Monday, June 22, 2009

On owning the Tribe

As the Indians desperately try to avoid sliding not just out of sight in the AL Central race, but towards total irrelevancy for the remainder of the season, the pressure mounts on Indians owner Larry Dolan and his son Paul, the club president.

The current state of the Tribe is the biggest crisis faced by the Dolan family since they bought the team in 2000. It's bigger than the decision to fire Charlie Manuel as manager and begin a massive rebuilding of the organization. It's bigger than the free agent issues involving Manny Ramirez, Jim Thome, C.C. Sabathia, Travis Hafner, and Jake Westbrook.

The current state of the Tribe is the biggest challenge the Dolans have faced as owner of the team because it is not one on which they necessarily can lean on General Manager Mark Shapiro for counsel. For most of the biggest baseball decisions they've made since buying the team, the Dolans have had Shapiro, and Eric Wedge, since the latter was hired as manager, as sounding boards for potential moves.

Now, however, it's the futures of Shapiro and Wedge themselves that have become issues, given the Indians' second consecutive trainwreck season. For the second year in a row the Indians were picked by many to not just win their division but possibly make it to the World Series. For the second year in a row the Indians won't even come close. For the first time in nearly 20 years the Indians are in danger of finishing in last place.

As owners of the team, the Dolans must ask some hard questions about what's wrong with the way the organization is being run. Two of the biggest decision makers on how the organization is being run are Shapiro and Wedge. The Dolans can't go to Shapiro and Wedge for advice on that. The futures of the general manager and the manager are decisions only the Dolans can make.

The Dolans have never before faced a situation quite like this. They must decide whether their team needs a new direction. They must decide if Shapiro and/or Wedge have had enough time to prove they are up to the job of building a championship team, or if it's time now to replace one or both. . . or neither.


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