Sunday, October 08, 2006

Shapiro unplugged

What Mark Shapiro would tell you if he were totally candid about himself and the state of the Indians:

1. The 2006 season disillusioned him about winning in Cleveland, at least temporarily.
Maybe it was the the bitterness of his first real taste of defeat as a GM, but Shapiro appears to be sulking his way into the offseason. The can-do attitude of offseasons past has been replaced with an attitude of "We're going to do what we can, but there's only so much we can do."

His quote in last week's Plain Dealer, "Had we not traded (Bob Wickman), we're looking at [an] 82-, 84- or 85-win season. That would have been a positive outcome for this market." is a dead giveaway that Shapiro is starting to view the Indians as a low-ceiling team.

You'd hate to think the Indians are going to get a half-hearted effort from Shapiro this winter, but all the offseasons of fighting the financial current with little to show for it might be taking their toll.

2. If the Indians are to get to the playoffs, it will be an overachievement.
Shapiro has come to the conclusion that he cannot put a playoff team on the field per se. The best he can do is put an 80-85 win team on the field and hope that the stars align better than they did in 2005.

Every year is a roll of the dice. While the White Sox, Twins and Tigers will be regular playoff (or at the very least pennant race) participants, the Indians will strike far less regularly, forced to patch new holes in the roster every year on a shoestring.

3. He's not chasing after big bats because he's been burned in free agency before.
Any major improvements Shapiro makes to this team will almost certainly come through a trade. Last offseason's free agency futility showed Shapiro that not only are the Indians financially overmatched, they're gaining a tightwad reputation among players and agents.

Usually, a visit to Cleveland serves only as a means for a free agent to up the ante with the team he really wants to sign with. B.J Ryan and Trevor Hoffman did that, playing the Indians to perfection last winter to squeeze huge deals from the Blue Jays and Padres.

Shapiro is probably sick of playing the pawn, so he's not even going to touch the upper -- or middle -- tiers of the free agent market this winter.

4. He's not satisfied with the job Eric Wedge did as manager this year, but ...
... firing him now would make him look like the fall guy for Shapiro's bad moves this past winter. Wedge was Shapiro's hand-picked manager. Both have expiring contracts next fall. They have one shot to make this work next year, or the Dolans reserve the right to perform an organizational reset.

5. If a bigger market team needs a GM in 2008, Shapiro is listening.
It's easy to be the GM of a small-market baseball team if you resign yourself to the fact that winning will be somewhere between extremely difficult and virtually impossible depending on the previous season's gate revenue.

If you don't accept that fact, being the GM of a small market team will inevitably wear you out. It takes so much more work just to keep pace with higher-payroll teams, and there is so much failure involved, that even the best small-market GMs reach their breaking point. After five seasons trying to spin straw into gold, Shapiro might be reaching that point.

Like any small-market GM, he is starting to see how ridiculous the market fight really is in baseball. He's human, he covets what he doesn't have. What GMs like the White Sox's Ken Williams do have: the safety net of a competitive payroll.


POJO_Risin said...

It's painful for ME to read that...let alone Shapiro. You've hit the nail on the head though. Baseball, in it's current format, only allows the Indians an opportunity at greatness every so often. The 90's were a different beast. Let's face it though, the Indians have been used as a pawn for years. As for Shapiro moving on, it may be time...and I think Shapiro is one of the best in the game, for his sake. I've gotten the same gist from what he's said over the past couple of weeks, and it's been frustrating.

I don't know though. I've followed the Tribe for so long that I DO think there's a way to go out and get some players for this team without having to trade. They just need to make one offer to one player...and it could change the whole deal. The problem is that Cleveland can't/won't overpay. I'm not saying you overpay 5 mill a year for someone...but there are guys out there you CAN overpay, that WOULD help you, that at the very least, add some wins, and add some PR.

I know, I'm rambling a bit, but Cleveland needs Shapiro at his best, and I agree, he seems beat down. I suppose I would be if I were treading water for 5 years...

hey, John Hart's available...;)

Erik said...

Success ruined John Hart. The success of the Indians in the '90s, and the subsequent payroll boost, turned Hart from a GM who tried to build through the farm system (and quite well) to one who blew up the farm system in favor of big-name veterans.

When Hart went to Texas, he tried to spend his way to a title and it was a disaster. He was behind the ridiculous signing of Chan Ho Park to a huge multiyear deal, a move the Hart of 1995 would never have made.

That's why I want to see Shapiro stick to his guns and build through the farm system, but you are right. In order to contend, a team has to do at least some outside spending of significance.

Shapiro doesn't have a spotless record as Indians GM, but he's been pretty darn good getting the team to the status of "promising young team." But if the Dolans don't front the cash to get this team to contender, they are going to write Shapiro's ticket out of town, and this club will be worse off. Shapiro is simply going to get fed up, if he's not already.