Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Elminating the Variables

We've noted before that for all the turmoil that has surrounded this year's Indians team, Manager Eric Wedge has been mostly given a pass by the mainstream media. In our view, Wedge is a problem to be addressed only after the cheapskates who own this team give GM Mark Shapiro enough money to be competitive.

But we liked the courage of Jim Ingraham, Tribe beat reporter for the Lake County News-Herald who finally took the Wedge issue head-0n. Ingraham lays out the case that one of the more pressing and vexing problems for Shapiro to address is exactly why Wedge's teams the last two years play their worst when the expectations are at their highest. As Ingraham notes, last season the Tribe mostly slid under the radar until the last week or so of the season when they had a chance to finish off the White Sox during their freefall. Instead, the Tribe went 1-6. Then, this season, when expectations were at an all-time high, the Tribe played some of the worst baseball imaginable. It wasn't until it didn't much matter that the Tribe started winning with some regularity.

Hard to argue with someone whose absolutely right. Ingraham goes on to further support his case by noting that Wedge mysteriously fails to hold players accountable for their performance, which arguably just sends a message that the kind of mental mistakes that have defined this team are acceptable. We agree wholeheartedly.

At times, Wedge seems so intent on being a players manager that he has failed to establish for his troops the fine line between success and failure in the grand sense. Certainly you can't overreact to every mistake made in a long season. But there is a point where you have to hold the team leaders responsible for their actions. We've noted that Wedge seemed to take on Broussard unfairly while remaining silent on the constant mistakes of others. But it's always been clear that Broussard wasn't a core player and his beating up on Broussard hardly sent a message to the others. Had he, for example, taken on Aaron Boone early and often for his monumentally poor defense, Jhonny Peralta early and often for his monumentally poor defense, offense, and mental approach, Victor Martinez early and often for his inability to throw out a base runner, then maybe, just maybe, the others would have responded more positively.

All this is hard to say because we also firmly believe that the miserly and uncompetitive budget that the Dolans presented Shapiro after last season sent shock waves through the clubhouse that management just didn't care. Whether Wedge could have done anything about that is hard to say. Whether anyone short of the Dolans could have done anything about it is equally hard to say.

In the end, we're willing to give Wedge a pass for this season. While he may very well be the culprit, we'll never know until we eliminate the other variables. And as long as we have the Dolans to kick around, those other variables will always remain.

No comments: