If you follow the Indians forum on Cleveland.com or have absolutely nothing better to do than to listen to the inane observations of the Larrys from Brunswick that keep local sports talk radio going, then you'd think the Indians either are or should be on the verge of dumping manager Eric Wedge. As we've said before, Wedge is the perfect kind of manager for the "Moneyball" style of baseball club being run by GM Mark Shapiro. That style calls for someone who understands that the field manager is at best a mid-level supervisor in a multi-million dollar operation. In other words, think Lou Pinella and then think the opposite.
For most of his career here, Wedge has had the luxury of flying under the cloud of lowered expectations. He inherited a bad team being slowly rebuilt by Shapiro. And to his credit, Wedge didn't screw it up. Each year, until this year, the team's improved by double digit wins. But of course, there is this year. And while we believe the blame starts with the stench created when cheapskate owners Larry and Paul Dolan cheated the fans by reneging on their commitment to spend once we were competitive, no part of the operation should be safe from scrutiny.
That's why we're surprised that the only criticism Wedge seems to have garnered has been in the internet chat rooms and the outer stretches of local radio. Local media has all but ignored his performance. But that changed this morning with Terry Pluto's column in the Beacon Journal. In measured tones, Pluto ably lays out the case for the mishandling of the highly combustible Fausto Carmona, who amazingly absorbed his fifth loss in the last two weeks.
We think Pluto's right in a narrow sense, but what strikes us most is that in this season of heightened expectations here we are in late August talking not about a key series against Chicago but about how the manager may have mishandled an emotionally fragile rookie unfairly thrust into a closer role because of bad ownership and bad decisions by the GM. Frankly, this is the kind of talk we thought we'd be well past going into the season. Heck, we thought we got past this kind of talk three years ago. But what goes around comes around and whether the bizarrely clueless owners want to admit it or not, we're in rebuilding mode, again.
Maybe Wedge mishandled Carmona. Or maybe Carmona just doesn't possess the mental make-up needed for a relief pitcher. It's an interesting debate but don't resolve that at the expense the bigger picture--this franchise has little chance of returning to the post season under present ownership.