like Beane, sees the manager as a mid-level supervisor and that aptly describes Wedge. He keeps the trains running on time. The only problem this year is that the train continues to derail. Given that Wedge isn't the engineer, he can hardly be blamed for the wreckage.


We had to chuckle at Bill Livingston's column in the Plain Dealer this morning defending Mike Reghi as if he were Vin Scully. Reghi was fine and served the team well, but it's hardly as if he were discarded like yesterday's PD.

Apparently what has Livingston and others irked is that Reghi is a friend. Fine, we get that. Defending your friend is honorable and all that. But then say it simply and move on. Instead, Livingston brackets his argument in the context that this move is more evidence of Dan Gilbert trying to control the message. Please, spare us the righteous indignation.

The announcers for every pro team in every city are hand picked by ownership and have been since long before Livingston brought his thesaurus from Philadelphia to Cleveland. Any announcer who strays too far off the reservation is fishing on thin ice and he/she knows it. If memory serves me, Joe Tait found himself on the outside looking in during some of the Stepien years. Tait was openly critical of ownership and lost his job, albeit temporarily.

Gilbert paid huge dollars to own this team. If he wants his own guy in as TV announcer, well, that's one of the perks of being a multi-millionaire. So, too, is ignoring the nonsensical rants of third-rate columnists.


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