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Hey, Mark: Cut the Crap

Mr. Mark Shapiro
Progressive Field
2401 Ontario St.
Cleveland, OH  44115


Dear Mark,

I'm writing you today with a serious concern, as a devoted fan of the Cleveland Indians.  And to be honest, I'm also deeply concerned as a fan of Mark Shapiro.  You've always presented a public image as a highly effective, intelligent, level-headed, and reasonable guy, and a class act, to boot.

So from one classy, reasonable guy to another, I really have to tell you, it is time for you to cut the crap.  And by "the crap," I mean the public defense of your manager, Eric Wedge.

I understand that you think highly of Wedge.  I understand that you're loyal and, like I said, a classy guy.  But your loyalty towards Wedge has now become something quite disloyal and un-classy — to your bosses, to your organization, and to Indians fans everywhere.  Life is tricky that way.

Let's start with the fans.  Mark, this has been a brutal season.  Just brutal.  And I'm sure you know, it's even more brutal as one horrible disappointment coming right on the heels of the last horrible disappointment.  In a season like this, how many Indians fans are interested in reading or hearing about your defense of Eric Wedge?

That's right, Mark, zero.  Nobody wants to hear this crap, Mark, and nobody thinks you should be spending any of your time talking about it.  Even if you're right — and you're not right, by the way, but let's not get off-track — even if you're right, Mark, nobody wants to hear it.  Every time you defend Wedge, you're just spitting in the eye of every fan who's tired of losing, and you will never, ever convince even one fan that you're right about this.

And in a season like this, the fans' feelings need to be respected.  I know you're not going to respect the fans' feelings in your decision-making — you never have, and I'm not saying you should start now — but at the very least, Mark — again, one reasonable, classy guy to another — you ought to respect the fans' feelings in your public statements.  I'm one of those "intellectual bloggers," Mark, and even I'm saying, cut the crap.

On to your bosses, team owner Larry Dolan and team president Paul Dolan.  On this issue, and for the first time in your tenure as GM that I can recall, you actually have been disloyal to your bosses and surprisingly un-classy.  The Dolans are going to meet with you this week, or so we are told.  There is going to be a "process of evaluation," and we are led to believe that one of the things being evaluated is the future of Wedge and his staff.  Ultimately, they might decide Wedge needs to be fired — they might — and it's their right to decide that.

And yet, here you are — their subordinate — publicly lobbying for Wedge to keep his job, and poor-mouthing the notion that he (or any manager!) should be fired.  In other words, you're criticizing the very decision that the Dolans may make next week!  Here's what you told Peter Gammons (emphasis mine):

... our players have never stopped playing hard, never quit on him; there's been no back-biting or dissension and, frankly, we may have been in position to win games we shouldn't have.  I think just firing the manager is a cop-out. Winning is an organizational result.

Here's the thing, Mark: the Dolans might eventually decide that Wedge ought to be fired — and yes, Mark, reasonable, well-intentioned people might actually believe that.  And now, they'll have to publicly contradict their GM in order to do it.  Tell me something, if they do fire him, have you given any thought to what you're going to say at the press conference?

Hey, you know that thing I said was a cop-out the other day?  Firing the manager?  Yeah, well, my bosses have told me to do that.

Right.  So you've kind of put them in a corner on this.  Not very loyal, and not very classy.

Finally, the team itself.  Again, I understand that you feel very strongly about Wedge.  I understand that he's been a partner in your process, a great team player.  I understand that you feel he has truly extraordinary leadership qualities — what exactly those extraordinary qualities are, I'm not really clear on, but I do understand that you feel that he has them.

Here's the thing, though, Mark:  Eric Wedge is not entitled to a lifetime appointment as manager of the Indians.  There are many well qualified people who could do his job at least adequately, including at least two already in your employ, and Wedge doesn't deserve a never-ending trial run any more than they do.  He doesn't get an indefinite free pass any more than MIke Hargrove did, any more than Charlie Manuel did.

You remember Charlie Manuel, right?  Perfectly good manager.  Didn't really do anything wrong.  You fired him anyway, apparently believing, "Eh, I think maybe somebody else can do better."  You didn't really seem to need any better reason than that, and Manuel was in just his third season.  And I think you're a classy enough to guy to concede, Mark, that it turns out the Charlie Manuel is a pretty decent big-league manager after all.  And I'm a classy enough guy to concede that you weren't necessarily wrong for firing him.  After all, nobody is entitled to a lifetime appointment, and you thought you could do better — that's good enough for me.

But now it's Wedge on the hot seat.  Your hire, your partner, but that shouldn't change anything.  After three disappointing seasons out of four, Mark, don't you have to admit that it's possible that maybe — maybe — somebody else could do better?

It's possible, right?  Possible?

Say it with me, Mark:  It's possible.

So cut the crap, Mark.  Enough with the excuses.  I know all about the injuries, but Grady and Asdrubal have only missed 20 games, not 100, not even 50. And as for the rotation, what's happened there is pretty much what we expected when the season started.  Be honest — the fact that either one of Pavano and Reyes is still in the rotation and pitching decently is better than anyone assumed would unfold.  And be honest — you didn't really expect Scott Lewis to remain healthy and effective all season, and if it weren't for roster issues, Huff would have started the season in Cleveland ahead of Lewis anyway.

So the rotation problems really come down to Carmona, and Carmona's failures aren't a result of bad luck.  Working with Carmona, reaching Carmona, righting Carmona, was the responsibility of Wedge and his staff.  And they failed, Mark.  They couldn't fix Carmona, just as they haven't been able to fix a half-dozen other disappointing players, like Garko, Francisco and Shoppach.  It's now going on four years of failure to get Jhonny Peralta to focus consistently on doing his job.  For a manager whose best asset is supposed to be his sterling leadership, what does that say?

I asked a couple days, ago, and I'll ask it again:  Exactly which players have been helped by Wedge's purportedly great leadership?  Guys like Sizemore or Martinez, who are so famously self-motivated?  Veterans like Dellucci and Blake, who were so famously great teammates with great professionalism and great approaches?  If not them, and if not our younger, struggling players ... then who?

And getting back to that quote you gave Gammons:  "... our players have never stopped playing hard, never quit on him ..."

Is that it, Mark?  That's the big deal about this guy?  That these players — most of whom are competing for playing time and/or a 2010 contract — have continued to do their jobs, rather than deciding not to do their jobs anymore?

Here's another one:  "I believe no one cares more about these players and this organization than Eric Wedge. I feel strongly he's making every effort to move this in a positive direction."

Is that it?  He cares a lot and tries hard?  Seriously?

Time to face facts, Mark.  Whatever exceptional qualities you have observed in Eric Wedge, after six and a half years, there is little if any evidence that those qualities have ever really helped the Indians win ballgames.  It is an insult to a guy like Joel Skinner to suggest that Eric Wedge has been anything special as a manager.  It's an insult to the whole organization, and it's an insult to the fans.

Comments like that demonstrate that you're loyal to your troops, yes, but they also suggest strongly that you're a little too close to the situation to see it clearly.  And you don't work for your troops, Mark.  You work for the team.  You work for the Dolans.  You work for us.

So it's time to cut the crap, Mark.  I'm not saying you have to fire Wedge.  That's between you and the Dolans.  But we really don't need to hear or read another goddammned word about what a special guy Eric Wedge is, or about what a heckuva job he's doing, or about how firing him would be especially rash, or unwise, or a cop-out.  He hasn't been part of the solution in Cleveland, and it's possible — it's possible — that he's part of the problem.

Say it with me, Mark:  It's possible.

Warmest regards,