Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Revenge? Not exactly

Monday night was a shot of sweet revenge for the Indians. The Indians were able to crush the last vestiges of hope within the White Sox's clubhouse, eliminating them from the postseason, ensuring that there will be no repeats on Chicago's South Side this year.

During Monday's 14-1 romp, Cleveland fans delighted in returning White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen's famous choke sign given them during Chicago's final-nail victory over the Indians on the last day of the 2005 season.

Glorious payback, wasn't it?

Believe that if you want. I don't.

Cleveland's elimination of Chicago this year and Chicago's elimination of Cleveland a year ago are two completely different stories, and reflect a great deal on each team's manager.

Last year, Guillen's club knocked the Indians out when the two teams were jostling for a postseason berth. This year, Eric Wedge's club merely completed a formality when neither team was going anywhere.

Guillen won when it counted. Wedge, as has been the case for most of his tenure, is counting his biggest victories when the pressure is off.

It's at the heart of why, when you need to win a big game, you want someone like Guillen managing, and you want just about anybody besides Wedge.

All last season, Guillen agitated, annoyed and insulted while Wedge kept everything vanilla. The White Sox jumped out to a 15-game lead that served them well come September, when the Indians made up 14 of those games but couldn't get over the hump. The White Sox faded a bit in the second half, but had built up such a large lead in the standings, they were able to outlast the Indians' charge.

Granted, there are other reasons why the Indians missed the playoffs and the White Sox went on to win their first championship in 88 years, among them a large payroll discrepancy. But even as it was happening, I could sense that Guillen was getting more out of his team than Wedge was getting out of his team.

Guillen is outspoken and abrasive. The same qualities that lead him to say stupid things that get printed in the paper are the same qualities that keep his players on their toes.
Wedge is the kind of guy who'd rather be tinkering with the stove than cooking the stew. He's an organizational-innards kind of guy. The same qualities that make him a good manager for nuturing young talent make him a bad manager for winning.

By the time Wedge and the Indians got out of bed last year, stretched, read the paper and had some coffee, it was June. By then, the White Sox were already at the office closing deals. Guillen had his team sharp from the get-go, while the Indians approached the season like they do every season: sluggishly. That, to me, is a direct cause-and-effect of Guillen versus Wedge.

This year, same story. The Indians stumbled out of the gate and never really recovered. The White Sox played competitive baseball for four months before fading.

Pin the fade on Guillen if it satisfies you. But at least the White Sox were competitive, which is more than you can say for your 2006 Indians.

You can laugh all you want at loudmouth Ozzie and his merry band of underachievers. You can gloat at the fact that the Indians played a direct role in making sure that Chicago won't be able to defend their championship next month. You can return Guillen's famous choke sign en masse for the rest of the week.

But I know this much: Guillen will have his team ready to play again next spring. Will Wedge? History says no.


Amar said...

Since way back in May of 2005, I was on the Jim Leyland bandwagon. I thought these were a bunch of young players who needed a tough, veteran coach who had been to the promised land before (of course, at Cleveland's expense, but he can just join the parade). That's when the Indians were like 17-22 and looked like, well, the Indians. But then they go on that remarkable run, win 93 freaking games, and nearly make the playoffs, and all of a sudden, the whole damn city starts to buy the "fool's gold," AKA Eric Wedge!

The fact that they "ALMOST" made it should have been a red flag in itself. People thought that barely missing the playoffs was a good thing for Eric Wedge's resume. LOL, only in Cleveland is being good but just not good enough accepted like that. In 2004, we were four outs away from tying the Twins for first place. We were like, what, 63-55 at the time? Then Wedge mismanages his bullpen, allows the game to go to extras, and then WHAM another Cleveland choke job followed by a total collapse to finish the season in third place and two games under .500. I mean, with the pressure on last year, his team trotted out there and got swept by the DEVIL RAYS...AT HOME!!!

This year, all the tools were supposed to be in place. And he lays this egg??? People and over-optimists will say "Oh give Wedge one more year." Bullshit. Managers DO make a difference in baseball. Look at how the Red Sox won with Terry Francona, how the White Sox won with Ozzie Guillen, and how the Tigers are now winning with Leyland (which tears my heart up, bc if I was the GM, Leyland would be wearing Chief Wahoo on his cap, not the accursed Detroit "D").

If Wedge is still the manager next year, I'm predicting that the pundits will still call for 90-95 wins next year only to see this joke of a manager lead this talented club to 81-81. And Shapiro will just sit there, continuing to be joined at the hip with Wedge. What a joke. Dumb and dumber. Classic.

Erik said...

I just wonder if Shapiro is going to ever realize how much Wedge is sabotaging the solid teams he's putting on the field.

Granted, Shapiro destroyed the bullpen this past winter, making him as much to blame for this season as anyone. But if you look at last year, it's a prime example of Shapiro doing his job and Wedge not doing his.

Even this year, the Indians have one of the most productive offenses in baseball and a starting rotation that will rank near the top in shutouts, and might still finish more than 10 games under .500. It just doesn't add up.

With Wedge, the Indians are wasting their time. They're wasting valuable years with top players like Travis Hafner and C.C. Sabathia under contract. They're wasting years with Shapiro under contract.

Which brings me back to my first point. Shapiro's contract is up after next season. It might take him getting lured away by a bigger market team with a better manager for him to see Wedge in an objective light.

I could most defnintely see Shapiro running off to his native D.C. to become GM of the Nationals, meeting Frank Robinson and realizing "Oh, so THIS is what a manager is supposed to be like."

A Shapiro-Robinson tandem would have the Nationals in the World Series by 2010. That would be a sad day for Cleveland.

Amar said...

I was about to say that I hope it happens for Shapiro's sake, but Shapiro is the reason that Wedge is here in the first place.

Two words for you: JOE GIRARDI. Dolan, save the free agent dollars. Turn a blind eye to the Sorianos and Carlos Lees of the world. Go get Joe Girardi. A Girarid/Shapiro combo would be a perfect blend for this youthful team.

Alas, who am I kidding. This is Cleveland. Whatever "right" SHOULD happen, won't happen. And whatever can go wrong, WILL go wrong. Especially - ESPECIALLY - with the Indians.

Ben said...

I'm with ya on the Girardi hire, this needs to happen. As for the Lee and Soriano, please, they won't come here.

At best the Tribe will make a half-assed 'competetive offer' to one of them and when they sign a huge offer somewhere else they'll say they tried.

I think this offseason is make or break for this front office/Dolan. If they go bargin bin hunting for relievers, they are sunk.

As much as I'd like Lee or Soriano (and trust me, I'd really really like them), what they need is a consistent bullpen. You know, proven guys.

But back to Giradi... after his run with the Marlins he's going to be pretty highly sought after (and you figure the Cubs will have the inside track). This means that the Tribe will have to outspend another team for the manager. From the looks of things, this won't happen.

Personally, I wouldn't mind Lou Pinella. I think he'd kick start this club much the way Jim Leyland did to Detroit.

But this is all moot, Wedge won't be let go.